In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we must highlight Hispanic/Latine individuals who have integrated into everyday American life, bringing their stories and culture with them to keep traditions alive. These are only some reasons why new-gen content creator Tefi Pessoa is integral to the cultural conversations.
Pessoa, a Brazilian-Colombian influencer Tefi Pessoa has become one of the most well-known influencers talking all things around Latine representation and the struggles of being of a different background in the US. The rising star also uses her viral TikTok account to shed light on mental health and identity.
In the latest installment of Hypebae’s Beauty Essentials series, we talk to Pessoa about her background and transition from Miami to New York, her struggles with ethnicity and identity and of course all things beauty. We even took a deep dive into her “Vanity” with a unique “Tour,” so head over to Hypebae’s Beauty Instagram for a closer look.
Continue reading to learn more about Pessoa’s story and what it’s like being a famous TikTok star.
Tefi Pessoa’s Beauty Essentials
No7 Lift and Luminate Triple Action Day Cream – I have an esthetician so you name it, I’ve tried it – except for some laser which I am very interested. I’ve tried the microdermabrasion, the dermaplaning, the peels, the Botox and filler. My esthetician told me that it does not matter what you do – it’s useless and a waste of money if you don’t wear sunscreen. During my skin routine I’m thinking about other things and there are moments where I forget sunscreen and I feel like a failure. So I like using a moisturizer that has it and then I’ll put on the rest of my makeup. Knowing that the product has got me covered is such an ease. Also something that makes you lift and luminate – does that sound negative? No. It seems positive. I’m turning 33 soon which is very close to 45 so I am trying to lift and luminate as much as I can.
Soap & Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Fill Seeker Plumping and Rejuvenating Lip Serum – I use it because I enjoy being hot and I think that’s enough and I think that’s valid.
YSL Beauty’s Libre Eau de Parfum: When it comes to perfumes, I want to feel powerful and feminine but just not in the same way that I used to. Like when comes from identities always changing – maybe power doesn’t always have to come from being sweet. I think when you’re younger you’re like “please I’m sorry I made a mistake” but this one is more like “of course I filed my taxes.” I used to wear Prada Candy a lot and I think it’s perfect as a kid. But now if I wear Prada Candy, Trish McEvoy #9 or anything else that I used to wear I’ll mix it. I love like a base perfume and then I’ll mix in other accents. For base I like to be a little bit more serious, a little bit more wealthy, a little bit more me.
You’ve opened up about not feeling “Latina” enough. Can you tell our readers more about that feeling and how did you find the confidence to still celebrate yourself and your heritage?
I think when you are first generation there is a fine line between being American and relating to the culture your parents come from so it can be a little confusing. I think when it came to trends and fashion, what was deemed sexy and hot was very different in Latin America compared to the US. In the US everyone is trying to look like Paris Hilton but in Latin America perhaps it was more of a fuller figure. It was hard to differentiate and figure out where I fit in and how I could be both – even aesthetically. I think people get that too like, “But you’re blonde how can you be Latina?” The majority of my Cuban and Puerto Rican friends are redheads – you know what I mean. It’s like “Oh my gosh you speak Spanish?”
I think we have to become comfortable with the fact that Latinos have every shade and every hue. I hate it when people say Latinos have no shade or no hue – we are extremely colorful. What helped me understand that people don’t get to decide my identity if I know who I am. If you told me “I hate your purple earrings” I’d say “ok” because they’re silver. When it comes to social identity – maybe someone is finding themselves in a social circle where they are labeled “the party girl” or “the dramatic one,” “the shy one,” “the one that doesn’t like to be touched,” or “the dry one.” As you evolve, that might change and that doesn’t mean that you will lose your place within the identity of your social group – things just evolve. I feel like Latina is an identity of mine that is always evolving that way too.
Since you are from Miami how has the culture shifted for you from Miami to Brooklyn?
People speak a lot more English. I remember going to Forever 21, Starbucks or McDonalds and I could easily order in Spanish and it wasn’t seen as something rude. I think the language here is different because in Miami it’s not really Spanish it’s Spanglish. I’ll be talking to my mom in Spanglish back and forth but maybe that is the Americanized part of us. It is us not letting go of the history of where we belong. But I do feel like I belong in Brooklyn. There are little things where Dominican and Puerto Rican people in Brooklyn are more prominent than in Miami where I feel like it is more Venezuelan and Cuban. But like there’s a reason there’s more Cuban, Venezuelan and Haitian people in Miami.There’s a different approach to hustler culture and capitalism. The other day somebody asked me “Are you a capitalist?” and I was like “I’m first generation, I have to be.” Like what are you talking about? I’m very grateful that I’ve stayed in one melting pot and gone to another because I feel like I’m constantly exposed to different perspectives without having to question my own.
What are some of your favorite Spanish foods?
My grandma’s Ajiaco. It’s like a soup but it’s like a comfort soup with potatoes and chicken and pieces of corn kernels. Some people add different stuff to it like we add capers and like a little bit of cream. It’s very much a comfort thing and I grew up eating soup in Miami and I am a survivor. Soup is my one of my favorite foods ever and it’s so general and so specific but Ajiaco is my favorite. Also Empanadas. We are constantly fighting Argentinians for best empanadas and sometimes I eat an Argentinian empanada and I’m like “Oh this one wins” but most of the time I’m pretty loyal. Another thing is Arepas. My mom toasts hers three times cause it’s usually frozen when she brings it from Colombia.
What kind of music are you into? What’s on your playlist now?
I am slowly getting into more house music however I need a word or I need a lyric. Leaving the sounds up to imagination is not that fantastic however when I when I go to Europe I see how those DJ sets where they create the music there is really inclusive with people of all ages because a lot of people there aren’t up to date with like trends or the Top 40 — which is a shame. It is a shameful thing. Like how have you never heard of Drake? That’s crazy.
Can you give us your POV on Hispanic representation in media and do you think there is enough of it being captured?
Oh my gosh it’s so much better than when I was a kid, I thought Latinas look like Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, my mom Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan – that’s it. When I was growing up it was all these stories about immigration and struggle and survival but like God forbid Latinos are just happily existing or like things turn out okay. With the internet it’s so much better however it’s definitely not enough. Refinery29 and all these different blogs that I follow are always posting new Latin or Afro-Latina artists coming up and I try to follow all of them. Sometimes I see their content and I’m like “ Who the f*uck is this? Oh my God I have to stop adding people at the club.” Then I feel bad when I unfollow them. I’m like I haven’t been to Lebain in eight years why am I still following this person? I feel like the idea of complacency like “oh we’re in a good place” is lazy like we have to keep pushing.
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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.