Stef Mandingo

Stef Mandingo

Founder, Keep It Cute

Summer 2021

Tell us – what excites you about your work?

I'm really excited to pilot this new group that really centers the wellness of young women with many of the same experiences as my own.  It's rare that there are healing and wellness spaces that are by and for system-impacted young trans women of color and trans youth involved in sex work.  We don't often have the resources to fund our own spaces to explore what that looks like on our terms, so I'm excited about all of the energy and creativity that each of our participants will bring into our spaces.

What feels rich and abundant in your work right now?

I think it feels rich and abundant to really have my leadership invested in as a up and coming black trans leader, I feel blessed to have the support of the Young Women's Freedom Center and years of their effort to help me cultivate all of the unique skills and ideas that have gotten me to a place where I can really bring my own passions to life in this program.

Who do you dedicate your work to?

I dedicate this work to the women who saw my brilliance and helped me invest in myself and my own wellness and to all the young trans women and girls who deserves to have all of the resources they need to invest in themselves in the same way.

I'm inspired by women like Amiyah Scott and Tokyo Stylez, some of the trans women in the public eye that I looked up to and are really possibility models of young girls that really show there are so many options out there for what success and happiness can look like for black trans women.  In terms of who I'm learning from, I'm learning a lot about community organizing and just showing up for myself and my community from my mentor, Luna Moreta Avila, who I met through my work at YWFC. I'm not much of a reader, but I learn a lot from my communities every day.

How can people reading this support the work you are doing?

Well we're still growing and piloting this program and want to provide as many new healing and wellness opportunities to our participants as possible, so if you are interested in investing in our work or offering in-kind donations of wellness opporunities, beauty supplies, or anything else that might support Keep It Cute, please reach out to us via email at!

What is your own wellness practice? How do you find balance?

I think I'm learning every day that wellness has so many faces and it's about every piece of our lives.  I need to keep myself balanced physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually and for me, I'm learning to really balance all of those pieces and help young people like me do the same. I have a lot of different practices that keep me grounded and feeling confident everything that I am.  I meditate twice a week for at least an hour each time, and I also put a lot of care into how I look, how I dress, and how I show up in spaces to really give my the confidence to stand in my leadership and know how far I've come in life. 

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