Exemplary, Emerging Visionary: Meri Sheen of Bohemian Dreams (Fiction by Alexandria Morales)

Introduce yourself. Who are you, where are you from, and what are you doing now?

People know me as Meri Sheen. I am a product of Hollywood, California. I’ve produced the fashion blog Bohemian Dreams since I was eleven years old, for eleven years now. My blog details my journey through Crossroads School, Grand Arts High School, and now the University of Los Angeles. It chronicles my style, my inspiration, and my life. My goal is to create content that is avant-garde, intellectual, and politically progressive.

You currently attend the University of Los Angeles. What is your course of study?

Film! Hollywood branded me indelibly, and with a dramatic talent manager for a mother, reality never really began for me. Existence itself felt augmented by the cinematic and the fashionable since birth, and it is difficult for me to differentiate the authentic from the performative. Movies are magnetic to me, because I love to play with the tension and coalescence I sense between reality and artifice. In the beginning, I conceived of myself only as an actress due the position’s veneration by my mother, and its heightened visibility. However, after four years at a performing arts high school, I recognize the lack of control the actress’s position affords. I then decided that I need to pursue directing due to the auteur’s artistic freedom. I feel a drive to encompass everything, like reality and cinema themselves. Of course, I’m a double-major in economics too. Film is directed by the invisible hand.

What current projects are you working on?

What’s most important to me now is my film career. I just won a short film competition staged by Moonleap Incite. I am now a Moonleap Incite Fellow and privy to a year-long mentorship, due to my short film Next. I’m extraordinarily grateful to the Moonleap Institute and Project 1166 for the opportunity. Next is a short science fiction film concerning one man’s imprisonment and odyssey for redemption. It is based on my immersive, literary childhood summers on my family’s berry farm in Oregon. I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to pioneer a firm place for women and women’s narratives in the science fiction genre. As someone who often feels divergent from others, science fiction is my home.

In the fashion realm, I am starring in a modeling campaign for my collaboration with American Utility on our summer collection entitled Meri Immortal. For the collection, I embody silver screen sirens from the 1930s translated for our current era. In addition, I’m also the covergirl for Feofan & Co.’s new line of gold, multilayered necklaces. The collection is called Chain Gangs, and each necklace included is a stunning, assiduous bricolage. Extraordinary Urban has also asked me to be the headlining model for its upcoming lines, Navajo Nocturne, and Aztec Magic. Lastly, I’m the ongoing spokesmodel and food diarist for Luna Juice, the raw-food alchemy resource, and have advertising partnerships with MyFitnessFriend, BareBarre, PureYoga, and Mimimelon.

Of course, I still conscientiously maintain Bohemian Dreams, my fashion blog, and all related social media every waking hour so that my followers have total access. Hive, Exhibyte, Inundata. It’s our life.

Your Moonleap short film depicts an imprisoned white male achieving self-forgiveness after murdering his girlfriend by conversing with an intelligent computer. Multiple feminist and anti-domestic violence advocacy groups have vigorously denounced it as an apologia for violence against women. They also question why you cast a male protagonist when the film was supposedly inspired by your childhood. Science fiction luminaries have also disavowed your film as “inept, indolent, and not science fictional,” due to the fact that interactive computer technology has existed since the 1960s. It has been argued that you only won the public voting contest due to your previously existent, sizeable social media following, rather than based on artistic merit. How do you respond to your critics?

We all transgress, and it is a test of our humility and compassion when we are asked to forgive those who have committed egregious crimes. I am of the mind that nothing is unforgivable, and that treating offenders as if they are irredeemable simply increases the rate of recidivism. In this way, I would argue that my short film is feminist, in that promoting empathy, treatment, and healing for aggressive men ultimately decreases domestic violence fatalities. I cast a male protagonist with the true meaning of “radical” in mind; getting to the root of violence. To science fiction detractors who argue that my film is not “fictional enough,” because I utilized a technology that already exists, the computer in the film obviously has a consciousness computers we have programmed have not yet achieved. Such is evinced by the computer asking the man repeatedly what the meaning of his life must be in order to save him from his suffering, and recognizing that it must be self-forgiveness if he is to free himself. Additionally, I have no qualms with accusations that my popularity led legions of my fashion blog fans to vote for me. Other content creators need to realize that they are not only pitching their creative work to others. They must also sell themselves as a commodity, evocative of a lifestyle the consumer vicariously wants to live. Crafting a marketable persona via social media like I have is in itself an indicator of artistic merit.

