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“I feel like someone they can take around in their pocket.”
Pink-haired Tefi Pessoa acts as some sort of flowery shield to the mean and self-deprecating noise inside your head, but instead of telling you to be strong, she encourages you to stay soft, reminds you of your worth and makes you laugh like a close friend.
Even through a phone screen, Tefi radiates authenticity and genuine warmth, which is rare for a creator of her stature. A proven pop culture scholar who got her start on YouTube, Tefi counts 1.3 million followers on TikTok who come to devour her deep dives into the lives of celebrities, all backed by rigorous research and delivered with her signature sense of humour (that is, hilariously blunt).
Like a best friend, Tefi is honest, if not unfiltered. She shares advice from her therapist, reminds you not to get back together with that ex, and dishes on her daily life — like when someone recognized her buying Plan B at a drugstore. It’s that intimacy and charm that has catapulted Tefi to TikTok fame (and landed her gigs at InStyle and Warner Bros. Pictures).
FASHION caught up with the Miami-born sensation (@hellotefi) to talk social media, setting boundaries and her best breakup advice.
I’ve been following you since your YouTube days, I’m talking pre-TikTok Tefi.
Oh my god, that is so funny! I love that.
A lot of your followers — from the YouTube days to your platform on TikTok — feel like they’re your friend. Why do you feel that is?
When people say, “How do you do that?” I’m like, “I’m not.” I’m not making them feel a certain way. I believe that I am that (their friend).
I’ve always felt connected to people and I believe that people are innately good. When you’re not taking things personally, it’s easy to represent yourself.
You have a celebrity series on TikTok where you have many parts. There’s always the algorithm talk as a content creator, but what ends up working seems to be when you just do what you like. With TikTok, did you think, “I don’t really care, I’m going to do whatever”?
In the beginning I had a goal in mind of like 500,000 (followers) which is stupid. I say it’s so stupid because the number of people that follow you does not determine your impact. There are people who have millions of followers and they’ve never said anything impactful to us.
I remember I was talking to someone from TikTok and she said, “don’t worry about being on the For You page. People are sharing your videos and people are treating your videos like longform content.” When people are like, are you going to ever leave TikTok? Never. Do you think I’m going to leave TikTok, the place of the funniest comments in the world?
@hellotefi Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee part 1 #pamelaanderson #tommylee ♬ original sound – hellotefi
They are the funniest. When your followers are waiting for you to post a part missing from your series, there’s collective humour in the comment section. We’re all waiting for you.
When my comments are like, “do you think she went to dinner?” I’m like, “Guys, I am taking a shower!”
Why do you think people feel so close to you like that?
I think I remind people that they’re safe. I hate the phrase “safe place” because the internet is not, but I feel like someone they can take around in their pocket, like when they’re going through a breakup or they’re having a bad day at work. I feel there’s a holographic me there.
But also if I’m your friend.. sometimes I poke in a light hearted way because I grew up in Miami from a Latin mother and if someone wears white little kitten heels, I’m going to say, “Okay, Daisy Duck.”
Sometimes it’s scary to set a boundary, especially when you’re anxious. What’s your advice for someone who’s having difficulty with that?
It sounds scary because I feel when you say boundary, it sounds like a fence, like you’re keeping people out when you really want people in. It’s just a form of communication to ensure that you and this person become closer in a way. I have let people walk all over me, because as women, we are taught that when things aren’t going well, you show how generous you can be and when things are going wrong, you are even more generous. We don’t even recognize when our cup is empty.
@hellotefi yes i’ve had wine but that doesn’t make him less ugky baby #dating ♬ original sound – hellotefi
You coined the term “bad bitch charity” for when women settle. That being said, I think a lot of us in our late 20s start to panic when going through a breakup. What’s your best advice for that?
There’s a certain thing that I like to do and I don’t know if it’s healthy, but I believe in the magic of life. I grew up reading my favourite book of all time, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez — it’s Colombian. He’ll spend five pages talking about the feather of a parrot.
You have to remain timeless. If you think that I have an expiration date at 40 then you’re out of your mind. As you get older, you have more insight into how complicated a relationship is. It’s more than having things in common, but when you guys are quiet together, what does that feel like? The idea that you’re going to meet a person and you’re going to ignite life into them is not true, maybe for three weeks!
Yeah! I freak out a lot, I need to look at somebody and they say, “you’re good,” you know what I mean?
Remaining soft is also not letting people change the way you love people. A lot of times people say to me, “you’re so naive.” Let me! I’m leaning in. It’s rock and roll to be delusional!