Tefi Pessoa, a Miami native living in Brooklyn, is gracing the feeds of millions across the social network with her curious talks, shameless sense of humor, and introspective thought processes. She has been indoctrinated as social media’s “big sister” or “best friend,” but she is much more than a casual conversationalist. With a likable and powerful vocality, Tefi is a breath of fresh air from the stale facade of media. Her platform is a genuine celebration of activism, truthfulness, and the dissection of pop culture. LADYGUNN got to sit and chat with Tefi all about the depths and shores of social media, cultural representation, and mental health. Her charming ability to befriend anyone in the room allotted for a breezy thoughtful conversation.
If you had to pitch yourself in under thirty seconds, what would you say and how would you want to be perceived? What do you think is the most determining piece of information people should know about Tefi?
I would say I’m the kind of person is always like: I already like you, so don’t worry about it. You have to cheat on me four times for me not to like you, this has been tested many times. By the third one I was like we all make mistakes, but then by the fourth… well you know. I’m just a person where I walk into a room, and I think everyone loves me already and that they can’t wait to meet me. Then if I meet someone who doesn’t like me, then I’m like what a loser! I never take anything personally and I already like you, so I think when you tell someone that they relax. So, let’s relax!
What is your favorite type of content to create? Do you see yourself growing into a more specific role in media, or do you prefer to be flexible in your practice?
The kind of content I like to create is conversational and playful. I always want it to feel like we’re in my living room watching a movie, and everytime something happens we pause to talk about what that scene reminded us of. I want my content to feel like that lunch date you have with your friend you haven’t seen in a long time, so you have a million things to talk about. I never want to have to present who I am. I hope that when talking to me, you remember that we do like people.
Who do you create for?
I create for the people who are excited about being here – I want people to stay excited about being here. I want people to remember even though you had a bad day, it’s not a bad life. I don’t think we recognize how lonely people are, and I just want people to be excited about each other again.
How has publicly sharing your mental health journey helped you validate your own feelings and prioritize your wellbeing?
Obviously I am a person online. When I talk about people, I’m part of that group too. People are constantly trying to figure out if I am a bad person, and social media for me has been a way to fight that. I ask myself, what if I was a bad person, does that mean I deserve any less? Excluding the isms and the phobias! Let’s say I was a selfish person, let’s say I was an obnoxious person, let’s say I was a rude person – I think that all our lives we were told about changing, absorbing, and learning, yet everything is so definitive. Our feelings are so definitive, but we forget feelings don’t last forever. For example, heartbreak. We’ve all had our hearts broken, not just from a romantic experience but from a job we thought was going to be different, or a friend we thought was going to be different. There are moments in our life that are heartbreaking, and our mental health journeys are still with us on those terrible days. So when I talk about my mental health, I try to talk about it from the perspective but it might not be like this tomorrow. Drake had this one tweet – wow not to bring up Drake – but he tweeted “everything is better after three sleeps.” I think when I’m talking to people about mental health, when I make videos about it, I don’t think they recognize that I am also trying to convince myself. People only acknowledge you when you have a bigger following, but I remember having six hundred followers, having a thousand, having three-thousand followers. A lot of the time I’d get only twelve likes, but in those videos I was talking to the person looking back at me. I just didn’t recognize how many people felt similarly. When people say you’re always there for me in response to my videos, I want to say you have no idea how much you are there for me too. Even the trolls, thank you for being there for me!
How do you strive to destigmatize the toxic narrative social media projects onto people using the platform? Would you say social media has developed into more of safe-space rather than a toxic pool of comparison?
I like to say that social media is a city. Sometimes you go to the supermarket, and you meet the nicest person in the world. Other days you’ve got to go to the DMV. It’s just what it is, it’s a city. You’re going to meet all different types of people. Sometimes you meet horrible people and you’re like I want to know where your place is so I never go there. You see certain weirdos and you’re like why do you have a place? Social media is a safe place in the way that there is something for everyone. It’s a city, it’s it all it is. That takes the pressure off of being likable.
