Style Icon: Maryjane Wahl

Style 2

Seated in a chair she sourced from a back-alley shop in LA’s fashion district, Wahl wears a Free People dress, Jessica Simpson shoes and an Urban Outfitters necklace.

Hairdresser & Make-up Artist

Written and styled by Tracy James 

Photographed by Chuck St. John


Meet the reigning “Lil’ Miss Pleasant Grove Merry Christmas.” While the title may be circa 1987 (as this was the last year the pageant was held), the now 40-year-old queen, Maryjane Wahl, maintains her crown proudly. In fact, all of her crowns, which represent wins including “Miss Bessemer Merry Christmas” and “Best Swimsuit Miss Jefferson County,” are displayed on the wall of her Irondale home atop the heads of various taxidermied animals. Many a life lesson were learned during that time, recalls Wahl, whose parents sat her in front of VHS-taped pageants as preparation. “Why can’t you walk as strong as your friend Cheyenne?” was one of the critiques Wahl remembers from mother, who currently manages Joyce’s Pageants boutique in Hueytown. Wahl pays her experience forward by sharing her hair styling and make-up artistry talents with current local contestants. In late November, her client Madison Guthrie won the 2015 Miss Alabama USA title.

A Pleasant Grove native who spent 15 years living in Los Angeles, Wahl returned to Birmingham permanently shortly after her father died in the 2011 tornadoes. In a silver-lining scenario, Wahl met her husband during her first trip home that tragic April. By July he was driving Wahl and her possessions in a U-Haul across the country. The couple wed in November of 2013 following Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), the celebration serving as their rehearsal dinner. The holiday’s traditional sugar skull is a predominant theme in Wahl’s home decor and personal style, which she describes as “eclectic, vintage, bohemian, with a little bit of punk.” Her own style icon? “Stevie Nicks, all day long,” she says. Fittingly, favorite clothing lines include Free People, For Love and Lemons, Show Me Your Mumu, All Saints, and Current Elliott, with favorite shopping destinations being Topshop in London, Urban Outfitters, vintage stores, and Atop her Christmas list is a pair of kitschy Charlotte Olympia “Kitty” flats.

Style 1Just as her pageant background might seem in stark contrast to her modern-day indie vibe, Wahl enjoys fashion that is slightly oxymoronic as well. “For example, a T-shirt cut from luxurious silk or a ball gown made from jersey knit,” she explains. Another study in contrasts is the porcelain complexion of her face (the result of a regimen that includes pure olive oil for makeup removal) juxtaposed with the vibrantly hued tattoos that adorn her back, ribs, stomach, upper legs, feet, inside of her lip, a few fingers, and, most noticeably, both arms. “I started out getting random pieces here and there, but being a Libra, I couldn’t handle the asymmetry…that’s how I ended up with sleeves,” Wahl notes. While she doesn’t consider herself an impulsive person, tattooing is an exception. “I see something that I think is beautiful, put my own twist on it, and have it tattooed without over-thinking it,” she says. While some of her body art is intensely meaningful, like the memorial 4.27.11 tattoo for her father, for the most part they are whimsical pieces that represent fond memories and experiences.

Without a doubt, Wahl has chosen a bold way to express her personal style. And she does so confidently, which is, after all, the epitome of a Style Icon. “I used to be all over the place with no style identity at all,” Wahl admits. “While I still like to clash and wear high-end pieces with low-end pieces, I’ve toned it down and become more polished.” Leopard print may still be used as a neutral in her closet, but as Wahl says, “I’ve harnessed the explosion that used to be my wardrobe and made something wearable and comfortable from it.”


2 Responses to “Style Icon: Maryjane Wahl”

  1. Lisa C Stewart says:

    You are as sweet and beautiful as ever! So many great childhood memories. So proud of everything you have accomplished.

  2. Charlotte Wahl says:

    My goodness the pictures are absolutely beautiful and this article is awesome. I am so proud of you MJ and very proud that you are my daughter. Thanks Tracy and Chuck for such a unique and tasteful article.

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