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This post is in partnership with Ulta Beauty.
Gone are the days where we prioritize “the grind” over our own wellbeing. #Teamnosleep is canceled. Millennial women are prioritizing themselves and their rest above all else, and we love to see it. We’re seeing proof of this powerful shift everywhere we look, but especially in the #softlife hashtag that’s been trending all over social media. The soft life movement is all about pursuing the path of least resistance, choosing ease over struggle, and relaxing in your vulnerability.
xoNecole and Ulta Beauty have identified six beauty influencers who are fully embracing the “soft life.” They’re rejecting the notion that their worth is measured by their professional output, how many followers they have, or how hard they’re hustling. Each of these creative powerhouses has learned to make self-care a non-negotiable in their lives while walking into the fullness of their most authentic selves. There will always be a demand for more content amidst the ever-changing algorithms, but as influencers like Tiffany Renee, Caitlyn Davis, and Alanna Doherty know all too well, you can’t properly show up for others until you fully show up for yourself first.
Read all about how these six beauty influencers are approaching the soft life on their own terms.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
As a full-time content creator and founder of the college clothing label HBCU Yearbook, Caitlyn Davis is no stranger to hard work. She started gaining followers while attending undergrad at FAMU, filming natural hair tutorials for YouTube in her dorm room. From there, she steadily picked up ambassador gigs for popular online fashion and beauty brands. “[They were] paying us around $300 a month,” she remembers. “I thought I was doing something with my money. I was like, ‘What? I'm getting paid to do something that I love?’ It became a snowball effect.”
After linking up with a cousin who had just become a makeup artist, Caitlyn fell in love with the idea of creating beauty content. “Beauty just elevates your personality,” she tells xoNecole. “And because it does that, you just feel better about yourself. And when you do that and show other people and they start learning and getting better at makeup and beauty, their personality and confidence starts to elevate as well.”
Caitlyn admits that maintaining a healthy work-life balance doesn’t come easy for her. She’s a self-proclaimed workaholic who takes pride in her business. “[I’ve learned] the soft life is working hard for what you want but knowing we're deserving of the best life has to offer, including rest.” When life gets overwhelming, she turns to the great outdoors. “I go on hikes,” she says. “There’s something about being in nature, being grounded, hearing birds, the trees moving, and water [flowing] that immediately de-stresses me."
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
Tiffany Renee grew up on a farm in Tennessee, where her first introduction to the world of beauty and fashion came via Tyra Banks. The smizing supermodel’s competition series “America’s Next Top Model” drew this southern girl in. “Beauty wasn't really a thing [in the environment I grew up in],” she says. “So I've got to give it to Tyra. A lot of my posing and wearing my makeup a certain way had a lot to do with Tyra and how she coached those models. As I got older and started experimenting more with makeup, I just grew to love it more and more.” Tiffany says she sharpened her makeup skills by learning one thing at a time, starting with winged eyeliner. Next brows, and then lashes. Along the way, she made it a point to develop the techniques that worked for her face rather than copying and pasting from YouTube tutorials.
After moving to Atlanta in 2012, Tiffany began to rack up followers on Instagram with her beauty, hair, and fashion content. She even created an online community called “Curl Gang,” which celebrates the beauty and versatility of natural hair. With all she’s accomplished, Tiffany says she’s most proud of shedding her tough exterior and learning to be vulnerable. “My life has been pretty tough, so that made me a tough woman,” she tells xoNecole. “In my relationships, I've always had this tough persona on the outside, but really, I'm internally very much a soft person.
“For me, taking on the soft life was doing the work to break that mold, and accept that it's okay to be vulnerable,” she continues. “It's okay to be expressive. It's okay to love people. It's not just about the tasks of my life, but more so about my well-being. I’m actively deciding not to hold onto things that make me [have to] be tough.”
Hometown: Napa, California
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Kinya Claiborne is living proof. This lifestyle influencer has a professional resume that would make any recruiter salivate. She’s worked in print, television, and radio, and has even overseen public relations for billion-dollar projects. But like all creatives at heart, there came a point in her career where she felt a calling elsewhere. “My job wasn't sexy,” she admits. “I still loved my job and I loved working in corporate America, but there was a void. There were other things that I also loved that my job wasn't fulfilling.”
Inspired by the DailyCandy newsletters she used to read in college, Kinya launched her own lifestyle magazine called Style & Society which covers fashion, beauty, health, wellness, entertainment, travel - all the things Kinya loves. What started as a creative outlet turned into a booming business. Her readers wanted to know more about her, which led her to posting photos of herself inside her stories. “I started Style & Society back in 2013. The term influencer didn't exist back then. Brands started contacting me and wanting me to do product placements and campaigns. That's how my social media following started growing. Then eventually, the term influencer came about, and at that point, I had already been doing it.”