Since your following has grown, is there ever a weight on your shoulders, a sort of dependency on you to share your life in its entirety? How have you adapted to this pressure?
I’ve never had this pressure, because I’ve always talked to people like new friends. I always want to keep it conversational and open, so people don’t feel judged but maybe they feel introspective. People always tell me I’m so transparent, so vulnerable, but no one really knows any details about my life. Content creators feel pressure to give full transparency, but you do not have to do that. You don’t have to prove your humanity all the time. If people want more details from me, I have the power to pick and choose what I show them. On social media, you’re in control. No matter what you do you’re human, so your humanity will show.
As a Latina woman, how do you aim to be the representation in media that you lacked growing up?
Growing up in Miami it was weird for me, because the representation that I had was locally amplified. I had a lot more access to acknowledging that Latinos don’t have a particular shade or a particular look. The representation that I felt was really lacking was never because of my community or because of where I grew up. It was when I’d turn on the TV and it was only JLO and Salma Hayek. Later we were blessed with Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba, then Jessica Alba said “I’m not Latina.” I was like why wouldn’t you want to be Latina? It’s the best thing in the fucking world! It wasn’t until later that I started hearing people say “well you know, JLO doesn’t even speak Spanish,” but because of where I grew up my response was well a lot of Latino people don’t speak Spanish. So for me, it was weird to see how Latin people absorbed me. They would say “you don’t even look Latina, you look American.” Well I am American, I’m from Florida. While I definitely had representation in front of me all the time, in the media it was weird to hear how people talked about us like we weren’t in the room. When the conversation started happening about why there weren’t other Latinas, that was fucking weird to me. It’s not like they were hard to find – it’s not like other shades and other body types were hard to find. Growing up, I wasn’t aware of the fact that Latinas were in the media solely for the perception of the male gaze. For me Latinas and Latinos were the people who took care of you.
Have you noticed that Millennials and Gen Zers intake content differently? How do you appeal to multiple waves of generational minds, knowing that its impossible to please everyone?
I think it’s hard for Gen Z people to recognize the differences they see in society today were vastly different ten years ago. Ten years ago they were children. I think it’s hard for Gen Z to recognize that the internet is still a teenager. Social media is maybe like sixteen years old. We have access to all these different perspectives, and we’re still learning about each other. They just had the privilege of being born into the era of accessibility. At times the empathy that I have for people is different from the empathy that Gen Z has, because there are some things that people from a younger generation are unwilling to understand. Aside from the isms and phobias. I think language has advanced in such a way, and language has been so much more progressive to everyone’s benefit. I think they see people fighting it, and I think Gen Z will see one day, it must be hard to lose the world that you were once in. When I hear people speaking with anger about the world today, it’s because they miss people and places that were in the world before. I don’t want Gen Z to make excuses, like accountability is a love language, but I wish they had a little more patience with people.
What are some of your passions outside of social media that may not receive as much light, but are still a crucial part of who you are?
I mean I journal my ass off, and it’s one of the things I enjoy the most. That’s another thing about the internet, not everything has to be so perfect anymore. I hold that attitude in my writing too, so I have more confidence to share my thoughts.
Would you ever consider doing a blog or a podcast?
I’m writing a book! I’m also coming out with a newsletter. Everyday I want to give people movie recommendations, book recommendations, and thoughts about the week. We’ll see how it goes!
What are your main goals for 2023? What does Tefi have in the works?
I would like to be braver. Have more courage. Have more courage to look at people and be like “you’re taking advantage of me,” or “I don’t agree with what you’re saying.” I would like to be brave enough to ask more questions. I want to really understand what I’m hearing and make time for it. If I’m not taking care of myself then I can’t take care of anyone around me, and I’m making shitty fucking content, and then LADYGUNN will never want to work with me again! I think I’m also working on different ways to express my confidence, and sometimes that means staying quiet. Let life happen, and have the patience to let life unfold for me rather than opening it up like a Christmas gift. That would be sick, and I think that takes a lot of courage to do.
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