Canna Conversations: Tess Melody, Founder of TAYLOR + tess
One of our favorite canna-photo shoots ever; shot by Jennifer Skog of the gorgeous MJ Lifestyle Magazine
Tess Melody, Founder of TAYLOR + tess
Please meet Tess Melody, Founder of TAYLOR + tess inclusive skincare and lifestyle brand, also house friend and inspo for our #SendNudes matches and candles.
Rogue Paq (RP): You started consuming cannabis in your teens. What has your journey been like?Tess Melody (TM): I started smoking weed in 9th grade in Heidelberg, Germany. At first, I was just experimenting; but by the time I was back in the states for my senior year and undergrad, cannabis was an important part of my life despite the illegality and stigma surrounding it in the south. Cannabis has always helped me find the coolest and most loving people, but it also continues to help me cope with trauma and ADHD while simultaneously getting off all prescription meds except birth control. Cannabis taught me self-compassion and balance in my lifestyle, which I now think of in a much more holistic way.
RP: Why did your parents choose Germany?
TM: When I was young, I lived in a small town near Gettysburg, PA which was right on the Mason-Dixon Line. It was a place where I saw Confederate flags boasted on all kinds of surfaces and I knew that there was an active KKK camp 5 miles away from my house. My military parents, both civilian employees by this point, decided that I would absolutely not attend high school in that town and they moved me to Germany so I could live abroad as my siblings had. My father had already done a few tours there so was familiar with the country and its culture. This experience taught me that racism and xenophobia is 100 percent learned and passed down through generations. If racism and hate can be taught, then I reasoned, so can love and empathy; that is my goal for TAYLOR + tess and any future brand. It’s moral imperative must be rooted in love and empathy.
When I was young, I lived in a small town near Gettysburg, PA which was right on the Mason-Dixon Line. It was a place where I saw Confederate flags boasted on all kinds of surfaces and I knew that there was an active KKK camp 5 miles away from my house.
RP: You mentioned earlier that cannabis helped to move you off of prescription medications that you were taking for PTSD and ADHD. Can you tell us more about that?
TM: First let me say that I’m not against anyone taking prescription medications if that is their source of healing and if it brings peace to their lives. For me personally, once I began to use cannabis more regularly, I didn’t need the prescription meds. To take a step back, I found it curious that the first time I went to therapy, their first response was to put me on antidepressants. I wasn’t fully comfortable with that and ultimately found that talk therapy plus cannabis, plus intentionally and mindfully slowing down my lifestyle was a better formula. To be clear, I had to really experiment and practice things like mindful listening and deep breathing and cannabis aided me in this. I knew with certainty that I didn't want to be dependent on prescription meds and so I actively worked to construct this formula. Again, I don’t knock anyone for having to take medication but for me it was altering my brain chemistry negatively and wasn’t allowing me to enter a mind frame where I could be at peace with myself and within my interpersonal relationships. In short, it was doing more harm than good. This is why legalizing cannabis is so important - it can allow people the freedom to explore natural remedies and do it within a safe space where research and advice from cannabis professionals and bud-tenders about different strains are available to them.
If racism and hate can be taught, then I reasoned, so can love and empathy; that is my goal for TAYLOR + tess and any future brand. It’s moral imperative must be rooted in love and empathy.
RP: You have lived in many different spots and also love to travel. Tell us how moving around and traveling has impacted what you are currently doing.
TM: My early years were spent in PA. At ages 8-15 I was a competitive speed skater and my first trip abroad was to Portugal to race. Then, as I mentioned earlier, I moved to Germany with my parents. During my childhood and adolescence, I traveled all over the world where I viewed cultural diversity and a social openness that I never found in PA, which really impacted the way I view inclusivity and its importance. That is something I bring to Taylor + tess on a daily basis. I bring it into every decision I make for the brand.
I am a proud Texan (aren’t we all?), but I recently moved to Santa Monica (LA). I have always wanted to get into the cannabis industry and as much as I love TX and the south, I knew it wasn’t the right environment to pursue this particular passion. I knew I had to establish community quickly and felt I could do this in California. This was an important point for me because my mission has always been clear - I want to build social equity into everything I produce. So I knew I had to get my foot in the door so that I could begin creating a business that would focus on reparations and would become the living embodiment of what I have been seeking. That embodiment is Taylor + tess.
One more note on travel and how it impacts Taylor + tess: I love to visit art and history museums all over the world, and I believe every day spent in a gallery has fueled my creativity for T+t and opened my mind to new perspectives and cultures. Some of my favorites are The Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMA in NYC, the National African American Museum + National Portrait Gallery in D.C., the Dallas Modern Art museum, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and The Getty and The Broad in Los Angeles.
This is why legalizing cannabis is so important - it can allow people the freedom to explore natural remedies and do it within a safe space where information, knowledge, support, and quality products are available to them.
RP: You are the muse for our #SendNudes matches and candles. You are beautiful inside and out. What can you say to our readers about finding and being your most authentic self?
TM: I think that it’s really important to read books. You can find your own story through the stories of others. Social media is in sharp contrast to this because you are just consuming content that entices you to compare and criticize yourself—like Instagram, for instance. You become lost when looking for external validation every moment, and you lose your own voice when it is drowned out by so many others. In my eyes, you become found in art and literature. I love who I am in that stillness within those different mediums. Reading was encouraged at a very early age in my household, and it helped me cope, grow, and find myself.
