Oh, you like the Trader Joe’s seasonal aisle? Fresh school supplies, ugly gourds? Apple-picking? We get it; you really like fall. But probably not as much as Caitlin Covington, for whom fall is an aesthetic, spiritual calling, her bread and grass-fed butter, and her reason for being. If fall was a person, it might be Covington, who epitomizes the warmth and coziness of the season in her chunky kits, auburn hair, UGG boots, and most infamously: the sweet sweet nectar of the Pumpkin Spice Latte she’s been known to carry.
Made famous by a 2019 Twitter meme that crowned her the patron saint of Christian Girl Autumn, Covington is the most memed gal of the season. Now, she’s gone from meme queen to bonafide celebrity, with even her announcement of where she’s taking her fall photos (Vermont, at peak leaf-peeping season) going viral. She’s written her blog Southern Curls and Pearls since 2013, but in the years since the Christian Girl Autumn meme, she’s grown her follower base and even released a clothing line this year filled with cozy neutrals.
Part of the craze around Covington was the assumptions people made about her; for many, she embodied the kind of white woman worships Starbucks and asks to speak to the manager. Though Covington does happen to be Christian, she took to Twitter to dispel the rumors assuring people she wasn’t a Republican or homophobic. (In 2020, she donated $500 to the GoFundMe of the trans woman who first coined her as Christian Girl Autumn.) But despite her religious or political beliefs, she’s still seen as the embodiment of a PSL: in other words, basic.
“Why can't we just drink our pumpkin spice lattes in peace and not have anyone have an opinion about it?” she asks when I ask her what she thinks of the word basic.
Over Zoom, Covington is herself like a warm blanket. She has a high-pitched voice and a soft Carolina lilt. She smiles a lot. “You have a comforting presence,” I tell her. I think you can chock it up to her earnesty. Earnesty gets a bad rep in a culture where shrugs are currency and apathy is a competitive sport, but Covington is steadfastly and unapologetically earnest in her approach to loving fall – a season she says she has long gravitated towards because of her anxiety.
“I've struggled with [anxiety] for many years, and fall is just all about comfort and finding comfort in really small things,” she tells NYLON. “So it could be making yourself a warm drink in the morning, or finding a really good book, or just cuddling up in a cardigan and walking outside and feeling the leaves crunched under your feet. All of those moments are so comforting, and there's so much safety in those.”
How has your fall been? Obviously this is your season! How was your shoot in Vermont?
Well, fall has been wonderful. It's actually in the thirties today in North Carolina, so it really feels like fall out. Our leaves are starting to change. We did go to Vermont last week, and it was an awesome trip. We hit the leaves right at peak. We had been planning it for a while and there's this foliage predictor map online that we study every year to see what days the foliage is going to hit peak, so we were setting that for a few months and kind of planning our trip around that, and we took a risk. You always take a risk when you are leaf peeping, but we hit it right at peak and it was absolutely beautiful. We got a lot of content, so I was really happy with how everything turned out.
Now that it's been a couple of years since you blew up, do you feel pressure to get really good fall content, or how do you approach it?
Not really, because I have always loved fall. It's just intrinsically a part of who I am. If you go back on my blog, I was blogging with fall leaves back in 2013, in 2014. It was really cool when the meme happened that I became known for that, but I've really been celebrating fall for a really long time, and I just love it so much. I don't really feel any pressure, because this is probably what I'd be doing anyways. We've been planning a fall trip every single year since 2014, and road tripping up to New England, so it just feels really natural to keep doing what I'm doing.
This year it feels like you've kind of blown up again in this big way. I know that you recently had the New York Times interview. How has your life changed since the meme happened? Are you surprised that the hype is still happening?
Yes, definitely surprised. Every year I'm like for sure people have forgotten about it, no one's going to say anything about it. And then it's almost like every year people remember, and then new people hop on board, so I'm always surprised. I'm always thinking this is the last fall that I'm going to be known for it.
The meme really didn't change my life that much, because I think what a lot of people don't realize is that I had been blogging for a really long time. I had been working really hard. I think my Instagram was at 950,000 followers when the meme came out, I think the meme pushed me right to a million, which is awesome, and I'm so thankful for that. But I don't know, it didn't change my life so drastically as people think, just because I have been doing this for a really long time and had already been working really hard behind the scenes.
Was it different for you to be known as Christian? How did you feel about the Christian part of Christian Girl Fall?
Well, I am a Christian. So the title fit. I think what was interesting was seeing people's initial reactions, just to the photo. Not knowing who I was at all, they had a lot of preconceived notions about me. That was interesting to read some of the comments and be like, "Oh wow, people think that about me." It was a nice opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and let people know not to judge a book by its cover. Just because I look a certain way doesn't mean that I have those beliefs, or that I treat people that way. So that was definitely interesting.