Is there any truth to the allegations that your short film’s protagonist was originally written as a battered woman who murders her abuser? Additionally, that you changed the role into a male protagonist, because the man you cast instead paid you a momentous sum in exchange?

I will not dignify that baseless rumor with a response.

Can you offer any advice for being a student while also pursuing your own personal projects? How do you manage your time?

As a film student, I can strategically select classes with subject material that intersects with content I’m currently producing so that the work I create is effective in achieving multiple aims. For economics, my life is related to my coursework by design. Also, throughout my educational journey, I’ve realized that the only way I can feel fulfilled is by focusing on work that I love. I regularly remind myself that achieving an ‘A’ on academic work will not determine my future, but that what will is my effort and engagement with the creative work that is the lifeblood of my life, reputation, connections, and portfolio. Certainly I’m in university to learn, but experience itself is university in this regard. I’ve realized that my activities separate from university are equally important, if not more so. I try to be as effective as possible in completing my schoolwork so that I can focus on building the catalogue of marketable and enlightening experiences I can present as a brand.

What’s your dream job?

Christian Nu has been mentoring me since I’ve been a freshman desperate for his attention, and at thirty-three, he’s already a groundbreaking, world-famous media scientist whom directors clamor to work with. I want to be a science fiction television showrunner in collaboration with him. His technology would allow anyone to touch any material item on their active television screen, and for its purchasing details to appear on any installed secondary device so that the viewer can purchase the item. In this way, any viewer can recreate their favorite fictional universe in their own life given sufficient financial resources, so long as the production designer and I work closely enough to ensure that all material items are available. In addition, we would receive a commission given any sales, and would have an increased incentive to make a story so immersive that our audience would yearn to inhabit it. The virtual reality furor is unwarranted. Everything will eventually be subsumed by hyperreality, and I am its chief acolyte and contagion. I think it’ll be especially inspiring for other women to see my face at the helm of this new future.

How did you first start blogging and sharing your style online?

I was eleven years old, and trapped in the Oregon countryside in the summer on my mother’s berry farm. I don’t mean offense, and the countryside can be incredibly rejuvenating! But, I prefer Baudelaire to Thoreau, and felt an astringent aching for the urbane. I transported myself back to the apex of sparkling skyscrapers and aspirational urbanites through issues of Debord’s Bazaar and Teen Debord for inspiration. I eventually found my way onto Teen Debord’s fashion forums. There, I learned about a “blog,” and was exhilarated by the international, kaleidoscopic crowds of girls collectively erupting in a bountiful bric-a-brac of inspiration. I needed to be included in the frenetic fray, so I dove in. Its world has evolved immeasurably since my immersion, and I’m extremely grateful that I’ve known it since and through its infancy. I knew I could use the community to emerge as a feminist role model.

Can you reveal more about what’s come from having your blog as an outlet for connecting with others online?

I’ve achieved amazing feats I may have never accomplished without my blog—campaigns with fashion retailers, collaborating with Aim for a commercial, going to Fashion Week annually since age twelve as a reporter, and playing myself as a fashion blogger on HBO’s show Second Chance. It’s been astounding. I’ve also learned how to manage a business, and to connect with readers. I’ve maintained a store throughout the years for my followers to virtually browse items that I curate.

My favorite things about living in LA are

Immortal summers, looking at infinity pools fade into the ocean, the ability to film at the beach during day, and then to see the galaxy splashed on land in the hills at night. Driving through the city, and seeing the boundless opportunity bound in the photogeneity.

My top five spots in the city are

The Chinese Theatre; I love reveling in the laser color beneath the Shanghai ceiling. The Grove, an exuberantly beautiful feast of luxury. Swingers Diner, because nostalgia for the 1950s and the Beats animates me. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, because I live an ethic of unrelenting progress and expansion. Finally, I can’t decide between the concept store for Extraordinary Urban or American Utility. I consider myself a conceptual artist.

I’m currently working on

Another science fiction short film I’m writing and directing! I’m enamored with the political progressivism inherent in science fiction.

