Out of countless viral TikTok content creators, there are only a few that can make us feel like we’re Facetiming a friend, rather than consuming content. Tefi Pessoa, a host on InStyle with over 1.4 million followers on TikTok and 179k on Instagram, is one of those rarities. Posting diverse but relatable takes on all things pop culture — from what Cara Delevingne was up to at the Billboard Music Awards to Pete Davidson’s star-filled dating history — her fans initially followed her for the relevant cultural content, but no doubt stay for her friendly and down-to-earth nature. As such, she’s become TikTok’s unofficial BFF (or big sister to her teenage followers).
Tefi's online friend status is not by accident. She first posted on her TikTok account in 2020 when everyone was stuck at home, and what followed felt like “scissors were gliding on wrapping paper.” “I started my TikTok because I felt like there were so many things I needed to hear as a kid,” she told NYLON. “Things that I would be too scared to ask about and moments in my young adult life where I felt misunderstood and unsure how to communicate my feelings.” Her TikTok became an outlet for these thoughts, allowing her to connect with people from around the world. Tefi says she wasn’t just trying to be a friend to her followers, but trying “for the first time in her life” to be a friend to herself.
Now a prominent creator on the app, TikTok can often feel like a mental health “battlefield” to Tefi, but the pros still outweigh the cons. “I enjoy the challenge of it,” she says. Below, Tefi talks to NYLON about how she looks fabulous and remains grounded while doing so.
What was your relationship with beauty like growing up?
I feel like I have one of those faces where it’s really easy for me to look like too much or I’m in a costume. But I was a child of the ’90s so I always did the [Maybelline New York] Dream Matte Mouse, pencil eyeliner, thin or no eyebrows, and then no lip. But beauty for me is no longer a trend. As I get older, I realize the difference between beauty, style, fashion, and trends. They're all different.
What are your thoughts on the ’90s nostalgic beauty comeback?
It feels like a second chance. I look at the makeup kids are wearing today and I’m like, “you don’t understand, I’m about to crush this”, because I already did it badly. There are so many times in my life where I did something and my mom thought it was so crazy—and now it’s all coming back. It’s really cool to see how people are modernizing things that I wore as a kid.
You recently had bright pink hair. Tell me about that process.
I hadn’t dyed my hair for 10 years. The reason I bleached it was because I kept going to hair appointments or getting ready for events and they would style it and then I’d see it deflate instantly. When I asked why my hair couldn’t hold a style, I was told it was because my hair was so healthy and thick. I decided that if I’m going to dry it, I’m going to fry it like a little egg and be the color I’ve always wanted to be. I had always wanted pink hair, but growing up everyone told me that no one would take me seriously for jobs.
You’ve already changed the shade. What color are you now?
I think I've got it down to a science for my hair now. I've only changed it twice, but I've been a million different shades of pink and then orange. I've always wanted to be orange. My favorite movie is The Fifth Element with Milla Jovovich and she has orange hair. Part of me had always wanted to be a redhead and so many people are making the switch right now, there must be something in the water. But, I went back to brunette already—for now.
Your mom is Colombian and your dad is Brazilian, does that influence your personal style?
It influences not just my style, it’s everything to me. My mom and dad’s sides are traditional in two completely different ways. My mom comes from a family of golfers and equestrians and my dad is the dude in a Speedo on the beach. My mom’s confidence is quieter and my dad’s confidence is more about taking up space. I feel like both of those things are inherently Latin and have both influenced the way I dress. I’m not scared of bold colors. But also, if I can’t run errands in it, I’m not going to wear it.
What are some of the beauty products you can’t live without?
For makeup, Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint and their matte cream bronzer—I swear by the color “Baked”. I also love Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip, Fenty Beauty Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Blush—the shade “Summertime Wine” is everything—and Byredo’s eyeshadow palette in Dysco.
You often cover body positivity on your TikTok. What’s your relationship to that?
I feel like we’re constantly trying to prove that we’re wrong in the way we look. Even today, I know I’ve gained weight but I was thinking about how I’ve been traveling a lot and haven’t been on a schedule. And it’s okay, I’m a human. I’m turning 32 and my metabolism has changed from my 20s. I stepped on the scale and for the first time in a long time, I was like, “this is okay”.
It’s taken me 31 years to get to that point and it’s because most things about beauty are imprinted on us at a young age. At 22, I was so insecure. I missed out on meals to get that body and food is so directly tied to my culture and identity. Trying to change how I looked cut me off from the people who love me the most and my ancestry. And I was losing that trying to look like people that you see on TV that don't even know me.
What’s your BFF advice for building confidence?
We all want to be happy and confident but I’ve realized it can’t always be a constant state of being. So instead I work on having moments of confidence every day, even if it’s small. I think confidence is a muscle that you have to work out, and usually only comes through trying and failing. Confidence is believing that you are capable even if you remove this idea of validation. So if you can sit with yourself and all that you’re ashamed of, you can start to embrace being fully yourself.