Kansas hair colorist makes national splash but commits to small-town roots

You’ve probably seen people with some crazy colored hair, but one small-town Kansas hairstylist is taking it to another level. (Ursula Goff)

You’ve probably seen people with some crazy colored hair, but one small-town Kansas hairstylist is taking it to another level.

Ursula Goff has garnered national attention with her off-the-wall designs, but she didn’t start getting wide recognition for her craft until after she made a social media post about something different: the pressure on teens to look “Insta-perfect” on photo platforms like Instagram.

Wellington has a population of about 8,000. The nearest big city is Wichita. A mural downtown touts its claims to fame from the pioneer days to the railroad to the aviation industry and the winter wheat harvest that had the town calling itself the “Wheat Capital of the World.”

But in one corner of town, in a small, brightly decorated salon with just two chairs, amber waves of grain take a back seat to rainbow waves of hair.

That’s thanks to Goff, who has been making headlines with her unusual hair color creations.

“I originally was just using the color palate from art as inspiration,” she explained.

She colored hair with the soft pastels of Degas and the varying shades of blue with bursts of yellow, a color scheme undeniably representative of Van Gogh’s classic “Starry Night.” She did a mix of yellow and bright pink inspired by Warhol’s painting of Marilyn Monroe. The list goes on and on. As she was rinsing out one of those colors one day, she had an idea.

SLIDESHOW: Check out Ursula Goff's off-the-wall designs that have garnered national attention

“I thought, ‘I wonder how hard it would be to actually paint this on hair,’” she said.

She went to art school, for fashion design, and paints on canvas as well, primarily watercolors, so she knew she had to technical skill to duplicate certain classic pieces, but doing it on hair was a different challenge.

“Since you’re working in three dimensions on hair versus a single flat surface, there’s more things to take into consideration and I like that challenge,” said Goff.

It worked. She began with hair extensions. She has one of “Starry Night” and another of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” She’s also used her collection of bright hair colors to paint directly on short hair. She’s done “Starry Night,” Warhol’s Marilyn and some floral patterns.

Besides here work getting national acclaim, she’s also changed the face, or hair, of Wellington.

Wellington is hardly edgy or rock n roll but you’ll spot Goff’s bold brushstrokes on some unlikely residents:

A member of the Chamber of Commerce, a local school teacher, and the president of the Young Professional’s Club.

The client she was working on when KCTV5 visited mused with Goff about how the reception to the daring ‘dos has changed among conservative residents over the years.

“It used to be like, ‘Why would you do that?,’” said Goff.

“Or the lady at church that came up and goes, ‘Oh, I’m surprised I like that,’” added Tessa Stewart, Goff’s client.

“That’s such an old lady thing to say,” Goff responded, setting off laughter between the two.

But no one in town bats an eye anymore.

“They want to see what she has done this time with my hair, and if my hair is not colored, they are asking why it’s not colored,” said Stewart.

Goff’s national acclaim came just as she was preparing to leave the business.

She got a degree in community psychology because she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, meaning, at any moment, she could lose the physical ability to do what she loves.

“Right now I would say it’s just a nuisance,” said Goff. “I mean, it could. It could [get worse]. That’s the thing is we don’t know. I’ve been diagnosed with relapsing, remitting MS.”

She made a social media post aimed at teenaged girls worried about how they look, giving them advice.

“Find people you care about, find things you love. Do that stuff and it won’t matter what you look like,” said Goff, summarizing her message.

Her post exploded, getting attention from national morning shows, Seventeen Magazine, People magazine, and a variety of national publications.

“I feel like I’m still processing a lot of it even though it’s been going on for a while now,” said Goff.

She now has sponsorships and travels to contract jobs on the coasts. She gets paid California and New York rates. She could move to one of those bigger cities but chooses not to. Initially, her decision was about money. The cost of living is a lot less in Wellington, but over time, her reasoning changed.

“I’m kind of sentimental about it now,” said Goff.

Some of her color schemes are inspired by nature, and there are some beautiful sunsets by the railroad tracks at the edge of town. But she also sees Wellington’s sun setting in a more symbolic way.

“I would say in the last 20 years, things have been in a bit of a decline,” said Goff. “Drugs have become a major problem. Poverty has become more of an issue.”

Maybe it’s that community psychology degree, but the town she didn’t like living in when she moved her at age 8 from California has become a place she has a stake in, a place where she wants to contribute as more than just a hairstylist.

“I mean, how does a place get better if everybody that can make a difference just leaves?” said Goff.

The price for her work begins at $200, though she has discounted rates for regulars who have been with her from the start. The work takes between two and eight hours.

Because her signature styles are so off-the-wall, she gets her business is word-of-mouth. She recently engaged her followers in a game of cluttering her Yelp page with wacky one-star reviews. You can read them here.

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