Marty Noel Chenyao | Fake and Basic


Why did you choose to name your blog Fake & Basic?

I have a hipster-level love of irony and satire; for as long as I can remember, I’ve been uncomfortable with my birth gender, but I love the high-femme aesthetic and present like such a girly girl. A lot of people, upon getting to actually know me, have remarked that they thought I would be really “fake and basic” because of how I look. Over time, the name stuck!

Where are you based?

San Francisco, CA and Sarasota, FL

Where are you from?

Pennsylvania // my mother’s womb

No … I mean, where are your parents from?

My parents are from New York. If you really mean “what kind of Asian are you”, I’m Chinese American.  Also, please don’t ask people “where they’re from” to find out their ethnicity. It’s rude, uncomfortable, and annoying (seriously, please don’t ask me or any other person of color this question. We’re tired of hearing it).

Why are some of your articles signed “Marty” and others signed “Mimi”?

I’m transitioning from female to male and wanted to give myself a new name in July of 2019. My name was Mimi Nadia Chenyao; now it’s Marty Noel Chenyao. I’m keeping I will be keeping my old “Mimi” article signatures/self-references in order to keep a sense of my transition timeline. I’d prefer that you refer to my past self as “Marty,” though. You can read more about my name change here.

Modeling & Photography

How long have you been shooting photos?

3 years, as of June 2019! I’ve come a long way since I first started.

What camera do you use?

I use my iPhone X to take all my shots. The older ones were taken with an iPhone 7.

Really? iPhone X? Why don’t you get a real camera?

I’ve debated getting a “fancier” camera since I began to take photography seriously, but I like the ease/convenience of having my camera on me at all times, and how egalitarian iPhone photography is (almost everybody has a smartphone these days, so it’s not like I have some special privilege when I use my iPhone to shoot).

That being said, I think photography drones are super cool, and am thinking very seriously about getting one.

Why don’t you ever take your sunglasses off or really show your face in your photos?

I think sunglasses complete the outfit! There’s something appealing about appearing at least semi-anonymous in my photos. I’m not ashamed of my face, nor am I trying to be Sara Bellum. If you’re really curious, here’s what I look like without sunglasses on:

Marty Noel Chenyao | Fake and Basic

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Who takes your photos?

Whoever I’m hanging out with at the time. I’ll set up the shot with the angles I want and ask them to press that little white circle in the center (another reason I like iPhone photography!). I go on photoshoots a lot, but I’m also known for stopping for photos a lot during random excursions around places.

I also use Christopher, my trusty iPhone tripod, with a set of weights in these bags if nobody is around.

Why do you pose with all of those weird objects?

I believe that everything is Instagrammable. Everyday objects and places I like to pose by, like Port-A-Potties, fire hydrants, and road signs, are beautiful in their own way and can make for gorgeous shots.

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Why do you always stand on your tiptoes in your photos?

Because wearing heels on photoshoot adventures in SF/any unfamiliar city would be actual ankle death, but I still like to look like I’m wearing heels, so here’s the compromise. I also walk on my tiptoes a lot, so it’s all become a habit at this point.

Where are your favorite photo spots?

That would depend on which area of the world you’re asking me about ? I’ve lived long-term in three states, and here are my favorite places to take photos for each:

Florida St. Armands Circle, The Ringling Museum, Beer Can Island, Anna Maria Island, Siesta Key, Sarasota Tea Company/The Tea House, Lido Beach, Historic Burns Court, Wynwood Walls, the entirety of Palm Beach County

Pennsylvania The Navy Yard, Dilworth Park, any train station on the SEPTA line, Fort Washington Park, Ambler, The Baldwin School, Fishtown, Peace Valley Lavender Farm

California — In front of any Victorian house in San Francisco, Buena Vista Park, Land’s End, the Presidio, Pacific Heights, Haight-Ashbury

Gender Identity

What do you mean when you say you’re not a woman?

I was assigned female at birth and have a really feminine gender presentation, but I’ve never felt like (nor did I want to feel like) a woman. I identify as a trans guy and use he/him pronouns. Read more about my gender identity/presentation here.

If you don’t identify as female and hate gender roles so much, then why do you look so femme?

My gender identity is completely separate from my interests and my appearance — after all, when you really think about it, why should a dress imply traditional gender roles?

Fashion & Style

How many dresses do you have?

Upwards of 300.

Holy shit, how did you get that many?

Ebay, Vinted, Plato’s Closet, Goodwill, Poshmark, Mercari, random sorority girls selling their old Lilly Pulitzer dresses on Instagram … I’m a shameless secondhand clothing lover/regular at H&M, so most of the dresses that you see me wearing were purchased for under $25. In college, I had a huge shopping addiction and worked three jobs to afford my dress habit. When I got into modeling and photography, I conveniently had the equivalent of an entire costume closet at my disposal.

Do you have a favorite dress?

I don’t, but I have a tendency to pick favorites to re-wear.

Do you ever wear pants?

Only when it’s cold outside — aka January in Florida, or July in San Francisco. The funniest part is that those would both mean “when it hits below 50 degrees out.”

Is fashion blogging an expensive habit?

Not for me, but that’s because I take pictures of my actual outfits and shop at a lot of secondhand/thrift stores. My shopping addiction, on the other hand, would be a problem if not for careful budgeting.

Isn’t San Francisco too cold to wear dresses in?

Most of the time it is, but that just means that I wear a warm cardigan over each dress and take it off during photo time. I also take advantage of the warmer days here — when it’s 70+ degrees out, you can usually find me around shooting.

Here are a few pictures in which I’m actually freezing my ass off. The more you know!

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

Mimi Chenyao | Fake & Basic

These are my most frequently asked questions — if you have the burning desire to ask me something, feel free to drop me a line at marty@fakeandbasic.com. I look forward to hearing from you!