The multi-hyphenate is living for cozy knitwear and easy throw-on house dresses.
Monroe Steele is a Taurus, ruled by the planet Venus and born between the 20th days of April and May. She takes the astrological delineation very seriously. “Us Taureans love physical things and touch,” she tells me from her apartment in Harlem, citing her affinity for all things cozy. True to form, her home decor looks as though it was plucked from one of Instagram’s viral memes about Taureans relaxing as an Olympic sport.
On any given day, you can find the popular style blogger and entrepreneur who boasts more than 80,000 Instagram followers luxuriating inside her Harlem apartment and surrounded by thriving plants, calming neutral tones, and oversized windows with plenty of sunlight. Her skin is glowing and makeup-free, thanks to an extensive nighttime routine, and by evening, she may trade in her coffee for “merlot. Always merlot.”
Taureans might be prone to bouts of relaxation, but Steele’s self-care routine has real-world significance. Alongside her successful YouTube page, where she posts twice-weekly videos for her more than 30,000 subscribers, and an annual digital publication, Steele Magazine, she recently launched a series of video courses to teach influencers and entrepreneurs how to “level up.” She also has a clothing line in the works.
It’s fulfilling work, but in addition to her blog and sponsored campaigns — as many as five a week — it can be overwhelming. Couple that with the stress of the news — rising COVID-19 cases that disproportionately impact people of color, Breonna Taylor’s killing for which cops have yet to be charged, and an onslaught of racist and sexist attacks targeting vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris — and it’s become more important than ever for her to prioritize mental health.
“Statistics don’t lie — Black women carry the burden of everything,” she says. “We fight for everyone. It can be exhausting to simply exist. We need safe spaces. We need comfort of mind, body, and spirit any way we can get it. Grasp it and hold it tight. I don’t want to die exhausted.”
The unrelenting stress of racism and sexism — and its far-reaching effects on everything from cognitive function to mortality rate — is something Steele knows all too well. In fact, her decision to blog full time was itself a form of self-care. After practicing as a doctor of physical therapy for eight years, she says she left her job in November 2018 after being discriminated against by her then-employers.
“They wanted me to take a pay cut for six months,” she says. “I was the only female employee and the only Black employee. I found out they hadn’t asked anyone else, including the owner, to take a pay cut for the betterment of the business. I decided to walk away from that job because I didn’t feel appreciated. It was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Free from that toxic environment, Steele harnessed her creativity into a prolific style career, where she’s known for incorporating vibrant, Instagram-friendly pieces into her wardrobe, like Rixo’s mixed-print slip dress or Jacquemus’ fuchsia shorts. But thanks to quarantine, where even International Fashion Week attendees like Steele are confined to their homes for months on end, she’s recently turned into a “loungewear queen.”
“I used to make a beeline for dresses and skirts when shopping online but now I head straight for knits, loungewear, and matching sets,” she says. “I live for cozy knitwear, easy throw-on house dresses, and anything that’s comfortable yet still chic.” That includes a new, pared-down color palette: “I’m leaning toward nudes and neutrals paired with mints, Bordeaux, and muted [hues].”
Her only pop of color these days comes by way of bright lipstick punctuating glowing, clean skin: the perfect Zoom beauty look. “I end each day [with] skin care. I can’t get into bed until I’ve double-cleansed and put on all my serums.”
Alongside her skin care regimen, Steele, like a true Taurus, has quite a few indulgent self-care routines that cater to all five senses.
Stress relief, for her, is tied to touch and physicality. “Comfort equates to feeling cozy for me,” says the Durham, North Carolina native. “A silk slip dress against my skin. A cozy knit surrounding me on a cool autumn night. My soft shag rug underneath my feet. A weighted blanket hugging me when I sleep.”
For music, she’s partial to songs without words for a soothing soundtrack when she’s “manifesting or just need[s] to relax.” Playing on repeat right now? “‘Last Dream’ by Jones Meadow, ‘La Cosecha’ by Nicola Cruz, ‘Feel It Too’ by Tainy, and ‘La Ritournelle’ by Sebastien Tellier.”
Her scent of choice is “deep, sensual, and woody.” “I love anything that smells like a well-dressed man.” Her favorite candles are Diptyque Figuier and Byredo Bohemia. “When it comes to perfumes, it’s hands-down Byredo Bal D’afrique,” she says. “I spray a little on after every shower even just to lounge around the house.”
Steele’s North Carolina roots mean comfort meals almost always involve soul food. “When I miss home or just want a fulfilling meal that’s going to make me feel good from the inside out, I go to Melba’s in Harlem. They have the best fried catfish, collard greens, and candied yams in all of New York City.”
A lover of nature, she has four plants in her apartment, including birds of paradise and fiddle leaf. They’re visually stimulating but also appeal to her nurturing side. “I think what [I love] about gardening or being a plant mom is seeing how something can thrive based on what you do for it. I don’t have children but I’m sure that’s kind of what parenting feels like,” she says, though she’s had some practice as the eldest of three siblings. “I could never imagine that I could grow something. I feel like a goddess of nature. I have to have greenery in my space. I’d feel out of sorts if I didn’t have plants.”
Since quarantine, Steele says reading has been her savior. “It just helps me to completely immerse my mind in something that has nothing to do with the physical world around me,” she says, noting that self-help books are her favorite genre at the moment. “It’s a great way to expand my vocabulary and learn new things. I revisit Jen Sincero’s You’re A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. If I’m going to devour something with my mind, I want it to be positive so it does positive things.”
Given all the projects she’s working on, that optimism is paying off. But no matter how busy her schedule gets, she says, self-care will remain a top priority. For Steele, that goes beyond the watered-down version associated with massages, bubble baths, and hot yoga.
“Self-care means taking time out of every day to do something that I want to do that makes me happy, no matter what that is,” she says. “Some days that’s deep cleaning my apartment. Other days, it’s buying a new dress or simply putting on some makeup. Self-care means doing what I want, when I want because I’m the main character in the story that is my life — and not worrying about what anyone thinks about it.”
Photographer: Nyra Lang
Stylist: EJ Briones
Fashion Director: Tiffany Reid
VP of Creative: Karen Hibbert
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