News__ Bebe Zev-ing Las Vegas

April 01, 2011 | By

New York-based fashion editor and writer, Kelley Hoffman is currently guest blogging on hearty.

By: Kelley Hoffman

They say Las Vegas is Disneyland for adults, but the Internet is like New York for esoteric-types who can’t leave home.

My first memory of Las Vegas is driving through a mirage. My grandparents retired in the city and my family used to visit from California when I was young.  Las Vegas was and was not a place for kids. I knew not to touch the slot machines, and strayed away from anything that smelled too much of cigarettes, but the lights and shows completely appealed to me.  Most of my memories exist in photos.

There’s one photo, where I’m tiny and tanned, wearing a wreath of dried flowers from Excalibur, standing next to Cleopatra and Caesar impersonators at Caesar’s Palace. I genuinely thought they were the most beautiful people I’d ever seen in my life. Another, I’m wearing clown makeup from Circus Circus, with an ecstatic grin and giant teddy bear. I knew it was the scummiest of all the casinos, but it also offered the most entertainment for kids.

My last memory, as a kid, was at my grandmother’s funeral. I was eight. I wore a black skirt of hers we took from her closet that morning, and I hummed the theme song to “Saved By the Bell” as a technique to distract myself so I wouldn’t cry.

I hadn’t been back since last June, when I flown out to report on a story for Interview’s blog. I was stoked for my trip, and had gotten into Elisabeth Shue in Leaving Las Vegas as kind of a style icon and half-kiddingly rediscovered Sheryl Crow.

A while back I’d interviewed The Selby, and he told me about one of his favorite websites, Hipster Runoff.  A Las Vegas-based teenage girl named Bebe Zeva modeled the site’s T-shirts, and she and I eventually started following each other on Twitter.

I liked her tweets. She seemed to be lonely but had a sense of humor about it, all while constantly interacting with people online. She was observant, sensitive and entertaining. As my job has called me to be on the lookout for on-the-rise girls, I was curious to meet her.

She came to my hotel at the Wynn in a rad, ‘90s sequin bolero from her mom’s closet and told me about her life, on and off the Internet.  She is well-spoken mix of quick-wit, self-deprecation and confidence. If there’s anything I can say about Bebe is that she is extremely devoted.  She gives one hundred percent to her performance. She’s direct about it.

When I asked if she was serious when she referred to her “personal brand,” she said she is, but in the context of it being a jokey term that she’s now embracing, originating from some marketing suit whom had used it in earnest.

We talked for a good tape-recorded hour, and she reminded me of myself at her age, just trying to make some fun out of the weird town you’re stuck in, spending all your time being fascinated by the Internet, not sure what you’re on the brink of in your kid-to-adult life, general twee-ness.  She hadn’t yet launched her fashion blog, had her writing published, or become the star of a documentary film.

After our talk, we walked through the casinos and down the strip to McDonalds.  Hoards of The Hangover types were yelling at things at her, and I was impressed how she managed to simultaneously engage and brush everyone off. She’d reject them but they’d feel complimented -- maybe this is the secret of her charm. The remarks you’ll see on her extremely active Formspring account, you’ll see she deals with the same way in real life. Bebe Zeva: master of the teen girl neg.

Five months later, MDMA filmmakers and writers Tao Lin and Megan Boyle flew to Las Vegas, got married, met and made a documentary on Bebe in one night. Hosted by Legendary Children, the Macbook-shot documentary Bebe Zeva recently premiered to a packed crowd at the Soho House in New York, which Bebe attended. See the trailer below:

The documentary runs like an existential sleepover set in a condo, hotel room, hot tub, shopping mall and car driving against a surreal Las Vegas background. Bebe is a pleasure to watch on screen – be it pontificating, binge eating, and shoplifting -- even on an extreme low-grade camera. I highly suggest ordering.

While Bebe’s in control of her rising online personality, she’s a kid that’s grown up in a town that’s run on adult vices, and has never been rewarded so much beyond her Internet achievements. I hope she won’t self-sacrifice too much in the name of an online illusion. If anything, I look forward to seeing the bright girl evolve.

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