Paloma Elsesser

Homie, Writer, Model in New York City

Illustration by William Godwin

July 27 2016

When authenticity is trendy‚ it becomes doubly elusive: to generate it self-consciously is impossible and to seek it out for your Instagram feed destroys it. Indeed‚ it has become the most meta of Catch-22s. Amidst the legions of poseurs‚ however‚ Paloma is resoundingly the real deal. She is an unlikely fashion icon for a totally new set of priorities‚ and her frank yet vulnerable persona—from speaking out publicly about personal struggles to her irreverent style—is both endearing and intensely refreshing. She is an L.A. girl who’s embraced hidden beauty on both coasts‚ is prodigiously literate‚ and is one young woman who reflects very brightly on the future of America.

Women in our society tend to be put in boxes. How did you overcome that to become the Paloma of today?

I find myself still overcoming that. I think my motivation to never settle for someone’s limited expectations has allowed me to refine who I am and be myself as wholly as possible. I am by no means above it though. As humans we categorize and understand people and things in reference to boxes pretty much. I think I’m working on being a bunch of boxes instead of a few.

Where do you think your sense of style comes from?

I’ve always been obsessed with bad things. Or what is deemed bad in popular culture. So I’ve always pulled from that. I think If I could look one way it would be a mix of prominent drug dealer in ’94 and whatever his girlfriend is wearing.

What drew you to literature? Is there any particular author you closely identify with?

Literature always acted as this peaceful escape for me‚ even if what I was reading wasn’t peaceful. Sounds played out‚ but honestly as many friends as I had‚ I always felt alone. Books offered a friendship that made me feel safe‚ unobstructed‚ and always left to different interpretation each time I read.

You draw inspiration from pretty diverse places: cinema‚ hip hop‚ telenovelas‚ car culture… As far as you’re concerned‚ what makes something more authentic than something else?

This question is so existential! I thought about it for mad long and honestly‚ the answer is‚ you just know. Unfortunately‚ most people don’t know how to validly identify authenticity and that’s why you see the corniest people eating and the coolest starving.   

You into lowriders? What’s your dream ride?

I love cars. But only certain cars so let me clarify. I’m not into old cars or classics from the 60s or 50s unless they are Cadillacs. Totally miss me with T-birds and all of that. I love 80s and 90s American sports and leisure cars‚ my dream car being a black 1986 Monte Carlo SS with a burgundy interior.

Everybody knows the jab about Instagram fame not being real fame‚ but it seems like that’s ancient history. What’s your take?

I think there are truths to both sides. Instagram fame is easier and requires less hard work‚ I think. It’s left up to chance a lot of the time and if you do it right you might hit the jackpot. There is such a beauty to Instagram because it is tangible celebrity. It gives voices and power to those who might never have the chance. I appreciate it.

Do you sense that Latino culture is finally getting its due in the wider U.S. culture?

Definitely. However‚ it seems to be a bit more fetishized and re-appropriated than I’d like it to be. I was raised in a very culturally mixed household that allowed me to appreciate many varieties of culture. However‚ I am proud to see any minority cultures more widely appreciated in the greater American culture at all.

You do a pretty good job of keeping it real while keeping on-brand. How do you reconcile the two?

They have to go hand in hand if you want to do it right. Don’t oversaturate‚ be honest in your endeavors and be selective in what you put out. I’d rather have a quality audience than a quantity. The only downfall being that corny people are thriving‚ so it can be kind of discouraging but that really is just how it goes.

You get to chose the U.S. President next year. Who would it be?

Bernie Sanders.

Tell us something about Paloma Elsesser that the internets don’t know.

I am incredibly strange and goofy. My humor is on par with an 11-year-old boy who has no friends. I think people are really surprised when they meet me because I’m not cool at all‚ I’m like tripping over my own shoe laces.