Ashley *Blanking* Longshore

Words by Ashley Locke

Photos by Greg Miles

 

Ashley Longshore lives intentionally. She is positive on purpose. She is an artist. She is a hustler. She is a success story. She is America.

The Great Recession broke spirits. For many people, the American Dream seemed dead, but during the economic downturn, Ashley was selling paintings left and right. At the end of the recession, she was more successful than when it started. She proved that not only is the dream alive—it’s thriving.

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“I’m always inspired by being an American woman,” Ashley says. “You know what? I’m a self-taught artist from Montgomery, Alabama, and I have just as much of a right to be successful as anyone else in America.” And she is successful. She’s closing deals, creating collaborations, and starting a new project each minute.

Ashley is an inspiration. She spent years barely able to rub two nickels together, then built a New Orleans studio out of ambition. But she doesn’t see her story as a lucky break. She believes that everyone has the opportunity to be something in America. “I celebrate anybody that has worked hard enough to make it,” she says.

She holds a fierce admiration for folks who made it to the top of their game, whatever that may be. Audrey Hepburn, queen of Old Hollywood glamour. Rosa Parks, a warrior for civil rights. Anna Wintour, one of the most influential women in fashion. “Like, look at Lil’ Wayne. He is so awesome. A black kid from New Orleans that liked to skateboard and sling rhymes,” she says. “He’s proof that in America, you can make it.”

Ashley surrounds herself with people who have  “made it.” Her circle is full of women who are smart and savvy, moms who run multi-million dollar companies: Whitney Wolfe, co-founder of Bumble; Fran Hauser, a venture capitalist who invests in women-run businesses; Claire Thriffiley, creator of Amy’s Art Cart—they all took America for everything it’s worth.

“The new, successful American woman isn’t a bitch, and isn’t competitive with other women. We work together and network together,” Ashley says. “I’m always texting people to say, ‘I saw your stuff on Instagram and you’re killing it!"

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Positivity is her personality. She wakes up each morning thinking about the possibilities the world holds. There is no room for negativity. “My shoulder hurts... because I just finished a kickass painting. I’m exhausted... because I’ve gotten to fly all over the world,” she says. There’s nothing she can’t spin, though it’s not spin. It’s Ashley.

You can see that big, happy personality in her art. You can see it in her Instagram. Her feed is just as bright and bold as her studio. Her captions are saturated with exclamation points, explicatives, and love. Love for her clients, love for “a new package of sharp cheddar cheese in [her] fridge,” love for life.

Scrolling through her photos is like a mini therapy session—a reminder to stay mindful of the little things that make life great. “Instagram is a great place to dig deeper into who I am,” she says. “Using social media is such a good tool for me to spread my message of positivity.”

As much as Ashley believes in hard work with a smile, she recognizes her privilege. “It was hard for me as a white girl from a middle class family. I figured out how to take care of myself, so I want to help others.”

She started working with Sideline Pass, helping smart women in foster homes get scholarship money for private school educations. She works with Art for Advocacy, raising money to help abused children afford lawyers and get back on their feet. She works with Amy’s Art Cart, giving sick children a creative outlet. In Ashley’s world, it’s no woman left behind.

She isn’t just a champion for women and children, she’s a champion for artists. “I think being an artist saved me,” she says. “So I want to keep money in the art world. If I sell a painting, I buy a painting.”

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Her passion for artists makes New Orleans a natural fit for Ashley. It may be the only city in the United States that’s capable of keeping up with her creative spirit. It’s a city that celebrates life. “You can be broke as hell, selling your art on the street, and people love you for it,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, on Frenchman we’re all in this moment of joy and bliss, feeling the bass in our soul.”

She has a lot of love for others, but it all starts with loving herself. It’s the foundation of everything she does. “If I didn’t have a positive rapport with myself, I’d never have a chance,” she says. “I love me some motherf’ing me! It makes me unafraid. I believe in me, and I love me, even if my thighs touch.”

That attitude has taken her to the top. Ashley has had her work in the homes of celebrities and in major motion pictures. She’s working on five major collaborations that will take her overseas. But if you ask her if she’s made it, she’ll say no. “I haven’t reached my dream,” she says, “Because my grandest dream is one I haven’t thought of yet. But I know I’m getting somewhere when people tell me I’ve inspired them to try, to not be afraid.”

To be inspired by Ashley Longshore is to be inspired by America. For her, so much started with loving this country. She wants everyone to be able to see the America that she sees—bright and open and full of opportunity. “I just hope with a lot of the horror in this world that people can stay optimistic, believe in the infinite possibility of every day, and live in a world full of people that have hope.”