If there's one thing Katie and Tavi share — besides DNA — it's a flair for the fashionable.
Katie Thomas, a hairstylist by day at Salon Joseph, and her youngest daughter Octavia (Tavi for short), make a habit of brightening people's social media feeds by showing off their finest looks, from thrift store gowns and silky pajamas to Dolly Parton suits a la "9 to 5."
We caught up with Katie to talk sequins, social media and how Tavi is helping change the conversation.
Let's start with fashion. You two have quite the lineup of costumes and outfits. What’s your favorite so far? What is Tavi’s?
Tavi has a miniature mariachi suit that is the absolute best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, so that’s my No. 1 choice. She really settles into her tuxedo, though. I can tell she feels good in it. Tavi doesn’t talk yet, but I’m pretty sure if she could she would confirm the tux is her favorite.
Does the rest of the family ever get in on the fun?
It’s very rare that my teenage kids or husband participate, but lots of my girlfriends do. There have been many evenings over the years that involve lots of champagne and groups of grown women dressing like Vanna White for no reason.
Your affinity for dressing up, of course, predates Tavi. Do you remember a starting point?
Oh, I’m pretty sure I was born wanting to be fancier than I actually am. When I was little I really wanted to be a Vegas showgirl, mainly so I could wear one of those feather pieces that looks like a giant peacock tail. Or Miss Piggy. All that glamour! I was also obsessed with Barker's Beauties. (It was a dark day when I learned the set of "The Price is Right" was full of misery and sexual harassment. Devastating.)
Dressing up has always made me happy. Sequins and feathers are just so celebratory, and I decided a long time ago to not wait for someone else to tell me it’s an appropriate time to celebrate. So I get jazzed up when I feel like getting jazzed up, and it’s frequently just a regular day while I’m doing regular things.
You’ve been very open in sharing Tavi’s health challenges and life with a toddler with Down syndrome. What have you learned about yourself through that process?
That I’m better at hard things than I thought I was. Tavi was born with a lot of medical issues to overcome. I might cry after impulsively perming my own hair and burn the toast and maybe I’ve sent her to school with her braces on the wrong feet more than once, but when it really hits the fan, I’m ready. I can handle a scary medical situation. I can advocate for my girl. I can be strong when I need to, and honestly that surprised me a little.
The last year brought a lot of challenges in a lot of different forms. How did they affect your online presence, how you interact with Tavi or how you think about parenthood in general?
2020 has made me appreciate social media more. It’s a way to feel connected in a very odd time. That being said, I’m super careful about what is in my feed. It’s either informative or positive or it’s been taken out of rotation. I also love social media because it really rounds out my relationships with my clients. I know so much about their personal lives even if we don’t spend time together outside of the salon. It’s great to put a face with the husbands and the kids and the pets I get to hear so many stories about.
But the best thing about social media is that it’s an easy way to share something I’m super passionate about, like the fact that Down syndrome is something to be celebrated. People fear the unknown, so I want to help make this known: People with disabilities add so much value to our society. Tavi is a precious little slice of pumpkin pie that makes my life so much better. She is not a burden, she is an absolute treasure, and I hope that comes across in my feed.
We all know the concerns with social media, but what are some of the ways you’ve been pleasantly surprised with your online community?
The outpouring of love and support when I’m facing anything even slightly difficult with Tavi is awesome. I’ve kept a Facebook page specifically for her since she was in the NICU (Side note: I am a huge fan of the Baptist NICU and sometimes even miss my time there. Not to mention the Baptist cafeteria, no I’m not kidding, it’s SO good.) It started out as a way to keep friends and family updated on her medical situation and gradually evolved into an outfit-of-the-day forum once her health issues stabilized. I’ve made good friends through the page and I love getting to continue to interact with the doctors and nurses that saved my baby.
What do you hope people get from your posts?
There is nothing scary about having a child with Down syndrome. Also, that it’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re wearing a prom dress from the '80s, even if you’re doing your 18th basket of laundry.