Another Planet Barbershop is the cosmic brainchild of Jacque’ “Sci-Fi” Scott. Her Black-owned-and-operated business recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and her reputation has attracted many high-profile clients across the celebrity spectrum. Whether she’s lining up some Philadelphia Eagles or giving someone a complete transformation in an episode of Queer Eye, she has established herself as the city’s most premier barber. On top of all that, Sci-Fi is a lifelong Sixers fan and basketball connoisseur. Recently, I visited Another Planet and sat down with her to talk about her time working on Sixers fan-favorite veteran Dwight Howard, her love for basketball, the current state of creative expression in the league, and why the city of Philadelphia needs a WNBA team.
I want to start our conversation with your experience as Dwight Howard’s barber while he was with the Sixers. How did he find you, and what was he like when you met him?
“I got a phone call while I was at home, and it was from a random woman who asked me if I did house calls. I said yes, then she told me she couldn’t tell me who the person was but that he plays basketball and that I would know him for sure. So I told her to describe his haircut, and she told me that he had twist-type braids on top and just gets half his head cut and his beard done. I’m sitting there trying to ponder, like “Who is this?” as I’m picturing all the Sixers’ hair, but [Dwight] had just transitioned into that cut so it wasn’t something that I’ve seen so I couldn’t put the two together. A little later, I got a call from a different guy asking the same questions as the woman because Dwight had his people find him a barber and I guess they both found me separately, so after talking with him he told me where to go. At the time, I didn’t have a car because I had to sacrifice my Mustang during the pandemic, so I Uber ’ed 40 minutes to this mini-mansion in South Jersey that had to have been maybe half a block long. When I first walked in, there were two ladies sitting at a table, and one of them was Te’a Cooper and I didn’t even realize it. Right beside them, there was a couch and an 80-inch TV, and Dwight was sitting on the couch playing video games.
I put my barber suitcase down, and when I saw him, I was like “Oh. Hi, legend!” He smiled at me, stood up, and towered, like, even him sitting down the extension of his legs was crazy. He was a giant. And he was mad chill. He told me I was his first haircut since he got traded to the Sixers and told me he didn’t even get a cut on his birthday a few days before. He made me feel like I was at home in his home. I probably spent four hours there cutting his hair, talking about everything. After we were bowling because he had a bowling alley in his house, and it was like a “You can leave whenever you want” type of situation but I didn’t even want to go.”
I can imagine. He seems like a grown-up kid who just likes to have fun, but then he is also a first-ballot Hall of Fame basketball player. It’s cool to experience first-hand how guys are off the court and see what their personalities are like. Now that you’ve cut your first Sixers player, I can imagine he won’t be your last. Looking at the team now, who’s the next Sixers star that you want sitting in your barber chair?
“I’ll have to say James Harden for sure because when you walk into Philly, you got to get a top-rated Philly beard. I’d pick that thing out, hydrate it, and give it a precise sculpting to his head shape and his new body because he lost about fifteen pounds. He definitely needs some Sci-Fi love in that beard.”
I bet working on James Harden’s beard is on a lot of hoop-head barbers’ bucket lists. Speaking of which, you are not only a world-class barber, but you’re also a basketball fan and a basketball player yourself. How and when did you fall in love with the game of basketball?
“Man, I’ve been playing basketball since the age of six, and coming up there wasn’t a season when I wasn’t playing basketball. Ball has always been a tool of tenacity that I’ve used not only on the court but also off the court, and it shows through the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put into my barbershop. I took that same motto and mindset from basketball and transitioned it into becoming a top-rated, No. 1 barber of today. It was a beautiful transition from ball because I could also showcase even more talent with my hands and what my hands can do, whether that’s crossing somebody up, pull-back, and shooting a three or it’s a big-chop transformation cut identity change.”
Do you think you’d be the person you are today if you hadn’t ever picked up a basketball or stepped onto a court?
“Not at all. It’s a drive, it’s a heartbeat. Just being out there giving every minute, every second, it carries me and it has carried me. In recovery of my car accident, I’ve taken things I’ve heard my coach say when I felt like I was going to pass out or I’m on the last lap of a mile or whatever to push me forward. The conditioning of basketball has allowed me to have an internal whistle of perseverance and to seek victory in everything that I do.”
Basketball is one of those things that teaches lessons for people to carry with them outside those lines on the court. Another facet of the game that influences fans are the league’s superstars. When people come into your barbershop, one of the first things they’ll notice after sitting in your chair is the sizable painting of your favorite player Allen Iverson hanging beside your workstation. Can you talk about what A.I. means to you?
“A.I….? Man, a moment of silence and respect. This man has to be one of … he’s just … look I can’t believe I’m getting a little tongue-tied talking about his greatness! My love for this man is crazy. Coming up from the time I was six, my basketball name as a kid was J-Swish’em because all I did was swish’em. J-Swish’em then got recruited to varsity after four games as a freshman in high school. Coach G said, “Oh, no. We got to bring her up and have her start on varsity.” At that point, I felt like I was the second Answer because my man A.I. was the initial, you feel me? That was the love. I was the female remix to A.I., and I even had his Reebok’s, the Questions in navy blue, white, and gold. The arm sleeve that I wear at work is inspired by him. He was an all-around art-form, head to toe.”