As you can tell from her Instagram, Kinya is always well put together. Her early beauty memories include getting her hair done at the salon with her mom and wearing different lipstick colors to school. Kinya says she’s always been a girly girl. but she’s as resilient as they come. The Northern Californian survived the Route 91 festival shooting in 2017. She also lost her brother to suicide. From her perspective, being soft isn’t just about pampering yourself, but showing up for those around you. “You can't just look at someone and know how they're feeling,” she says. “It’s so important to check in, because even a phone call, text message, or just saying hello to a stranger could really change their path.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
For Taylor Winbush, presentation is everything. Embracing that belief has gotten her far. “My mom would always say ‘dress how you want to be treated,’” she says. “She would always dress up to go to the grocery store, making sure her hair was always done, and she was fresh-faced. She taught me that when you look better, you feel better.”
As a dancer and theater performer, Taylor got to hone in on her makeup skills early. “I remember even from a young age, when I used to take ballet classes, they would make you do your makeup way in the back of the mirror to make sure you'd be able to see it [far from the stage].” After moving to Atlanta in 2019 to pursue a career in acting and commercial modeling, Taylor discovered she could book more gigs if she added “content creator” to her resume. As a beauty lover, it came naturally to her, and it’s paid off tenfold.
At the start of the year, Taylor stepped out on faith and decided to work for herself full-time. She acknowledges that it’s a risk, but nothing a little discipline can’t manage. “As long as I'm doing my part, then I truly and firmly believe that God will handle the rest.”
Aside from constantly developing her self-discipline, Taylor says she’s embracing the soft life by taking care of her physical and spiritual temple. “I'm a super giving person, so I would give a lot of my time to friends and family, making sure everyone else is taken care of before me,” she says. “There's a saying that if you help someone build their sandcastle first, then what will you have left to build? I’m learning you have to take care of yourself first in order for you to help someone else.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Fashion and beauty haven’t always been a welcoming world for curvy women, but that hasn’t stopped influencer Thamarr Guerrier from accepting her rightful seat at the table. This bubbly and effervescent content creator started her lifestyle blog, Musings of a Curvy Lady, back in 2012 on her lunch break working as a nurse. “I started [my blog] as a way to promote personal style and beauty in this body of mine,” Thamarr shared on her site. “Visibility matters and you’re going to see me. I’m going to take up all the space and bring my own chair to the table.”
Thamarr’s beauty memories stem all the way back to childhood. “I was obsessed with watching my mother do her hair and makeup in the mirror,” she says. “I played dress-up in her clothes and would sneak and put on her mascara. I just couldn’t wait to be old enough to wear lipstick.”
If you peep her IG feed, you’ll notice Thamarr documents her globetrotting in head-turning looks that will make you want to book a one-way ticket to your nearest island. But it’s actually not her extravagant travel experiences that bring her the most peace. It’s the little things, like sipping a glass of wine during her skincare routine as Kacey Musgraves plays in the background. “After a shower, I always feel a little better, especially after a crummy day,” she tells xoNecole. “It’s also my favorite place to shed a tear or two. After my literal and sometimes emotional cleanse, I feel renewed. I talk positively to myself as I pamper myself with my favorite products. Taking the time and being purposeful as I go.”
Thamarr’s interpretation of “the soft life” is to live and love in a way that makes her inner being the happiest. “If it brings me peace, it’s the soft life for me.”
Hometown: Bridgetown, Barbados
It’s hard not to feel a spark of joy when you browse through Alanna Doherty’s IG page. It’s chock-full of Alanna dressed to the nines in bright psychedelic patterns. Her lush ‘fro bounces back and forth in all its glory as Alanna jams to her favorite tunes. Alanna is happiness personified, but her initial introduction to beauty was quite the opposite. “I started loving makeup and beauty products because I felt they were necessary in order to cover up my insecurities,” she tells xoNecole. “I’m finally starting to truly fall in love with them this year. I no longer need a full face of makeup to make me feel good. I’m perfectly happy going without any at all now, but love that I have the option to play with makeup. It’s more of a creative process now and I LOVE that!”
