She’s got big hair and big dreams ​

Jay Johnson
Oxford Stories

It’s no secret that in the South, we like to do it big.

A good football game and an ice-cold whiskey are “big” enough for most Southern men. However, it’s the women of the South who let “big” go straight to their hair.

When it comes to Southern women, hair is everything. It is the simplest, yet most significant way they express and define themselves.

Mississippi’s Rachael Peeples, 25, knows this well. The Ulta Beauty and Hair Salon hairstylist is a radiant redhead who doesn’t want clients to leave her chair feeling less than beautiful.

Loyal client like Dusty Hale describes Peeples as “genuine.”

“She’s like the salt of the Earth,” Hale said. “What I mean by that is, you can’t just walk into a crowd of people and a find someone like Rachel.”

Peeple’s contagious laugh and stories entertain all she meets, and she has colorful childhood memories. She said first grade was an eye-opening year because she received many spankings. That year, she realized “lunch and science” were her favorite subjects.

At age 7, Peeples decided to give her boy cousin a haircut that looked a lot like a bowl cut. She doesn’t recall why, but marks this as the beginning of her passion.

“I guess I just really like playing in people’s hair,” Peeples laughed, “which is hilarious, because when I was a young girl, I cried getting my hair brushed. My mom hated doing my hair so much, she would just put about 15 random braids all over my hair.

“I hated getting my hair brushed so much as a child that if I did something really bad, my mother would brush my hair as a punishment. How ironic? I do hair for a living now.”

The Louisville, Mississippi native graduated high school from Winston Academy with 34 people. After graduation, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She considered cosmetology school, but was heavily influenced by her parents. Once her parents saw how much time she was wasting doing nothing, they were thrilled with the idea of her doing anything.

One day, Peeples quit her job at Oby’s in Starkville to pursue cosmetology. After just a few short days, she knew she had made the right decision. After graduating, she worked at La Rousse Spa in Oxford before being hired at Ulta Beauty and Hair Salon.

Donna Denton is the supervisor at Ulta Beauty and Hair Salon. Denton said she didn’t plan to hire Peeples at first because she seemed unprepared over the phone. However, another salon employee encouraged her to give Peeples a chance.

“She came in, she did a perfect blowout with no curling iron,” Denton said. “I knew I couldn’t deny her talent or that kind of determination to follow her word. The funniest part is Rachael is the only one out of 12 of the original girls hired still here with us today. It’s hard not to love her.”

Peeples appreciates the little things in life. It is more than her precise touch for styling, coloring, and cutting hair that keeps clients coming back. She is authentically herself and appreciates people the way they are. She values her clients, coworkers, friends, and pumpkin spice lattes.

“I’m a basic white girl when it comes to three things,” she said. “My dog is number one. My pumpkin spice lattes are number two on the list of things I can’t live without. My number three would have to be chicken. I love chicken.”

It’s a combination of her bright red hair with a mix of blues, and her happiness that makes Peeples who she is.

“I love my job,” she said. “I am always challenging myself and constantly learning more. There are so many ways to do things; you just have to do what is best for you. I get to make women embrace the best aspects of themselves.

“I take pride in my job. I never know what to expect coming in, but if I can help shape one more confident woman in the world, I am more than happy to help.”

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