At the time of our interview, she had not yet launched her style blog, Fated to be Hated. Most of her fame had stemmed from appearances on the satirical website Hipster Runoff as an ironic muse of sorts for the site’s blogger, Carles. After her initial correspondence with him, she realized she was the type of person he was actually making fun of in his posts.
Kelley Hoffman: So your natural voice was his jokey voice.
Bebe Zeva: "What he was making fun of, that was me being one-hundred-percent serious. My profile song was 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' by Vampire Weekend. And then the more I read the blog I was like, 'Wait a second, I’m not supposed to like Vampire Weekend, what’s going on here?' And then I was just like, 'Oh my god, this is satirical. What’s happening?' And I just had this huge epiphany of self-awareness."
When you say “personal brand,” is that with any tone of irony? Do people your age really say that?
Bebe: "No, not at all. I feel like I’m comfortable saying it because most of the people who listen to me and interact with and know me are familiar with where the term even comes from... sort of like Internet-oriented people, they all have personal brands. People I talk to are generally Internet-orientated. If I say it to someone, who like, I don’t know, I went to middle school with, I put it in scare quotes because I don’t expect them to understand. But I mean if it’s somebody who reads Hipster Runoff and then contacts me through Facebook, then there’s no level of irony, it’s a pretty serious term. It’s just a fusion of my taste, my style, how I write, my speaking brand, my mindset, my lifestyle, everything."
What has been exciting for you from you being on the site?
Zeva: "I guess the main groups of people I’ve been affiliated with from Hipster Runoff are Hipster Runoff fans and the Muumuu House community. And then The Cobra Snake and his community. So, these are pretty much the three main fields. I recently launched a LookBook presence, completely unrelated to Hipster Runoff, so now there are a lot of people in that community, and they don’t know anything about the others. They are girls like 13 or 14, really interested in fashion blogs. The whole Tavi thing."
What do you think of Tavi?
Zeva: "I think she’s awesome. I am so jealous of her. When I was 13, I was wearing Bebe, like the actual store, and was into newsboy caps and rhinestones, and I wore those socks that you fold over and go up to your ankles, which are totally out of style and were out of style in 2005, so I probably just wore them because my mom made me. At her age, she was interested in high fashion and real designers, and she really knew what she was doing and was completely independent. I've been really dependent on other people my whole life. I envy that about her opportunities, and now she has this great life ahead of her and everything settled. She has nothing to worry about really, college is going to be a breeze for her. She's so sure of herself."
What do you think of Sea of Shoes?
Zeva: "I actually don’t read it very often. I read it like two or three times, just to familiarize myself with what the fashion blogging community expects. Impressive, awe-evoking... I feel like I can never do that. I don’t think of myself as a fashion blogger. I’ve thought of myself as a writer. And so lately on Lookbook, those people have been seeing me as a fashion blogger, and it's really weird and it came really fast, and I’m still trying to transition into it, and I don’t know how to appease both of these crowds, and people who expect my being snarky—because a lot of fashion people don’t get the jokes."
Do you think branding and writing are your strongest points?
Zeva: "Yeah. I’m trying to find some sort of career where I can do both. I really wanted to do what Tao Lin did for awhile."
What has your interaction with him been like?
Zeva: "It used to be really strong. But lately, he hasn’t talked to me at all. A lot of people have grown distant from me. People just come and go. I still read his stuff. I lounged by the pool today reading Brandon Scott Gorrell’s "During My Nervous Breakdown I Want to Have a Biographer Present." It was really good. What I think I liked most about it was it was kind of like salting ice cream—its so angsty, and I was by the pool relaxing in the sun. So, I’m having this dark, gloomy book, and then I’m just tanning and doing my life. Being glamorous."
Zeva: "I don’t have a dad, so I definitely fall in the category of people who seek male validation from older guys. I feel like with Carles, I was obviously dependent on him, and he has acted like the voice of reason in my life. I’m very attracted to older guys—romantically, and in a platonic way. It’s human instinct for me to gravitate towards those kind of people. I need their wisdom. I need their security and their protection. I’ve never, you know, sexually interacted with a guy. The oldest guy I’ve ever made out with was like 17. You can’t criticize me about being like a Lolita. I’m pretty much sarcastic about that kind of thing."
You’re aware that you’re pretty girl and you’re aware if you make a certain face it means something, but you know that you’re smarter than that.
Zeva: "Exactly, and I feed into it completely. People say, 'You know what, you’re a Lolita,”—okay then I’m going to go and buy a pair of red, heart-shaped glasses and take pictures of myself looking sultry. It’s adding fuel to the fire. Any attention for me is good. At least I’m being self aware about it."
Do you feel like a total outsider at school with Hipster Runoff. Do other kids read it?
Zeva: "I was kind of homeschooled this year. I did virtual high school. When I was reading it freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, I think no one at school was like me, and I repeatedly called myself the bête noire. In every social group, there was one person who accepted me, and everybody else rejected me. What made that hard was that I couldn’t immerse myself in anyone’s social group because the majority of people said no. So, I was just kind of this transient presence."
What did they not like about you? Why did they reject you?
Zeva: "It was my clothing, it was my loudness, I was probably the most opinionated person at school. We had a Peace Week, when everyone was supposed to wear peace-sign T-shirts. And I came in with a white T-shirt with a communist sign drawn on it. And I said, 'Listen guys, you’re all wearing T-shirts with peace signs. And those peace signs were made in sweatshops in China. And there’s nothing peaceful about that at all. So you guys are hypocrites. You know what, you’re supporting a communist nation. If you want to support a communist nation, wear my shirt.'"
You provoke people.
Zeva: "If I’m clearly annoying someone, I’m just going to keep on going more and more and more to emphasize my point until they get that I’m kidding. I’m just going to keep being more outrageous. I’m not going to concede. That’s going to ruin everything."
You want to go to New York, right?
Zeva: "I really do. It sucks because I probably won’t be able to get there. I have a really small family. It’s just me, my sister, and my mom. And she says wherever I go, she’ll go, too. She has a chronic illness. She can’t be in cold weather. I’ll probably end up in L.A. and move to New York later."
Do you like Leigh Lezark?
Zeva: "She was the first person I ever, ever admired. It’s really embarrassing, but I wrote them a letter, and I never sent it to them because I could never figure out their address. I was super-upset that the Misshapes closed. 'I want to go there. I want to be pictured against the white wall. I want to be a hipster. I want to be them, I want to be her,' I wrote them a letter expressing myself, 'You shut it down before I was even old enough to go to New York, how could you do that to me? There are so many young hipsters who want to be you and now it’s all gone.' And I never sent it to them, thank god."
That sounds pretty Hipster Runoff.
Zeva: "I have done so many things in my life that Carles should just turn into a novel. I’m such an idiot. It’s sad. Yeah she’s really cool, and super pretty, super fashionable. The other Misshapes, Geordon Nicol and Greg Krelenstein, I don’t really know how to pronounce their names, I don’t think I’ve ever said them out loud. This is the first time ever. They’re just cool, I would also want to meet them but probably never will. I don’t know where I’m going to be. I mean, am I going to end up in L.A. and be some floozy who snorts coke off iPhones? What am I going to do with my life? What’s college going to be like? Where am I going to college? It’s overwhelming. You’re catching me at a time when I’m really confused about my identity, and my brand, and my fan base. I’m just figuring everything out right now. I need that person to tell me what to do."