Parkersburg woman lands Disney World dream job

Photo by Jeff Baughan Ashley Fluharty turns her love for Disney into another step in her career as she steps into the character makeup/character hairstyling world in Orlando.

PARKERSBURG — To say Ashley Fluharty loves to go to Disney World is like saying Winnie the Pooh loves honey.

“Probably six times in the last two years,” she said of making the trip to Orlando, “and I am constantly on the website planning another trip. I’ve been at least 15 times; maybe closer to 20.”

Fluharty begins her next trip to Disney on Saturday and it won’t be for a week. It’s a full-time stylist job at the House of the Mouse doing makeup as well as styling hair and wigs for characters in the Disney parks, cruises and other Disney productions, such as Disney on Ice.

Fluharty, who is hairstylist at Simply Irresistible, had her Magic Kingdom moment appear in front of her as she planned another trip.

“I was visiting the Disney website and there it was; full time stylist with a preference for someone with theatrical makeup experience,” she said. “Luanna Wriston, whom I had met on the set of ‘Sister Act’ at the Actors Guild, and I were looking and she said ‘do you have a Florida license?’ I said ‘yeah,’ and she said ‘what are you waiting for girl? Apply for that job. It’s you!’

Ashley Fluharty in her role as Wednesday during the Actors Guild of Parkersburg performance of “The Addams Family.”

“So I did and I heard back from them in less than 24 hours,” she continued. “I visited, interviewed and I start the 15th. Dream job at Disney doing makeup and hair for Disney characters. Not bad for a girl from Parkersburg who loves Disney.”

Fluharty credited theatrical experience at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg, both onstage and offstage, which turned her into a prime candidate. She appeared in six onstage productions as well as doing character makeup in others. It was in the production of “Addams Family” that she appeared in the role of Wednesday but also designed the makeup look for the characters., especially the ghostly family members.

“For me, that was the most fun of all the shows,” she said. “I got to be one of the featured characters as well as being really involved with how characters looked. It was really a breakthrough for me and allowed me to come out of my shell. The show really made me stretch out and see what I could do on stage and creatively offstage with makeup.

“Disney had stated in the job posting, theatrical experience was desired,” she continued. “They were looking for someone who could do the same makeup look on a consistent basis. Disney characters appearances don’t change. The princesses have to look the same all the time. The hair for the princesses has to be the same all the time. Capt. Jack Sparrow has to look like Capt. Jack Sparrow from the time the park opens until it closes.”

Wigs are something Fluharty knows; she owns 15. All cut, styled and colored to go with specific characters.

Ashley Fluharty in one of the wigs she has cut, designed and colored to match cosplay and other costumes.

“I love cosplay,” she said, “anything theatrical. The character Crona from Soul Eater is my favorite. I have the wig I cut, styled and colored myself and I have the anime contacts. It’s like being on stage but you have no lines to learn.

“One of the reasons I went to cosmotology school was to do videos and Broadway type work.” She paused, and added, “Disney productions in the parks are about as close to being Broadway without being Broadway.

“And Disney owns Marvel, so maybe one day I get to work on one of the Marvel movies. That would be such an awesome experience.”

Training to do makeup and hair the Disney way will be two weeks of intense work.

“It’s 160 hours of training in two weeks,” she said. “Disney is go big or go home. The attention to every detail is so amazing. To make a Capt. Jack Sparrow wig takes more than 40 hours. One was being made during my visit. They were taking individual hairs and weaving them together on a track; weaving them together to make dreadlocks.

Ashley Fluharty in one of the wigs she has cut, designed and colored to match cosplay and other costumes.

“Part of the Disney magic is being as excited to see your favorite Disney character on your fifth visit as you were on your first,” she said, “and every time after that is still as exciting as seeing your first.”

Fluharty stated she would be working, at times, at numerous places throughout Disney. She added she would probably be working in the park where she interviewed. In this case, she would be in the Animal Kingdom.

“Which means I could be working on wigs part of the day and doing makeup for the ‘Lion King’ and other show productions. I was told my shift could end at 5 a.m. or it could start at 5 a.m.

“Which means I could be doing wigs and makeup beginning at 5 a.m. on characters or I could be going through the park after it closes doing wig styling on the animatronics at Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World; anything with characters resembling something living.

“Disney has so many wigs there, I think it is the place where the wigs for Disney on Ice, the Disney cruises and anything else Disney comes into for cleaning, styling and setting,” she said.

Ashley Fluharty in one of the wigs she has cut, designed and colored to match cosplay and other costumes.

One thing which is certain for Fluharty, lots of people will see her work but no one will see her work.

“It’s all very hidden,” Fluharty said of the area where she will be working. “It’s on a hidden drive within the park. The resort area beyond the park is just massive. People really don’t have the slightest idea just how big in size Disney is. What people see is just a portion of what there really is.

“People think Disney is just for kids and it’s not,” she said. “I have so much fun as an adult. I go for the Tower of Terror and then run over to the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and have Aerosmith playing in my head as I’m riding a roller coaster.

“I go to ride on Expedition Everest to ride it at night when everything is dark and you can’t see a thing but you don’t know when and where you’re going to be going forward or backward,” she continued. “I go for the amazing food from around the world at EPCOT and go to the Magic Kingdom, which takes me back to times when I was a child.

“I’m going to be around that every day,” she said, “what could be better than that?”

Ashley Fluharty in one of the wigs she has cut, designed and colored to match cosplay and other costumes.