Another way to be your most authentic self is to surround yourself with good people and to learn to walk away from those who don’t make you feel good. For me it’s important to be open and expressive about the things that make me an individual. If I don’t, for instance, own my own sexuality, how can I expect others to respect that part of me? Don’t get me wrong, I want to fit in like most others but not at the expensive of sacrificing my true self.
By the way, thank you for calling me beautiful. I enjoy being told I'm beautiful because my expression and ownership of that beauty is fueled from within. It’s been a process for me - one of taking care of myself, owning my choices, and doing what is right for me by recognizing that the truest voice I have is my own. This is what propels me to seek out more knowledge, more life, and deeper experiences. I encourage everyone to look at life as a journey where you can do and be what you want. But first you must believe you are worthy—right now in this moment, just as you are. That's when you become your most true and authentic self. A resource for exploring this idea is Lacy Phillips’s To Be Magnetic.
My mission has always been clear - I want to build social equity into everything I produce.
RP: You mention the importance of reading. We are big readers. What are some of your favorite books?
TM: The Alchemist - Paulo Coehlo
Hippie - Paulo Coehlo
Letters from the Earth - Mark Twain
All About Love - Bell Hooks
How to Know God - Deepak Chopra
Giovanni’s Room - James Baldwin
A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story - Elaine Brown
I Am Not Your Negro - James Baldwin
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
You must believe you are worthy—right now in this moment, just as you are. That's when you become your most true and authentic self.
RP: Your skincare and lifestyle line TAYLOR + tess is all about inclusivity, diversity, and the normalization of cannabis and hemp. You’ve told us how travel and culture have encouraged these principles. Do you think there are other roots as well?
TM: I am a Black, queer woman who learned of Kimberle Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality and realized that this term could help bridge gaps among marginalized folks and present a clearer picture of our realities. In my opinion, recognizing intersectionality can lead to better interconnectedness and effective change in social justice, the disparities in our economy, and the holistic health of marginalized communities.
RP: How did you come to formulate your beautiful natural products? We are OBSESSED with In the Buff as well as The Nightcap.
TM: I worked closely with a lovely Dallas-local named Tammy Carter of Carter Mill Soap Company to formulate our cleansing bar. She has an extensive science background and has been handcrafting artisan soaps for nearly two decades. Our moisturizer required a few attempts during the R+D stage with our manufacturer in Southern California. We wanted to keep the product vegan, full of vitamin c, nail the creamy consistency, and balance the essential oil scent so it was soothing versus overwhelming. It was an added bonus to find a CBD delivery method that is micro-encapsulated and time-released to penetrate layers of the skin faster for more noticeable results. It’s called ‘the Nightcap’, but it is lightweight enough for daily use.
RP: Do you have other favorite skincare products outside of your own line? What are they and why are they amazing?
TM: I am OBSESSED with SuperGoop’s SPF 50 Glow Stick! It looks awesome under tinted moisturizer and my CBD skincare products balance my oil production to give me glow, not oily shine. Some others:
Aztec Secret - Indian Healing Clay
Aesop Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste
Any plant-based serum or oil that you put in front of me
Recognizing intersectionality can lead to better interconnectedness and effective change in social justice, the disparities in our economy, and the holistic health of marginalized communities.
RP: So much has gone on over the last year. There is a revolution going on and we are very focused on change. Do you use TAYLOR + tess as a platform to promote change?
TM: Absolutely. Representation is and will continue to be a top priority for T+t. I am constantly looking for gaps across the industry and considering how I can be the most inclusive. It’s embedded in every decision I make - in how I shape and develop my own business and which voices I listen to while doing so. I mentioned that I studied advertising which made me acutely aware of its societal impact, so my goal is to always be mindful of that and to create an inclusive voice. I’m always considering how I can give back and provide opportunities and support my marginalized peers. In short, I have a strong ethos and have worked hard to build a culture that reflects that at T+t.
What I love about my Rogue Paq [Ritual Case] is that I can take it with me everywhere. I travel with it all the time. It’s so functional and holds all of the disparate pieces of my ritual. Not only that, but it’s beautiful and provides a polished way to present my ritual.
Photo by Tess Melody featuring her vegan Ritual Case
RP: What's inside your Rogue Paq Ritual Case?
TM: I just checked out my new favorite spot down the street in Venice, Green Goddess Collective, and picked up some bomb flower to take hiking in AZ/UT this weekend: 24K flower by THC Design and Wedding Cake by BudBud.
Rolling papers and the “Shag” herbal blend from El Cosmico in Marfa, TX (my happy place)
A Pax that I need to give to my significant other who will use it way more than me
Rogue Paq #SendNudes matches (always)
A gold cone for a special occasion or photo op
Pretty Little Pot Co. lighter
A couple of roaches
What I love about my Rogue Paq [Ritual Case] is that I can take it with me everywhere. I travel with it all the time. It’s so functional and holds all of the disparate pieces of my ritual. Not only that, but it’s beautiful and provides a polished way to present my ritual, which makes me feel confident taking it anywhere. Also, I love the personalized aspect. Mine has initials as well as a tiny bong and tiny joint. So me!
Last but not least, since this interview Tess has completed the Our Academy accelerator program and is now fundraising for the first time for her new venture in California cannabis, Saucy. Stay tuned, Paq.