Working Hard, Playing Hard, & Designing Environments for Both

Lilly Pulitzer Athens Dress | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

There is one crucial factor of achievement that I’ve overlooked: environment.

A plant will turn out drastically differently depending on the soil it’s growing in. Likewise, our levels of accomplishment (and whether or not we reach what we deem to be “success”) largely is the result of the environment we put ourselves in on a regular basis. Environment enables mindset, which drives quality of output.

Recently, I realized that I’ve been setting my achievement-plant in some pretty shitty soil.


How Fashion Modeling Made Me A Better Software Engineer

(and vice versa)

H&M Striped Dress | Sarasota Burns Court | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

It’s often implied that my two chosen careers are distinctive.

Upon first glance, they do seem contradictory — the mental image of posing in a put-together outfit is at odds with the one spent furiously typing away on a keyboard. It’s “interesting” how I model despite the fact that I also write code professionally, or how I program despite the fact that I also pose for photos professionally. But are the two really that different?

Not really, as it turns out. I started my blog around the time I started programming, and I got serious with shooting and editing photos as I started considering being a full-time software engineer. When I refined my skills in the two areas, I started noticing how the mentality and best practices I picked up from one trade easily translated to the other.

Both are highly technical at the core, but require a certain amount of intuition and creativity to enjoy. Both are essentially creating something (hopefully beautiful) out of nothing. Both require solid project management skills and an eye for detail.

I use tools from the two trades on an everyday basis — I gather requirements, estimate work times, and use a Kanban board for my shoots. I debug and approach code reviews with the perception of a model after the perfect shot. I’m not an engineer despite being a model, or a model despite being an engineer. I am one (at least a far better one) because of the other.


Snip Snip! I Got Rid Of Half Of My Hair & All of My F*cks

Forever 21 Sweater and Black Leggings | Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Last Thursday afternoon, I walked into a fancy salon and told the stylist to cut half of my hair off.

For someone who used to have nightmares about this exact scenario, I haven’t felt this happy about a personal aesthetic decision in a long time. I no longer have to worry about my hair getting caught on things as I walk by (yeah, that was a thing that happened) or putting it up when I have to concentrate on a task. Instead of constantly tangling and having a texture similar to that of dried straw, my ends are shiny and feel like the bristles of those soft paintbrushes I used to get in trouble for touching at the art store.

Style-wise, it’s not exactly the edgiest cut, but to me, this represents ending another toxic coping mechanism I’ve employed for far too long: using my appearance to “prove” my gender dysphoria, or supposed lack thereof.

In the past, whenever someone important (read: pertinent in my life) would push me too hard on the so-if-you-aren’t-a-girl-then-why-do-you-look-so-girly thing, I’d chop all my hair off and stop wearing dresses, as if to say “ha, I told you that I’m actually a dude.” Then I’d immediately regret it because I am into looking as femme as I possibly can, and I’d spend the next three or so years growing my hair out and refusing to let scissors near it, save for half-inch trims. Rinse and repeat.


The Fake & Basic Manifesto

The Fake & Basic Manifesto

Note: I use the word “manifesto” in its neutral form here, meaning “a public declaration of policy and aims.” You could probs call it an ideology if you really wanted to 👀 I mean … if bloggers have a lot of devoted followers, does that make them well-dressed cult leaders? So many questions, so few answers.

I recently listened to a bunch of marketing podcasts and wondered who my “ideal reader” even was.

The short answer? Someone like myself. Ambitious and curious, with a penchant for the ridiculous. I write as if I’m talking to them. How that translates to you, an actual reader on this actual site? I have no idea.

You’ve probably got all sorts of reasons to be here. Maybe you want to see my outfits. Maybe you want to change your mindset. Maybe you like my rants against gender roles or stumbled upon the site because you needed an algorithms resource that didn’t make you want to die. Maybe you’re secretly in love with me and want to see how I think, or really fucking hate me and want to eagerly read about all the ways I mess up. Maybe you’re a total creep who’s stalking me. Maybe you’re my professor. Maybe you’re my mom.

Whoever you are and whatever reason you have for being here, come aboard. My name is Mimi, I’m twenty-one years old, and I’ll be your pilot today. Fake & Basic is a trip through my mind and my life. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.


Eccentric Style, the Internet, and Gender Dysphoria: Genevieve’s Transition Story

Genevieve's Transition Story // Fake & Basic

This is a guest post from a friend and fellow computer scientist about her experience as a transgender woman. Genevieve is currently raising funds for facial feminization surgery, an expensive procedure that will drastically improve her quality of life.

