Everything I've Learned About Love (So Far)
Tefi Pessoa from TikTok

How Tefi Made Pop Culture Personal

“It teaches us that the story is never over when things are horrible.”

Elite Daily; Photographer: Jonny Marlow

Estefanía “Tefi” Vanegas Pessoa rattles off pop culture history like it’s her job, which it is (at least, partially). The 32-year-old creator, who’s amassed a TikTok following of 1.6 million, is best known on the platform for breaking down Y2K’s biggest drama, from nipplegate to Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s breakup. It’s a skill she’s been honing for years — before TikTok, Tefi hosted a zeitgeist-y YouTube show and podcast.

“When I was younger, I used to watch a lot of pop culture, like VH1 Behind the Music,” Tefi tells Elite Daily. “I would see the people that I looked up to go through horrible heartbreak, but then they were OK.” That was a message she held onto.

In her videos, Tefi frequently reiterates that the tragedy is never the end of the story, whether she’s commenting on a viral moment or sharing a personal anecdote. “I remember after one big heartbreak, my mom said, ‘The good news is you’ll never love like that again,’” she told her followers in a Jan. 18 video. The thought made her angry, until she realized her mom was right. “The good news is I’ll never love like that again. I’ll love bigger. Because now I know how to water it better. I know what it is and what it’s not.” (She’s a Cancer.)

Below, Tefi shares her biggest pop culture takeaways, how she feels about her role as an online big sister, and her current relationship status.

Elite Daily: You have a lot of viral content series surrounding celeb feuds and celeb relationships. How did you start posting about this topic?

Tefi Pessoa: I can't do them anymore because Paris Hilton followed me yesterday. How am I going to do a Part 64? She'll unfollow me. But before its untimely end, I got started on those videos because during the pandemic, there wasn’t much pop culture going on. So, I was talking a lot about nostalgia.

I posted about what I know best: Y2K pop culture moments and tabloids. I've always found Hollywood’s web of connections really interesting. So I started talking about the year 2005, and then somebody commented, "Is it true that Brad Pitt used to be married to someone else before Angelina?" And I said, "Excusey, what?"

That's when I realized I should make these series, because there are a lot of things I reference that people don't know. It's not their fault, it's their age. They're constantly updated about the artists of today, but they know nothing about the artists of yesterday.

Pop culture is so important. It teaches us that the story is never over when things are horrible. Nobody ever says, "Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. broke up, the end." No, then she met Matthew Broderick on Broadway, and they had babies. There’s so much evidence that everything's going to be OK.

ED: Your followers look to you for advice. How does it feel to take on that role of big sister?

TP: I’m the oldest of three, and my two siblings have never asked me for advice on anything, because they've seen me f*ck up so much. I'm like, “OK, understandable. You've seen me at my lowest.”

Most of the lessons I share were hard-earned. I've made so many mistakes and I've been angry a lot. I've fought with friends. I've been cheated on, but I've cheated, too. So, when I give advice, my thought is that if I can make somebody feel less alone and less sh*tty for one moment in their lives, then I'm down.

ED: You used the term Bad B*tch Charity to refer to how women often settle in relationships. How do you know you’re settling?

TP: It’s like how you know when you hear a good song. You feel it in your tummy, you feel it in your gut. It’s the same way for settling... you know it when you feel it. For me, when I feel like asking the person, "Are you f*cking dumb?" that's when I know that I'm settling.

Your peace is very expensive, and someone's attention shouldn't be cheap.

ED: What’s your current relationship status?

TP: I am so single it is painful. Let me just say, if I go to sleep and wake up to a text from an unknown number, I'm like, "Oh my God, I missed my Uber Eats order." And people ask me all the time, “Do people DM you?” No. I don't know what it is, but I know that I scare men. I always have.

ED: How do you feel about sharing your love life online?

TP: I was in a relationship when I started TikTok, and when it ended, that was enough of a lesson to keep things private. The hardest part was people talking about me in my comments, saying stuff like, "No wonder you can't keep a man." I also noticed while I was with my ex, people who followed me were messaging him things like, "When you and Tefi break up, hit me up." That was really hard for me.

ED: How do you decide what you’re comfortable telling followers?

TP: When it comes to stories, I don't give details or names because, for example, if I told you that my dog died and I miss him every day, I don't need to tell you how the dog died. I don't need to tell you how much he meant to me and how long we had him. Without any of those details, you still have enough information to empathize.

ED: What is your best piece of dating advice?

TP: Your peace is very expensive, and someone's attention shouldn't be cheap.

ED: What’s your best piece of breakup advice?

TP: Don’t check their socials. Stop worrying about what they're doing, because whatever they're doing online isn't real anyway. Do you know how many parties I've been to where people are like, "Oh my God, that looks so fun." In reality, my heel broke off, I was in the corner sitting down, and I came across this TikTok of someone's dog passing away. Then I sobbed in the corner all night. You know what I mean?

ED: What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your love life?

TP: That I have one. Everything has its timing and I know that I'm not ready. And I think right now I'm supposed to focus on my career.

One day I'll have a dating life to be private about. Right now, I don't have anything to work with, but I think people assume that I'm dating all the time, and it's just not true.

ED: What does love mean to you?

TP: Peace. When you're young, you want this rock-and-roll love. You have an idea of a person you want — this business dude with fitted Armani suits and crazy penthouses, or somebody who's spontaneous like Lana Del Rey on the back of a motorcycle.

My mom used to tell me, "You always go for these unmanageable, creative types” — creative was very kind of her — “but you'll see when you get older how much you'll want somebody normal.” Now that I'm older, I really want my personal life to be as mundane and peaceful as possible, in a good way. I want my career to be the most exciting, thrilling, stressful, stimulating thing in the world. And before, I had it the other way around.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.