An art-form is a good way to describe him, and I would put his impact on basketball and general pop culture up there with MJ’s. It isn’t a secret that A.I.’s influence transcended the game of basketball, as you said, from head to toe. So, I’m curious to know what your reaction was when you saw A.I. with braids for the first time, both as a basketball fan and as an aspiring barber.
“Yo, you must’ve telepathically asked that question because I was just about to say this! My love for him was down to my cornrows. I had every hairstyle that this man had. I just would show my friend a photo and asked her to duplicate it, and bang! Next game they were different, then the next game, then the next. He not only changed the image of the league, he changed the image of musicians, too. He allowed a rugged cockiness that said, like ‘I’m blessed and I know my position. It doesn’t matter if I come in here with Timbs and a sweatshirt. I’m still going to cross you! Period!’ My handles are crazy, even post-car accident, and are inspired by Allen Iverson.
You’ll see, if it’s not in the WNBA, then it’s in my own basketball league for those who’ve had moments that they couldn’t control like me who’ll be given an opportunity to try out and shine light on the underground talent. Let me speak for myself. I ball on the daily. My precision is as sharp as my cuts. Top-rated. The world hasn’t seen me post-car accident, but if you walk into my mom’s house you’ll see trophies and plaques, you’ll see all my accomplishments.”
I can clearly picture a young J-Swish’em dripped down on the court like A.I. giving everybody the business. With that being said, the NBA plays a part in dictating pop-culture and trends, and one area that the league has seen a shift in is hair culture. Many of the game’s brightest stars have hairstyles that are synonymous with their identities: James Harden’s Philly beard, Ja Morant’s tied-up colorful locks, Devin Booker’s clean fade, Luka Doncic’s understated Euro-style, and many more. As a barber, how do you feel about the NBA’s hair culture and the authenticity players bring to the game when they wear their hair the way they want to?
“The volume of self-expression has been turned up. People aren’t afraid to express that. I’m happy to see it. I do, however, wonder why some of these men can have millions and don’t have a haircut! That’s the question. But hair styles in the league are going to continue to evolve, and I believe all of this originated from A.I. without a doubt. He was the seed.”
As an interesting follow up to that, would you equate hair culture in the league to sneaker culture, as far as creativity and self-expression?
“Yes, because you’re not in uniform. Back in the day, I loved how we all had the same sneakers. I loved how we used to wear all white for home games. It looked like we were in harmony with each other. But we have to embrace change, and color is a vibrancy, so why not have on some highlighter pink sneakers in memorial of your great aunt who might’ve passed away from breast cancer and you want the world to know that, you know? But that isn’t for everybody, which is cool.”
I think the freedom that players express on the court with their sneakers and their hair styles are good for the game. While we’re on the subject of change, there are rumors circulating about Philadelphia being one of the potential landing spots for a WNBA expansion franchise. Before getting into all that, I want to talk about your earlier experience with women’s basketball in Philly, and I think this Temple basketball mini-hoop you’ve got here is a good place to start. Can you tell me the story behind it?
“I’ve had this since I was a kid, but all the pictures and autographs are from when I was in high school. When I was 15 I was brought up to varsity as a freshman, and with that same team we played AAU together. In the AAU league we played at the Liacouras Center. We won that league, and after the championship Candice Dupree walks up to us and asked our team if we wanted to practice with Temple’s women’s team. Dude, at 15 I was out there running a few pick-ups with them! I remember I was balling out, too. Dawn Staley was there, and she took me under her arm and said, “You ahead of your years, youngin’. You ahead of your years.” And you know what’s crazy? I just saw Coach Staley in Chicago at WNBA All-Star Weekend. She was on the court before the game and I called her out, so she came over showing love and signed my hat. I was feeling so blessed, for real!
That’s so cool, wow. Shoutout to the 2022 NCAA champ Coach Staley, and shoutout to the newly appointed coach Candice Dupree with the summer league Spurs. So, considering the possibility of a WNBA team making its home in Philadelphia, how do you think a professional women’s team could help change the narrative around basketball in the city and inspire young women to love the game?
“It would be about time. Philly is one of, if not the, biggest fanbases for all sports, arts, and entertainment. We really go hard for our city. We have soccer, we have lacrosse, right? These things just came about, which is beautiful, but the city has had female ballers. We’ve been here, we’ve been around. We’re moms, we’re teachers, we’re multi-faceted women that are out here. You’re looking at one and talking to one. Philly would love and eat up a WNBA team. I had already manifested a Philly WNBA team and have been thinking about it since I was just a child: ‘The Philadelphia Sixettes.’ Everything would be slick and smooth with branding because all you got to do is add an E-T-T-E-S! Philadelphia is his and hers, so make professional basketball like a duet and show the city what it’s been missing. This game doesn’t discriminate. All these little girls out here will see that they don’t just have to play soccer and other things. There’s more for them to look up to. Honestly, a WNBA team in Philly would be a dream come true.”