My personal style is

In flux. I’m currently experimenting with army and prison jumpsuits. Due to the societal chaos we’re experiencing under Trump, I’ve been feeling a sense of internal embattlement that I express through my clothes. I appear like I could handle a Zombie Apocalypse or a Tom Cruise movie at any moment. I’m a cinephile for saying that, but it’s true! Military colors in general have inspired me lately, and I view my palette’s cohesion with our troops as a method of supporting them spiritually. I give my heart to the army, and fashion is the most sentimental thing I can think of.

Tom Cruise is under fire recently due to the award-winning documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. He has been attacked due to his position as an unofficial spokesperson for the Church of Scientology. One allegation against him is that he allowed the Church to procure a girlfriend for him. He also assented to the Church torturing the woman when she did not perform as demanded. The Church is also accused of being a cult, physically battering followers, imprisoning people, and neglecting infants in insects and their own feces. Why do you still see Tom Cruise as a role model?

I feel like sartorially pantomiming someone can be divorced from supporting their political or religious beliefs. I also feel like one can cleave the artist’s personal stances from their creative work. I will always love Tom Cruise’s style and cinematic portfolio. Regarding the Church of Scientology, I have no comment on their conduct, and have personally decided against viewing the documentary. I do not contemplate upsetting subject matter. I admire the Church’s business acumen, and would never impugn my colleagues for their religious beliefs, many of whom are involved with the Church of Scientology.

What are your religious beliefs?

My Protestant work ethic, hammered into me industriously by my wonderful mother. I’m also a technological utopianist. Celebrating this through science fiction is essential for my sense of connection to our shared human destiny. In addition, I am enamored with Eastern mysticism, like Buddhism and Hinduism, and I also collect crystals. I believe that crystals contain energy corresponding to their structure and color, which I can utilize to influence the course of my days. Because I want to share their power, I sell crystals for my followers on my virtual store, so that we can access the same energy sources. I’ve also been immersed in Transcendental Meditation since before David Lynch’s conversion! It’s expensive, but enlightenment is always worth the money. Lastly, staying consistent on my Luna Juice regiment, keeping an online food diary via MyFitnessFriend, and attending BareBarre and PureYoga classes in my Mimimelon clothing is necessary to my mindfulness regime.

My go-to outfit is

A prison jumpsuit, as a form of rebellion. A gold, Chain Gang necklace. Aviator sunglasses, and nude, strappy high heels.

Five things on my to-do list

Finish my new science fiction short film. Finish a television pilot I’m creating in concert with Christian Nu utilizing his touchscreen merchandising technology. Use my content creation ability to secure a partnership with a prestigious magazine for a regular column. Apply to a Masters in Fine Arts program for directing. Find a boyfriend.

My favorite decade of history is 

The Fifties, because I’m obsessed with the Beats. I would’ve loved to have dated Jack Kerouac.

My style icons are

Indiana Jones. I love his rugged individualism, and the adventurous practicality of his wardrobe. One feels enveloped in welcome, electrifying danger enrobed like him. I’d be thrilled to collect exotic artifacts for America too. I also admire Kate from Lost. She makes being trapped on a Kafkaesque desert island look visually fantastic. Elizabeth from Prometheus elegantly surviving catastrophe, remixed with Margot Tenenbaum wreaking romantic havoc. Also, Jessa from Girls, the urban bohemian.

The last thing I read

Technically, a screenplay I can’t discuss, because I read it at my internship at Plan B. But before that, Kane Debord’s autobiography explicating the founding and development of his publishing empire. It was magnificent. If I could write for any magazine, it would be my absolute dream to have a monthly column regarding cinema for Debord’s Bazaar. No one has changed the print media landscape as much as Mr. Debord Sr., and I’m in awe at his son’s prescience in translating their empire’s holdings to digital. In addition, I’m obsessed with playing Democracy Now, and entirely support the project despite the social scientific research suggesting it decreases real world political participation. There isn’t definitive research yet, and I simply think that’s untrue, based on my personal experience. Debord Corp. has been one of the greatest boons to women that has ever existed, expanding our imaginations as to what we can embody exponentially.

As a fan, would you like to explain Democracy Now in your own words for our readership?

