Black Girls Are Choosing the Soft Life, and I’m Here for It

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been tough, and people have come to understand that the mere act of getting through the day is an accomplishment in and of itself. In an effort to cope, there has been a major shift in what “self-care” actually means. While I love a good face mask, now we’re going deeper, prioritizing mental health, establishing boundaries, dating intentionally and parenting intuitively. At the same time, Black women, I have noticed, have been participating in their own movement: They’re embracing the soft life.

What is the soft life, you ask? According to Urban Dictionary, the soft life is “the opposite of hard life. [It’s] where you make decisions that leave you feeling stress free and vibrating higher,” the soft life, the website describes, is “less about wealth (though it helps) and more about making good choices.” While this may seem obvious and simple to some, for a group that has been as grossly marginalized as Black women, this concept is revolutionary.

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Back in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s, the soft life was mostly relegated to TV characters such as Toni Childs from Girlfriends and Hilary Banks from Fresh Prince. They were the girls who liked the finer things in life and would rather spend their Saturdays shopping and brunching rather than walking you through your latest breakup. These early bougie Black girl characters worked as comic relief—isn’t it hilarious that Toni is worried about her Saks membership while Joan is going through an identity crisis? A couple decades later, and largely thanks to Black Twitter, the perspective has shifted—and we should actually be taking notes. Sure, the bougie Black girl can be self-centered (we all have our flaws) but she also has high standards, firm boundaries and is uncompromising about her values. It sounds like self-care 101, but that’s peak soft life livin’ right there.

For me, the OG bougie Black girl who brought the soft life to my eyes was the one and only Kimora Lee Simmons. Back in the 2010s, one of my absolute favorite shows to watch was Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, which showed her life as a former supermodel-turned-powerhouse fashion designer as she raised her children, ran her fashion empire and jet-set to all sorts of fabulous places.

Standing 6 feet tall, with voluminous hair and a big mouth to match, Kimora Lee owned every room she walked into. She was loud, she was boisterous, and she was over-the-top. She was also the boss and made sure everyone around her knew it. (Dare I say, she crawled so your fave reality TV stars could run?) The most intriguing part about KLS was that she never shied away from being a diva. For all her hard work, she made sure she got the best of everything. “I have so much Louis Vuitton, it’s obscene,” she told a reporter in one episode. In another, she had an assistant take Polaroids of every outfit she was going to wear on a trip to Europe. The reason? She wanted to be able to see the ‘fit—with accessories to boot—to avoid the trouble of putting something she didn’t like on. Sure, lots of stylists will do this in today’s Real Housewives and Kardashian era, but at the time, this was revelatory.

So when, over this past Christmas break, I began watching Netflix’s Selling Tampa, I immediately recognized the lush lifestyle—aka soft life—I had fallen in love with a decade prior. This time, the fabulous bougie Black girl serving was none other than Anne-Sophie Petit-Frere. “We’re gonna be conservative, assume a 3 percent commission on a $9 million house. So we’re looking at $270K,” she casually calculated her potential commission. “I need that. That’s vacation money right there,” she said to camera. I was barely two minutes into the season, and she had me.

What got my attention about Anne-Sophie was the fact that she was a regular person. Kimora Lee was a high-earning, high-fashion model—a superstar, removed from me in so many ways. Anne-Sophie, on the other hand, was my age. She went to University of South Florida and had been grinding in real estate since graduating. That $270K commission is what she would have been earning whether or not the Netflix cameras were rolling. And as I practically inhaled the rest of the season, I started to notice more and more girls in my own network doubling down on the soft life. Suddenly, it became clear to me that leaning into the soft life is no longer relegated to supermodels, celebrities or even realty TV stars, but normal, everyday Black women who are intentionally and purposefully staking the claim.

On TikTok, for example, accounts such as SheTravelsLuxe and the Black Travel Feed are all about highlighting Black women traveling to gorgeous destinations such as Aruba, the Maldives and Zanzibar in the lap of luxury—not sparing any expense, they’re making sure they get the most out of their vacations. Influencers such as Jackie Aina and Melissas Wardrobe will put any melanated queen onto the beauty, fashion and lifestyle trends. (Aina even has a section on her TikTok titled, “Luxury Commentary” where she talks about her favorite luxury products, things she wished she hadn’t bought and things that are simply not worth the dough.) It’s truly priceless content.

But as much fun as it is to see the soft life manifested in Champagne, Louis V. and PJs (that’s private jets, people), the deeper message is that Black women are putting themselves first. And this includes mental, physical, spiritual and financial health. Platforms such as Therapy for Black Girls are an integral part of the soft life movement, making sure Black women can make mental health as much a priority as anyone can. Career influencers such as Latesha Byrd—founder of consulting agency, Perfeqta—are also providing resources to help Black women frame their careers so they can compete with their counterparts.

The soft life doesn’t discount the struggles that Black women face on a daily basis. We still have miles to cover when it comes to how Black women are valued in our society. But it is exciting to see the bougie Black girl television tropes like Hilary Banks and Toni Childs not only come to life, but become normalized.

And while I can’t (yet) afford my own PJ or apartment overlooking the Hudson, the soft life, for me, is all about prioritizing my mental health. As an immigrant, I, like so many other people, was groomed to work my tail off, always put my best foot forward and never let anyone know I’m crumbling. In 2022, though, I made the conscious decision to take things a little slower, to give myself time to cool off and to ask for help when I need it. That means taking a walk every day after work, no matter how much I still have to do. It means not rescheduling my therapy appointments because something else came up. And, sometimes, it even means spending the weekend with my phone off, getting wine drunk and binge-watching true crime documentaries…because, well, that’s the soft life, baby.

See, the key to living the soft life is curating a life that best suits you. Whether that’s going for the Brandon Blackwood or Telfar purchase (luxury staples in every bougie Black girl’s closet BTW), getting a biweekly mani-pedi or simply saying “no” when you don’t feel like saying “yes,” Black women are tenaciously taking small and large measures to reject the struggle narrative that has plagued us for so long.

I love to see it.

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