Girl denied school photos because of her hair gets magazine-worthy shoot with photographer

JACKSON, Mich. — An 8-year-old girl who felt "singled out" after being blocked from school photos because of her hairstyle got a confidence-building boost from a Chicago photographer last week.

Marian Scott told WILX she cried after she was told that she couldn't get her photo taken at Paragon Charter Academy in Jackson, MI last month because the red extensions in her hair violated school policy. The school's handbook says students' hair color must be "of natural tones" to get their picture taken, according to WILX.

After her story made the news, it caught the attention of Naperville-based photographer Jermaine Horton. Growing up in a family devastated by gun violence on the South Side of Chicago, Horton said he was familiar with the types of feelings Marian was experiencing.

"When you’re singled out like that it’s a sucky feeling, and you could tell her confidence was just shot," Horton said.

Horton said vendors donated clothes, studio space, and everything they needed to make the shoot special.

"It was just a thing I wanted to do out of my heart," Horton said.

He took his own kids along for the hours-long drive to Michigan, where Marian lives. She donned a colorful dress for the photoshoot and kept the red braids in her hair.

At first, she was nervous, but after she got to talking about her favorite singer Ariana Grande and doing Fortnite dances with his kids, Horton said he could see Marian's confidence coming back.

He said she's actually a natural model. One pose, in particular, expressed the emotion she felt on the day she was turned away from getting her photos taken.

"I asked, 'Give me how you felt in that moment,'" he said.

Not only did the photoshoot help Marian get her own confidence back, it inspired others to do good works as well, Horton said. Thousands of people have contacted him from around the world to express thanks, and say they would like to do the same thing.

"I wasn’t expecting the reaction - I knew it was going to get picked up by a few people in the photography community but I had no idea it was going to do what it did," he said.

Horton said the experience actually inspired him to help even more people get their confidence back. He's heard from parents of children who are going through difficult life experiences, like being badly burned or injured. He plans to continue the work in a new initiative he's calling the Art of Confidence project.