Democracy Now is a video game developed by Debord Corp. associated with their weekly news magazine Era. The game allows the player to control politicians’ decisions, from Washington to state government, and generates worlds in which the player’s advocated policies are enacted. The game continually updates itself with the real-time events of Era’s reporters, but should the individual prefer, they can choose to turn off all updates consistent with reality and design a world closer to their dreamscapes. They can also choose to selectively allow updates for a hybrid between the real and the imagined. The game is magisterial, and I believe completely fulfills its intended purpose of alleviating the agony many of us feel facing a political sphere contrary to our beliefs. However, the game has been attacked by academics for leading to the further atomization of our electorate, for exemplifying hedonistic shirking of stewardship to reality, and for vastly depressing real-world participation in direct action against the Trump administration. Though I typically heed academics, I still support Democracy Now and am myself a no-update player, because I view the game as part of my self-care in an increasingly antagonistic world.

I can’t stop listening to

Rap for exercise background noise, especially Kendrick Lamar. I love feeling the rage course through me while I’m spinning in my elevated gym, peering at tarnished smog cling to the desolate cityscape’s corners. For listening, though I know I should say something obscure, I’ll admit my guiltiest pleasure … I am obsessed with Taylor Swift. My favorite song of hers right now is “Style,” wherein she cherishes the classic, red lip look that her lover likes. I also adore the music video for “Wildest Dreams,” which she shot in Africa. All of the proceeds from the video help fund animal wildlife preservation. I’m glad that Taylor Swift recognizes that charity is symbiotic.

I can’t stop watching

Eastisle, a show wherein wealthy elites in a future society utilize superior technology they’re given in a theme park to conquer and enslave the natives on its endangered archipelago. The natives are actually cyborgs designed to mimic human consciousness, but due to the superiority of the programming, basically accomplish human consciousness. A central conundrum of the plot is if the elite settlers will actually treat the slaves with human dignity given the elites’ superior technology, and the joy some settlers derive from torturing natives. It’s unclear if the elites will give the natives rights, or if embattled elites will begin fighting each other with native slave armies for the limited resources dwindling under simulated climate change. The elites see it as a military strategy game, but the natives feel legitimate horror and pain, and are always reanimated by game designers to undergo more after they’re slain. Also, the elites can leave at any time, but the “game” will end when climate change causes the natives’ island to be entirely engulfed so that they all die. Then they’re all revived so that the game can start again for another season with new elites.

My favorite book is

I honestly can’t decide. Literature has been at the heart of my life. It’s a three-way tie between the Bible, Pride and Prejudice, and Infinite Jest. I try to exemplify Biblical maxims in everything I do. I love Victorian literature, all those gossamer girls, and the time’s intricate social edicts. The male and female relationships are always so romantic. I’m enchanted by Infinite Jest, because it’s David Foster Wallace’s crown jewel, and he epitomizes the New Sincerity. I identify, because I embody sincerity too.

What is your favorite scene or lesson gleaned from any of those books?

I love them all so effusively that I just can’t answer this question. I can’t choose.

My favorite movie is

Such a laborious yet essential question for a cinephile. I have to say Crash. Epic and multifaceted in scope, the intersection of its multi-ethnic panoply of characters is extremely educational regarding divergent racial backgrounds. Each individual’s evocative experience also acts as a complex analysis of the confluence of their different identities, and many characters have arcs in which they achieve greater empathy with others who are apparently dissimilar to them. Crash has been an immense influence on my life in relation to how I process race. However, at further reflection, I’d have to say that it’s a tie between Crash and Gone with the Wind. I’ve been forever enamored with Gone with the Wind because of its meticulous, painterly vibrancy, and its mythologically momentous amplitude. Ascendent above all other aspects is its complex, electrifying heroine, Scarlett O’Hara. She is also chief amongst my personal heroes. Scarlett is exquisite, shrewd, vivacious, and indefatigable. Her odyssey throughout the Lost Cause of the Confederacy and the havoc it has wreaked upon her marvellous lifestyle is exhilarating to behold. No matter the devastation wrought, Scarlett strategizes to overcome and achieve the financial stability promised by the American Dream. I can think of no text more fundamental to our country’s ethos, and my own, than Gone with the Wind.

My dream vacation

Would be to Haiti to see the stunning, devastating wreckage where they shoot Eastisle. The television show is heartrending; it salvages majesty from catastrophe. It is so inspiring that HBO has kept its disaster zones so pristine for the team’s creativity.

