Tefi Talks Liquid Nose Jobs & “Jellyfishing” Her Way Into A Hosting Career

Photo: courtesy of Tefi.
My favorite thing about Tefi, or Estefanía Vanegas Pessoa, is that she's not trying to please anyone. Not her Colombian mother. Not her bosses at InStyle, where she's a host and "personality." Not even her 1.4 million TikTok followers. She loves them, but has learned the hard way that the most important form of acceptance is the kind you give yourself.
Tefi talks a lot about self love, but not in that fluffy way — it's raw and she's very clear: She let a lot of people walk all over her before she realized how to stand up for herself. Now, Tefi is 31, a TedX speaker, a pop-culture expert, and an all-around interesting person who has the kind of career trajectory — and perspective on it — that proves that life happens when it's supposed to and how it's supposed to, and sometimes, the best gift you can give yourself is letting go of control. Ahead, Tefi gets into everything from her love of liquid nose jobs to building the career she never thought possible.
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On letting go of Hermione

"I was jellyfish-ing my whole life. When I went to school, when I was in college, I couldn't be there. I was really burned out. I was someone who really wanted to be Hermione, but I was never going to be Hermione. The only skill I have, to this day, is being myself. That's it. And Microsoft Word. Those are my only skills. I dropped out of school like four times."

On moving to New York City

"I didn't want to go back to my home in Miami. I love Miami, but when I go back I see where my boyfriend dumped me; it's like a hometown thing. When I moved to New York, I started meeting all of these creative people, but many of them were very corporate-minded. I have parents and family that believed I had to work in an office to have a 'good job.' So, I was working in offices as a receptionist. I mean, all the jobs had nice names for me, like 'Community Leader' or 'Social Media Manager and Greeter' — I was a receptionist. In 2017, I started working at a production studio and started working around really confident and creative people, like directors, photographers, stylists, [and] makeup artists. I would hear them say things, like, 'Don't credit me for this work, I'm not proud of it and I don't want my name on it.' I was like, that's so rock n' roll."

On finding confidence on social media

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"When I was around these confident people, I think it bled into my psyche. I started sharing how I felt about everything on my Instagram Story. I had 1,000 followers, they were all people I knew. I wasn't an influencer. Because I worked in production, I met people in production. I had a friend who was like, 'Hey, you can't seem to shut the fuck up, and I know someone looking for a pop-culture host.' So I went and I met with them and they told me to talk. I just talked for 15 minutes for an audition. Everyone else auditioning was like a broadcast journalist or a food blogger or a podcaster or a comedian — people that were doing this all the time. But I got the job, and that was a big confidence boost for me."

"When it comes to beauty and hair, I'm very detached. I'm willing to do anything. That might be a bit of a rebellious streak from growing up in a Latin household where they wanted me to wear cardigans. Like, I'm never going to wear the fucking cardigan, Mom."

TEFI

On starting The Tefi Show

"I started doing The Tefi Show on YouTube. They told me I didn't have a budget and I could hire whoever I wanted. I hired my best friend. It's a live show at 12:30. I could get hair, makeup, clothes, set design. The catch was, if they didn't see the numbers increasing by episode, like six, I was out. My whole life I had been paid like two cashews and a penny. This was the most amount of money I had ever seen. They gave me the contract, and I signed immediately. They were like, 'You don't want to negotiate?' I said, 'Absolutely not, I'm scared you made a mistake.' There was health insurance, the whole nine. For the first time, I felt trusted with my voice. 
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"We ended up getting like 100,000 subscribers in three months, which was crazy for me. it was great to see people embrace a community I was creating. The content quickly turned into how can I help girls who are going through a breakup. We would try to make it as relatable and uplifting as possible."

On the TikTok pivot

"We were having such a good time and then Covid hit. With Covid, I was home and I was in this situation where I had material and I was feeling out my career. I thought that I could grow in this and it felt really good. I started using my material on TikTok. I already had a bit of a following because of YouTube. At the time, no one was doing anything, so I started diving deep on what I know: 2005 tabloids. I did a video about Sandra Bullock and Shania Twain and the stories about how they were cheated on. People were interested and wanted to know more.
"People trust me to tell them things, break it down, but not be shitty about it. We're going to talk about these people like they have kids. Everyone has been cheated on and so it's triggering. I wanted to talk about the other side of it, like forgiveness and time healing and empathy. What's the line between having empathy and being a doormat?"

On including herself in beauty trends

PHOTOGRAPHY: BRENDAN WIXTED HAIR: DAVID CRUZ MAKE-UP: TEGAN RICE STYLING: GRACE TULLY
"When it comes to beauty and hair, I'm very detached. I'm willing to do anything. That might be a bit of a rebellious streak from growing up in a Latin household where they wanted me to wear cardigans. Like, I'm never going to wear the fucking cardigan, Mom. Growing up in the 2000s and seeing Avril Levine wearing a tie, that was some high-fashion shit. I was obsessed with Gwen Stefani. When I was 15 and her Love. Angel. Music. Baby. era was happening and she was playing with her image all the time, that was so inspiring to me. When it came to beauty, I was always really experimental. I was always chopping my hair off or dyeing it. I was going to school with a full smoky eye or blue eyeshadow. I grew up in Miami and the people around me were Latin, but the people I saw on TV weren't. I wanted to include myself in trends."
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On Botox and liquid nose jobs

"I do Botox and I love it. I do it in the Crow's Feet around my eyes and I do it on my forehead. I get filler in my nose. I started getting that [liquid nose job] and I love it. I got my lips done last September and I didn't like it. I'll look at pictures and I'm like, that looks stupid. But I look at my nose and I'm fine with having a big nose, but I just want it to be straight. When it comes to filler and Botox, I'm all for it."

"Treat yourself like you're worthy of love and people will start giving it. If you start telling people who you are, they'll believe you."

Tefi

On a skin-care device she swears by

"When it comes to makeup, I've never used foundations. I'll use Colorescience tinted sunscreen, which is magic. I have the concealer, too. I do my skin-care routine and end it with and oil and then do my Solawave, it's red-light therapy, and I'll do that for like 30 minutes while I check my emails or whatever. Then I do concealer, a little brown lid, which I'll blend out because I hate the way it looks, and then I like it. Then I gel up my eyebrows, put on a little blush, a little bronzer under my cheekbones. If it's night and I'm going out, I might put on lip liner. But then I smudge it off because I want to look like I've been making out with somebody. 
"I'm easily excitable, but seriously, get [Solawave] today. After two days, people were stopping me in the street. I could see the difference. It's a brightness. It's a glow. It's like 140 bucks and it's handheld. There's no on and off button, it just turns on when it touches moisturized skin. It's this little handheld tool and it warms up, so it feels all warm and cozy, and it vibrates. I have suffered from puffiness — I look like that balloon Fiona blows up and ties Shrek to in the morning — and I'm telling you that SolaWave helps. I have a great imagination, but my mom doesn't and she tells me she notices a difference in my skin, and that makes me feel good."
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On advice to her younger self

"When I was 26 I was a mess and a half. Do you know what I was doing when I was 26? You know that drunk girl you pass on Delancy who's stumbling with her shoes wrapped around her ankles and she's barefoot? That was me. You're fine. The pressure that you have to figure it out comes from society and oftentimes our families.
"When people talk about confidence, you just have to decide to be that person for yourself. Once you have your own back, once you really like yourself — I don't care what you do, I don't care if you're selling newspaper — the world is a mirror. Treat yourself like you're worthy of love and people will start giving it. If you start telling people who you are, they'll believe you."
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