Oftentimes, we hear fascinating stories about successful people who went from being broke to being a boss and we become so fixated on the how. How were they able to crawl out of that hole of despair? How did they make their vision come to life? How were they able to make a lot of money? While the "how" is important to know, the "why" is actually so much sweeter. For the past two years, celebrity hair artist Daniella Emilien, aka Hair By Ivy has garnered much traction in the hair industry with high profile clients such as Real Housewives of Atlanta star Marlo Hampton, Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta star Reginae Carter, and rapper Kash Doll.
She also has a hair salon, Hair by Ivy, and her Ivy League Academy, where she teaches aspiring hair stylists tips and tricks to being a hair boss.
But prior to these prosperous two years, Ivy was 19 years old, pregnant, and living on the streets of Miami, FL.
When she found out she was expecting, she had just graduated from high school and was attending a local community college.While she was surprised yet excited about having a child, her mother struggled with the reality of her pregnancy. "I come from a Haitian and Bahamian background and when you get pregnant at a young age, it's a really bad thing in the family. My mom had a really hard time with me being pregnant and so she kicked me out," says Ivy.
For the first six months of her pregnancy, Ivy was homeless, sleeping in cars and hotel rooms. She was expecting twins, but ended up losing one of her babies in the third month due to sleeping in cars. While she did have a job, she still wasn't making enough to provide for herself, let alone her child, and being pregnant didn't necessarily make her a stand out candidate for hire. So, she continued to experience financial hardships that began to take a toll on her mentally.
She was alone and although she did have contact with her child's father, she was still doing everything by herself. "Yeah, we had contact [and] he tried to help, but I was just like, 'It's my first child, I want my mom to be there. I want the love from my mom.' He was active, he tried to take me in and do different stuff, but there were days when I talked to him and days that I didn't talk to him just because I wanted to go through the situation by myself. I was young, I didn't know any better. I needed the guidance of my mom because that's who I looked up to at that time," she explained.
As her due date drew closer, Ivy finally got what she needed when she and her mother reconnected. She was invited back home, and soon after, she gave birth to her son Mason. But while she had a safe place to lay her head, she still continued to struggle financially.
Being a new mother, she was stuck between a rock and a hard place where she couldn't work because she didn't have anyone to babysit her child and she couldn't afford a babysitter because she couldn't work. Instead of giving into her circumstances, she decided to overcome them. She began brainstorming ideas to make money right away. From there, she began recalling her childhood passion: hair.
Growing up, Ivy would always do her friends and cousins' hair, but she never thought to pursue it professionally until she found her back against the wall. After praying about it for two days, Ivy sent out a mass text letting everyone know that she was back living with her mom and that she would be offering hair services and the word traveled. "I didn't have business cards, I didn't have flyers, I didn't have Instagram, Facebook. I didn't have the type of tools that people use to market. I literally started from the bottom with nothing. I stepped out on faith," she says.
"I literally started from the bottom with nothing. I stepped out on faith."
Within a year, Ivy went back to school and got her cosmetology license. She started promoting her services on Instagram, which led to her securing the bag with her first celebrity client, Love and Hip Hop: New York star OG Nya Lee. Since then, she has worked with other Love and Hip Hop franchise stars, such as Joseline, Dream Doll, and Alexis Sky.
While building a diverse clientele of celebrities and non-celebrities, Ivy also opened her very own opulent hair salon suite and created a custom wig collection. She took things a step further by deciding to give back to the industry that changed her life, starting with creating her Ivy League Academy, a branding and marketing course for aspiring hairstylists looking to get into the hair business.
Ivy is thankful for the life she has now and she contributes it all to her son. In two years, Ivy was able to turn her life around by taking chances, keeping faith, and working diligently all because she just wanted to provide for her son. Her son became her "why" and her motivation to become and stay successful. "I appreciate everything I have now. I'm a hardworking woman. I have a lot of morals now, I don't settle for less and I don't take 'no' for an answer so those are some of the things that I cherish now because I went through that journey."
"I don't settle for less and I don't take 'no' for an answer."
At only 23 years old, Ivy has already overcome so much and she wants to use her platform to share her story with others who are experiencing tough situations where it seems there is no end in sight. "I started to grow, pray, and fall more in love with myself and build [my] confidence up so I can talk about it. I want to be an inspiration to someone who's going through what I went through and let [him or her] know that it doesn't stop or end there, that there is more life after that situation."