My name is Genevieve Liberte, and I’m a 20 year old trans woman from Florida.

When writing introductions like this, I tend to question whether or not to include the fact that I’m a trans woman in the first sentence — couldn’t I just as easily say I’m a woman and leave it at that, no modifiers needed? Sometimes it feels dishonest to leave it out — either to myself, or to others. At other times, it seems pertinent to include. Still, I don’t exactly understand why I choose to include that bit of intensely personal information but forego so many others; I suppose I might as well balance things out by including lots of other personal information, too.


Accepting Compliments Without Looking Like A Cocky Piece of Sh*t

Gracious Gardens Dress Mint Julep Boutique

SCENE: Nighttime. A party is starting and people are mingling about the house. MIMI is talking with a RANDOM GIRL near the front of the room. Both of them have red cups in their hands.


 … and I’ve seen you around campus. You always wear the prettiest dresses.


 Can I just say “thank you”? Does that seem conceited?


Thanks! I got it when I was really addicted to shopping.


They’re all so cute. Seriously, I wish I could look like you and have the confidence to wear dresses all the time.


[laughing nervously and taking long sip of drink] Thank you!


Great, now I’ve said “thanks” two times in a row. Fuck. Fuck! I literally sound so fucking plastic right now.


Something’s Rotten in the State of Blogging

Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

There seems to be an unspoken rule in blogging: You can be smart, or you can be pretty, but you can’t be both.

Inevitably, someone’s going to read that statement and be all, “you’re wrong! How dare you insinuate that fashion bloggers are vapid, or that smart people can’t be attractive?”

Relax, Max. I’m not talking about the bloggers themselves — I’m talking about their content. There seems to be a huge discrepancy in it. Blogs seem to either feature beautiful photos with some fluffy words (“Black crop top and white shorts: I did this shoot for a boutique a while back and was sweating like a pig the whole time while old people passing by gave me strange looks, haha!”) or feature minimalist themes with deep, thought-provoking essays and little to no photos at all.


I’m Fake & Basic, and It’s Time to Get Real

Fake & Basic // Mimi Chenyao

“Honesty fuels every relationship worth keeping, worth saving. And it’s the one quality we can’t arrive at on our own. We can’t decide to be honest.”

– Erika Napoletano

With every new environment I enter, I go through what I’ve come to think of as the Fuck-It curve.

The Fuck-It Curve // Fake & Basic // Mimi ChenyaoThis curve represents how much BS I’m willing to take from people in said new environment. My tolerance is pretty high at first. For example, if I were at a new school and someone made a comment that I disagreed with, I would politely brush them off because hey, I was new, and I didn’t want to rock the boat quite yet.

Over time, that tolerance would slowly melt away until I reached the critical point where I’d crack, say “fuck it”, and stop pretending to be “nice”. I’d be loud and outspoken about things that excited me and things I couldn’t stand. I’d confront people and keep them accountable for their actions. I’d cause scenes in public if I had to.


Half-Birthday Reflections: Five Ways I’ve Changed Since Turning 21

Miami Wynwood Walls // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

(and I don’t mean that I go out every weekend!)

Today is my half birthday! I’ve now been twenty-one years old for six months.

I’m totally going to go around correcting people when they say I’m twenty-one and be like, “um, I’m actually twenty-one and a half, thank you very much.” (Just kidding, I’m not an asshole.)

On my twenty-first birthday, I vowed that this age would “be the start of how I learn to live, not the end. I’ll make smart choices and bad decisions, be honest with both myself and others, stop being reserved about what I think, and ask enough “why” questions to make my [late] grandfather proud.”

I’d like to think that the past six months consisted of constantly keeping these promises. Here are some concrete ways that I changed since I turned twenty-one.


All the Little Choices We Make: On Stoicism & the New Year

White lace high neck summer dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

One of my New Year’s resolutions was “actively practice Stoicism” — but what does that even mean?

Stoicism is the practice of overcoming adversity and negative emotions by controlling what you can, and coming to terms with what you can’t. It’s helped me immeasurably when it comes to reaching my goals and getting what I want out of life.

I first started practicing Stoicism after several close relationships I had abruptly ended. There was one of my best friends, who, with no explanation whatsoever, told me that they no longer wished to speak to me anymore. There was my partner of two years, who I mutually broke up with after realizing that no amount of good intentions or promises can keep two fundamentally incompatible people together. There was someone who I was more than a little infatuated with, but couldn’t pursue because they were already committed to someone else.