You've pushed back against some of those comments and said, "You're making these assumptions about me that aren't true." People might have certain assumptions that aren't true, but what else do you want people to know about you?
I want people to know that I'm a good person. The comments I saw were, "She looks like she would want to talk to the manager," stuff like that. I think I just want people to know I'm a nice person and I'm accepting of all people. That was another thing that people were quick to judge. And I'm a very complex person, too. Sure, I love fall so much and I can be really basic when it comes to fall, but there's a lot more underneath the surface. I'm a normal person, and I'm a very complex individual.
I want to talk about that word “basic.” I just think it's a really interesting word, that often when you're talking about women can have misogynist undertones. What do you think about that word?
Well, I personally don't mind it, but it has to be in a certain context. If we're talking purely about fall, I will raise my hand and tell you I am basic. Pumpkin spice latte, yes, sign me up. Scarves, cozy cardigans, I am your basic fall girl. And UGG boots, I had them on this morning, I really do love them. But it can be tricky if people are referring to basic in a different context. I don't know how comfortable I would feel with that.
I think that even the way that you're like, "Yeah, I'm owning being basic about these things," means that it can have a derogatory slant to it, even though it's cool to just be like, "I like what I like, and that's cool."
I mean, honestly, if people want to make fun of me for being basic about fall, I'm totally fine with that. Because I know it can be funny to some people, but I do love it. I'm okay owning that.
Kirstin Enlow, of Covington’s PR team: People use the term ‘basic’ as these things that a lot of women love. A lot of women love pumpkin spice lattes, and they love their scarves, and they love being able to have UGG boots and look cute in the fall. And that's like, sure, if you want to call that basic in a bad way, I don't think that that's a bad way in any way, shape, or form. I think it's very much like we just like what we like. And if you want to put a slander on that, then okay, then that's your prerogative. I think the problem with the basic thing is when people are like, "Oh, you have no depth."
And if they knew Caitlin and they knew how hardworking she is, and she's a mom, and she's struggling so much at all times. I mean, when many people and bloggers gave up on posting consistently on their blog, she's still religiously posting three times a week. She's uploading every day, she's doing all types of content. She's literally hustling constantly, and it's like her job is 24/7 on top of being a mom, and also now being pregnant. So they want to just point at her as like, "Oh, you're just taking pictures," and it's like there's so much hard work that goes into what she does. And she's one of the hardest working people I know.
Totally. People like pumpkin spice lattes because they're delicious, and why can't we just celebrate that?
Right. Why can't we just drink our pumpkin spice lattes in peace and not have anyone have an opinion about it?
I learned about how hard you work in your New York Times interview. Do you feel like a misconception people have about influencers and bloggers?
Absolutely yeah. I think a lot of people don't realize everything that goes on behind the scenes. It can seem like a really vain career, and a lot of people don't even think it's a career. But just taking pictures of yourself, that seems so shallow and so easy, but it's really hard. And a lot of the content I put out, I do want it to be more in depth. If you go to my blog, I have researched all these health things and written about that, or I do recipes.
I spend a really long time planning out content and creating content, and I'm a perfectionist and I always want to do the best job. I work 80 hour work weeks easily. Now with a child, it's even harder to balance the two, because she is my priority. But when she goes to bed at 7:30, I'm up until midnight writing on my computer, or editing pictures, or answering emails. It truly is a job that never sleeps. And it is a job, I will fight tooth and nail for that. It's a lot of hard work. And I think what people don't realize is you have to be really smart to grow your following and be successful at it. I think a lot of assumptions are like, "Oh, you don't have to be very smart to be an influencer." I think for anyone who's tried it out for themselves, kind of the light bulb clicks, "Oh, this is a little bit more difficult than I thought."
I'd love to just chat about fall as a concept. Part of why it went viral is because everyone loves fall. Why fall? What place does fall hold in our consciousness?
I told Madison, the reporter for the New York Times, that I've always loved fall. But I think part of it might stem from just struggling with anxiety. I've struggled with it for many years, and fall is just all about comfort and finding comfort in really small things. It could be making yourself a warm drink in the morning, or finding a really good book, or just cuddling up in a cardigan and walking outside and feeling the leaves crunched under your feet. All of those moments are so comforting, and there's so much safety in those. I think for someone with anxiety, that just feels so nice and I want to celebrate those moments and hang onto them for as long as I can. I think a lot of people feel the the same way as I do, probably. I know a lot of Americans struggle with anxiety as well. I think it's nice that it really is a universal thing that so many people just love fall.