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Shakia Stewart, 28

Being soft has a lot of negative connotations – being a soft touch, being easily malleable, being sentimental or weak – but I definitely think it’s a positive thing. Perhaps the more confident you are in yourself, the softer you can be. You know you’re strong, so you don't have to display it through hardness. You can be soft and strong.

Beauty Portrait of Shakia Stewart
I’m baby faced and petite, but don’t let that fool you. As a diplomat working in places such as Libya and Iraq I overcame people’s expectations of me based on how I look. I’m tough, and I’m big hearted and yes, you can be both. - Monica

In the past, I’ve felt like I had to act tough, especially when I first started working. I felt like not showing emotion would prove that I was strong and capable. Now, I feel more confident in myself so I don't feel the need to act tough. I can be friendly, smiley and even sometimes silly at work, but still be authoritative and respected, and do a great job.

For me, softness in terms of beauty is naturalness. I don't really try to change the way I naturally look, though when I was younger I spent too much time straightening my hair. It’s weird thinking about that now, because people don’t recognise me if I don’t wear my hair out – afro, curly hair is such a big part of me.

Now, I might emphasise certain features – like wearing mascara to make my eyelashes longer – but other than that I just eat well, exercise, and look after my skin, so I feel more confident in my natural state. I think that makes me look softer because I’m not wearing a mask ­– it's more organic and real, rather than fake or forced. 

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