My favorite country is

Mine! America means liberty and justice for all who are created equal.

I stay in shape by

Spinning to rap, and attending BareBarre and PureYoga classes. I used to do ballet, but dance wasn’t as effective for my appearance as workouts engineered for efficiency. Collapsing ballet into units of isometric movements like BareBarre does is ingenious. It represents scientific supremacy over physical free expression and play. I think supervised, professional exercise is the future of resisting aging and weight fluctuation. It’s a necessary luxury, and a way of respecting oneself.

What is your upcoming New Year’s resolution?

To wear whatever I want, do whatever makes me happy, and not let anyone else’s insights get in my way.

A cause I feel passionate about is

Body positivity!

My favorite possessions are

My guitar (surrealist teardrop beads included), my Tantaluminous film camera, my vintage prison jumpsuit, a gold running knot ring my dad, Scott Freer, gave me for my eighth birthday, diamond earrings my mom gave me for my fashion blog, my Extraordinary Urban dreamcatcher, and my Cinderella-inspired Méritant dress, all beneath clouds of Air by Arabelle.

Would you like to say anything about your father, Scott Freer? The Catamites are arguably the most influential and beloved alternative rock band of all time. You mentioned a guitar. Have you ever considered a career in music?

My father is a magnificent human, who has been essential to the ethos of every counter-cultural movement since The Catamites’ inception. He was a stalwart believer in the fundamental equality of all people no matter their color, creed, gender, class, or sexuality, and he sang to dispel their alienation through his empathy. I cry contemplating the extent of his empathy, and how tortured he must have felt to struggle with the substances he did. We lost him too soon, and I wish every day that I could have known him better; that I could have been enough for him to have stayed. But I know concurrently, that it was not anyone’s fault that he felt the beckoning abyss. I seek solace in his belief in reincarnation. I’ve never considered a career in music, because I realize that I could only be a shadow of the phantom my father left behind.

Would you like to say anything about your aunt? Reina Arabelle is one of the most eminent fashion designers that has ever lived. Do you have an opinion on her accepting a position as Melania Trump’s personal fashion designer, given your support for Hillary Clinton during the presidential race?

I love my aunt. Collaborating with her on her collections, viewing her clothes prior to release, and discussing inspiration with her is extraordinarily enriching. I certainly derive much of my aesthetic sense and business acumen from our intimate relationship. My aunt Reina is one of my feminist and artistic role models, and I trust her judgment completely in deciding the direction of her career. I’m positive that Melania will look exquisite in every one of my aunt’s designs, because beauty transcends partisanship. Art is and should be apolitical.

Tell us a secret

I feel like an omnipresent, invisible audience lives in my head.

I can’t live without

Money—just kidding. My mother’s approval.

I am passionate about

Sharing myself as a role model for all women.

Shop Meri’s Picks

***

Alexandria Morales is an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California double-majoring in Philosophy and Comparative Literature. She aspires to attend law school and pursue philosophy graduate studies to become a civil rights lawyer and professor. Alexandria’s first short story, “Muse,” was originally published in the online literary magazine Anti-Heroin Chic. Right now, she is creating a(Meri)ca, a novel exploring the American Dream in an age characterized by the obsessive quest for celebrity. Alexandria is also a bisexual, Mexican-Korean woman who has bipolar disorder. She is also a gang-rape survivor who has lived through post-traumatic stress disorder. Though the trials have been tremendous, she is grateful for the resilience, empathy, and observational skills honed through her experiences. If you have ever felt isolated, or fought similar battles, Alexandria wants you to know that you have an ally in her. It is essential to her that you know, no matter the divergences of your identity from hegemonic norms, that there is solidarity, compassion, and a dire existential need for you. “This is an interview with a(Meri)ca‘s eponymous antagonist Meri Sheen. Meri is the personification of capitalism’s ability to co-opt the language of progressive movements, rendering their ideology and demands meaningless. Meri is also emblematic of the issue within progressive movements of privileged individuals whose arrogance maligns the experience and progress of individuals with marginalized identities. Meri additionally exemplifies adopting progressive ideals for the cynical, self-serving goal of earning social currency instead of due to genuine empathic concern with oppressed communities.”

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