Young, gifted and (embracing being) black
Photo: Donovan James (DLJ Photography)

SHANA-KAY Manning is preaching a message of coming into womanhood with self-awareness. "As someone who once lacked self-confidence because society made me feel as if my skin had no value and I had no sense of belonging, I am pleased to say that through stepping outside of my comfort zone and expressing my true personality through images, I have become a changed individual," she told All Woman.

Now, the model (IG: @_.blacc.berry) says the ability to express our personality in various ways, such as how we speak and dress, is a skill that women who are confident in themselves should use.

"My model name is blaccberry, which depicts the saying "the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice", she explains.

The 20-year old is living in Kingston while pursuing her bachelor of science degree in health care.

Photo: Donovan James (DLJ Photography)

"When women of colour appreciate their inherent beauty, they accept their bodies, hair and skin tones. We accept all the characteristics that constitute us — including our curves, hair, and the richness of our complexion," she said.

"Embracing your natural beauty means embracing your blackness. The more self-assured you are, the more prepared you will be to cope with discrimination."

Manning explained that being a woman of colour entails having unique attributes that enhance your natural beauty, and the first step towards liking and being secure in your skin is choosing you.

"You'll have to learn to accept the possibility that your path to self-love will disappoint some people. People will not admire you, therefore, you must cultivate the habit of appreciating all that you are and all that you have to offer. You are not expected to explain yourself or seek validation from others. Self-love entails allowing yourself to prioritise your needs over those of others, disappointing people, and truly and completely loving yourself. Develop the practice of investing in skin care products that soothe your skin, provide nutrients and vitamins to help preserve that rich shine, and keep your skin moisturised so that its elasticity is maintained."

Manning said that as a black woman she was raised to believe that she is strong, beautiful, intelligent, and sufficient.

"However, such statements did not protect me from nasty comments directed at me — whether by members of my race or outsiders — regarding the appearance of my skin. Every major decision includes or calls for some level of risk-taking, and by moving outside of my comfort zone in 2020 and acknowledging who I am — a true black queen — I was able to unearth a talent I had been hiding: my love of being photographed.

"I feel incredibly happy, respected and gorgeous when I can see how I appear through a lens and when my photographers rave about how my skin glows naturally without editing. It truly boosts my self-confidence to a point where I feel loved and empowered. This has also made me more self-aware, such that every task I confront is completed to the best of my abilities since I am confident in both myself and my capabilities."

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