Alanna’s bold and colorful aesthetic is brave and inspiring. And when it comes to the soft life, she’s honest enough to admit that she’s figuring it out along the way. “For years I’ve been putting my own self-care behind work and I’m now starting to realize its importance in my life,” she says. “I’ve still got a long way to go but ‘the soft life’ to me would be creating the space to focus on myself and taking the time to enjoy it. I see long walks along the beach, spas, more hot yoga, and relaxing on the balcony.”
Featured image courtesy of Tiffany Renee
For over a decade, Harlem’s Fashion Row has served as a safe space for creatives of color to shine bright without fear of being dimmed. This week, HFR celebrated its 16th year of providing business solutions to retailers committed to equity for Black and Latin-X design talent. This beacon has served as a bridge between retailers and designers of color through collaborations, experiential marketing, pipeline programs, and brand strategy.
Set against the backdrop of the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, the night was nothing short of amazing as a Black hip-hop orchestra serenaded the crowd with legendary tunes from “Big Poppa” to “Moment 4 Life.” It was pure magic as the scene was set to begin the Style Awards.
Tim Weatherspoon surprised his wife, Kelly Rowland, with a heartfelt speech as he presented her with the Fashion Icon of the Year Award. “I couldn’t pass up this moment to tell you that you’ve always been my icon,” the talent manager said. He went on to share that he scoured social media to pull some compliments from the toughest of critics. Weatherspoon said, “My assumption is that these are good ‘Kelly eats the girls every time. Fire emoji, fire emoji, fire emoji.’’’
As the Destiny’s Child alum accepted her award, she proclaimed her love for “that Black man.” Rowland was full of joy and adoration as she accepted the award, reminiscing on the days when she was a little girl from Texas in a group of country girls where stylists were not jumping at the opportunity to dress them. “Tina took matters into her own hands, and she dressed us. We learned what it felt like to start a trend. I remember what it felt like — the pride in it. I also know that ‘we’ start the trends and ‘we’ make what’s cool, cool. Fashion should be grateful for us.”
L-R: Tamron Hall, Stella Jean, and Brandice Daniel
Then, the incomparable styling duo, Wayman and Micah, took to the stage to receive the Stylist of The Year Award. These two best friends were honored for their creative styling on the likes of Regina King, Tessa Thompson, Taraji P. Henson, Jodie Turner, and so many more. The partners in style applauded HFR’s founder, Brandice Daniel, for creating a table for us. “The table is marble and custom,” Micah exclaimed.
The fashion heavy hitters were absolutely in the building. Gabriela Karefa-Johnson, a New York-based stylist and VOGUE Global Contributing Fashion Editor-at-Large renowned for her eye for emerging designers and her narrative-driven approach to diversifying representation in fashion, accepted the Editor of the Year Award.
Tamron Hall sang the praises of the Designer of the Year recipient, Stella Jean, for being a visionary who not only creates whimsical pieces but takes a stand for what she believes in. “During this pivotal moment, one designer made a courageous and impactful decision. Stella Jean, an Italian-Haitian fashion visionary, took a stand in a bold and powerful move. Stella Jean pledged to return to the runway only when she would no longer be the sole Black designer on the Milan schedule.”
Johnny Nunez, the culture’s #1 photographer, reminded us of the importance of perseverance in the face of rejection while accepting the Photographer of the Year award. Just before his speech, Valeisha Butterfield, Google's Vice President of Partnerships & Engagement, gave Nunez his flowers for always making her feel seen and appreciated, which gave her the determination to be herself and take up space.
A$AP Rocky lit up the historic Apollo stage with his undeniable charm and intrinsic style. Dressed in a cardigan, Louis Vuitton tie, and a voluminous kilt while his head was adorned with embellished hair clips, he was walking proof that he’s a fashion, music, and culture innovator just like the name of the award he was receiving, the Virgil Abloh Award. For this Harlem native, it was a full circle moment as Abloh helped the rapper with his start in the industry years ago when he helped design his first album cover.
Designers Megan Renee, Nicole Benefiled Portfolio, and A. Potts showcased their transformational designs, which varied in style, texture, and color. Megan Renee's designs were inspired by unapologetic femininity. Nicole Benefiled Portfolio's designs were more geometric and modern, with a focus on clean lines and bright colors. A. Potts' designs were eclectic and playful, with a focus on mixed patterns and bold colors. All three designers created unique and eye-catching pieces that turned heads.
The show concluded with a beautiful tribute to hip-hop by the legendary Doug E. Fresh. The entire show was a celebration of all that is good about fashion, and it was a reminder of why the culture continues to inspire and influence people all over the world. HFR’s New York Fashion Week kickoff was a love letter to the culture, and it was delivered with nothing but style, care, and love.
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