Jennifer Scarborough

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | November 14th, 2018
Jennifer Scarborough (Photos by Pharenheit Photography)

Jennifer Scarborough (Photos by Pharenheit Photography)

Life has a habit of creating unthinkable bends and flows. One day it delivers wonderful things and you’re surrounded by amazing people, and in a split-second these same things can change unexpectedly. When you’re experiencing this turmoil as you hit double digits, it sometimes can leave lasting trauma that can take years to unravel.

Jennifer Martin-Scarborough remembers exactly when her world was turned upside down. It was at the age of 10. “I always knew I looked a little different than most people in my family. I was much darker than they were. But since my mom is part Indian, I figured that’s where it (her complexion) came from,” she explains. One day, while home with her father, who was recovering from a heart attack, she casually answered the ringing telephone. On the other end was her grandmother, who was upset about something that Jennifer can’t recall. The heartless woman on the other end simply blurted out ― the person who she thought was her sister, gave her life. Jennifer dropped the phone and began to cry uncontrollably. The man she knew as her father embraced her, called her mother, and told her she needed to come home, now.

It was finally explained, that the woman Jennifer always called, ‘Mom’, was her biological grandmother. The man she knew as her father, was her grandmother’s husband (no biological relation), and the girl she thought was her sister, was actually the person who birthed her. “My biological mother was 16 when she had me. So her mother, who I’ve always called ‘mom’, adopted me and raised me as her own child.” The woman who revealed this family secret over the phone was her biological great-grandmother. It would be another three years before her biological mother revealed who her father was, in a moment of drunkenness.

“My mom was very protective of me. She wouldn’t let just anyone babysit me or be around me.” Perhaps her mother knew the facts surrounding her own birth could break her. And for some time, it did. The confused child began to act out at school, hung with the wrong crowd, and gave her mother hell. She was fighting relentless internal demons. Finding out that she was biracial, that her dad was an older black man whose family lived in the same neighborhood, and being rejected by both blacks and whites, left her questioning everything she ever knew. As a result, her self-esteem suffered and she had no idea what to do with herself. By the grace of God things would begin to workout in her favor.

After high school, Jennifer and her best friend dreamed of owning their own salons. They even came up with a name for it: Bayos & Co. (a combination of their nicknames Babyg’rl and YoYo). In 2000, Jennifer enrolled in the Vance-Granville Cosmetology program and completed it a year early due to her apprenticeship at a full-service salon. For several years, she worked between Graham, Burlington, and Durham. In 2006, she hosted her first hair show. Presently, she attempts to host one annually, schedule permitting.

“I like to find different types of models for my shows. I want to motivate everyone to feel beautiful and to feel good about themselves,” says Jennifer. Her previous identity battle gave her the idea to be inclusive to all colors, shapes, and physical features.

One evening in 2012, Jennifer woke up in the middle of the night with a vision. Within minutes she had penned five pages of the type of salon and business she wanted. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to finance her vision at that moment, but several months later was blessed by a client with the exact dollar amount she needed to secure a location. When she received her tax refund, she invested it in equipment and tools. She tapped her God brother to do the renovations, and he poured himself into creating an entirely new space for her new venture.

The year before, she received a devastating blow that almost caused her to abandon her dream; Her beloved mother passed away, leaving Jennifer empty and lost. “She gave me everything I could’ve ever asked for,” she reminisces with an unsteady tone. But instead of giving up, she brushed herself off and fueled her ideas with the immense grief she felt. She was determined to become a business owner, just as her mother had been. She owned several restaurants over the years and even employed Jennifer’s biological father while he was serving a prison sentence (she was unaware that he had dated and impregnated her daughter at the time.)

The salon flourished and allowed her to finally find her voice and build her own confidence. She attended NC Central University for Business Marketing and Communications, which helped her navigate through details some business owners may not understand.

In 2017, Jennifer was dealt another unfortunate hand when both biological parents, her brother, and Godmother all passed away within months of each other. She was mentally and emotionally drained and couldn’t imagine running a large business full time. The dedicated wife and mother of two decided to downsize her salon, Image Ensemble, Inc. and reduce her workload, not wanting to let her customers down. She moved into a smaller space, brought one stylist with her. She currently enjoys a slightly less stressful lifestyle.

Jennifer specializes in color and cutting, but can usually create any look her clients desire. She also travels for special events such as weddings, birthdays, and any occasion that requires a hairstyle, make up, and even nails. At times, she’ll rent booth space in another city just to service long-time clients in those areas.

She believes in hard work and has vowed not to let the hard balls knock her down. With a village of support, including her husband, children, childhood best friends, and her clients that are like family, Jennifer has beat the odds and continues to win.

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