Welcome to The Sniff Test, a column about everything that smells good. For each edition, we speak to interesting people about what they — and their spaces — smell like. This time, we’re talking with Cleotrapa, the internet’s favorite ’round the way funny girl, grammar teacher, and truth-teller.
I don’t know Cleotrapa personally, but I may as well have gone to school with her, chatted with her at a hair salon, and (drunkenly) bonded with her in the bathroom at a party. She is very much that type of native New Yorker.
It’s a huge part of her appeal. The blunt honesty served with a generous helping of wit has propelled her to a degree of social media visibility, 612K followers, and, probably most enviably (at least for me), the attention of Telfar Clemens, owner of the namesake It fashion brand. And you know what? I get it. The matter-of-fact way she expresses herself, the beautiful way that NYC-specific regional AAVE rolls off her tongue, colored with an accent that’s as heavy as city humidity in August. It’s great. She is the girl many of us grew up with and probably wanted to be friends with.
When I speak to her on a Zoom call, she’s sliding into the passenger seat of a car — an on-the-go diva. The 21-year-old Staten Island native has since relocated to Atlanta, but, as she explains, is frequently bouncing between the two cities. She’s usually in NYC twice a month, but brings the energy and attitude of the city everywhere she goes.
Like many native New Yorkers who lived in the “outer boroughs,” Cleo would often travel to Manhattan to hang out with friends. “‘I’d hang out in the city after school. I was in this program at NYU, so I would see a lot of different styles and stuff in the city, and go into lot of different stores, just exploring,” she tells me. “I used to love being outside in SoHo.”
Now, she is very much one of those stylish people she would see in SoHo. Besides being the internet’s resident grammarian (her whiteboard lessons on the difference between words like “then” and “than” have even been spoofed or lifted, depending on who you ask, by SNL), she’s also a Telfar muse and budding recording artist. Then, there’s her e-shop, stocked with clothes and accessories that fit right in with her aesthetic: matching velour sets with Y2K-style bedazzled lettering, fuzzy slides, bonnets, and more.