CUT­TING THROUGH BAR­RI­ERS

Barner pushes through stereo­type to be­come a suc­cess­ful bar­ber

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Her Style - By Colbi e McC loud

From self-taught hair­cut­ter to a li­censed bar­ber, Vanessa Barner has pushed against stereo­typ­ing for more than 20 years.

Barner was in­tro­duced to cut­ting hair at the age of 17 af­ter her for­mer hus­band re­fused to go to a bar­ber and asked her to take care of his locks. Soon af­ter, fam­ily and friends flocked to her for their hair­cuts, some pay­ing with Sun­day din­ners.

Af­ter a di­vorce at the age of 36, with two sons to raise, Barner de­cided she wanted to pur­sue a ca­reer as a li­censed bar­ber. In­stead of mak­ing a 30-minute com­mute from Bear­den, her home­town, to Cam­den for beauty col­lege, Barner wanted to stick strictly to do­ing hair and not the ex­tras — makeup, man­i­cures and pedi­cures. Nine months filled with hour-and-a-half com­mutes to Arkansas Col­lege of Bar­ber­ing & Hair De­sign in North Lit­tle Rock led to a bar­ber­ing li­cense.

“I grad­u­ated at the top of my class. I was the sec­ond old­est in col­lege at the time. There was a man that started that was older than me. In less than a month, I went from be­gin­ner to se­nior hair­cut­ter,” Barner said.

Start­ing up her first bar­ber shop, Barner worked out of her en­closed carport at­tached to her house in Bear­den. Barner said sev­eral older men re­fused to come to her shop, say­ing, “Fe­males can’t be bar­bers. It takes a man to be a bar­ber.” She just asked them to give her a try.

“The thing about cut­ting hair in Bear­den is it is such a small town. I was di­vorced and a sin­gle mother. A lot of the women wouldn’t let their hus­bands come to me be­cause I was sin­gle and the bar­ber­shop was in my home. I had a hard time get­ting my shop started,” Barner said.

Through a bot­tle of wine and a hair­cut, Barner met her hus­band of 21 years.

While still work­ing to ac­quire her li­cense, her now-hus­band asked her for a hair­cut and showed up to her house with a bot­tle of wine.

“I don’t drink wine and I’ve never drank wine be­fore. He in­sisted that I drank wine while I cut his hair. I asked him, ‘Are you se­ri­ous.’ And he said, ‘ Yeah, it will help re­lax you.’ So we poured the wine and I started sip­ping the wine. It took me an hour to cut his hair be­cause we kept sip­ping wine and talk­ing. I’ve never taken that long on a man’s hair­cut. But af­ter it was over with, he said that was the best hair­cut he’s ever had. I’ve been cut­ting his hair ever since,” Barner said.

A move to Hot Springs provided her the op­por­tu­nity to work in a beauty sa­lon on Richard Street. How­ever, her un­hap­pi­ness at the sa­lon led her to

"I con­sider my clients as fam­ily. When lose one, it is like los­ing fam­ily."- Vanessa Barner

Rose­mary Davis’ shop. Af­ter meet­ing Rose­mary and giv­ing her a hair­cut, she was in­formed to show up to work the next day at 7 a.m.

“I walked in at 7 a.m. At 8:30 a.m., she said looked at me and said, ‘Here’s my book. Cus­tomers are all lined up. They will show up. When they show up, in­tro­duce your­self. Tell them that you can do their hair. And, if they de­cide they don’t want you to do their hair tell them Rosie will be back to­mor­row.’ She walks out ... walks out of the shop and leaves it for me to do all my­self,” Barner said.

Only two of Rosie’s cus­tomers waited un­til she re­turned the next day. Since that day on Nov. 1, 21 years ago, Barner has been at the same spot, 622B Car­pen­ter Dam Road. Work­ing 13 months to­gether with Barner, Rosie re­tired. She later of­fered to sell the shop to Barner and it is now Vanessa’s Bar­ber Shop.

“I tell peo­ple, ‘When you walk out that door, that is my hair­cut that you are walk­ing around with. That is my ad­ver­tise­ment.’ I work in the sa­lon by my­self so I know any­body that leaves here, that is my name on their head. I try to lis­ten to peo­ple. I con­sider my clients as fam­ily. When I lose one, it is like los­ing fam­ily,” Barner said.

Barner will be 65 next year and has no in­ten­tions on re­tir­ing any time soon. She said she’ll con­tinue as long as she has cus­tomers who want her to cut their hair.

“Peo­ple ask me, ‘Vanessa, when are you go­ing to re­tire?’ My answer I say is, ‘God put me here. I know that he is the one that put me in this spot on this cor­ner. When God tells me it’s time for me to leave, he’ll let me know,’” Barner said.

Vanessa Barner sits at one of the sta­tions in­side the bar­ber shop.

Vanessa Barner cut­ting a cus­tomer’s hair.

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