If all Mean Girls experiences ended like Bebe Zeva's, high school kids would wear outcast titles as proudly as cheerleaders wear letterman's jackets. Zeva named her esteemed fashion blog Fated to be Hated for a reason. It launched after the "cool kids" at Palo Verde High School decided their only acknowledgement of her would be to point and say, "Look, there's sunglasses girl."
With 5,000 blog hits daily, a recent spread in The New York Times, and style ambassadorship from Teen Vogue, "sunglasses girl" is officially enjoying the last laugh.
The odd moniker came from a pair of giant wraparound sunglasses she used to wear. Her peers recognized them as weird. Zeva, however, thought of them as an extended middle finger of sorts.
"People wouldn't talk to me so I had to say something with my clothes," says Zeva. "Everything I wore was counterculture, counter-everything. I was always trying to prove a point with my apparel."
That's clear with one visit to her blog. Zeva styles a new, distinct look every day. She models it beside a pink antique couch in her bedroom and sets the camera timer on her tripod to capture herself modeling the ensemble. She posts several shots of the outfit, her inspiration behind it and where readers can find individual items.
Sounds simple enough, but the real draw lies in her styling prowess. She challenges herself to strictly use items from her closet (and the occasional freebie from fashion sites) to produce innovative, off-trend statements. The looks vary from goth, Lolita, grunge, Parisian, even patriotic as a red, white and blue ensemble demonstrated on the Fourth of July.
Zeva's creative instinct has garnered enough attention to earn her campaign partnerships with True Religion and Nine West, music video appearances for Calvin Harris and Toro Y Moi, a film role in the yet-to-be-released "Shoplifting from American Apparel," and a documentary produced with a laptop by MDMA Films called "Bebe Zeva."
At 18, and on the eve of her freshman year at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Zeva is a certified Internet sensation. But notoriety comes at a price.
During high school she wanted nothing more than to be recognized and heard. Now that she has fans who fill her inbox with around 1,000 questions a day -- varying from "What should I wear with a pair of lace-up military boots?" to "How do I dress goth without freaking out my parents?" -- the title of her blog makes more sense than ever. The haters have come out in droves.
Blog commenters and tweeters have called her everything from a wannabe hipster to a Hollywood social climber. Zeva attributes the criticism to simply being misunderstood. She has ties to literary circles, fashion circles and, yes, social-climbing circles. The three groups represent different facets of her personality and she adopts a different persona and voice when she contributes to their online platforms. Her refusal to pick one identity and stick with it has resulted in a "sell out" stamp from critics.
Although she's been known to fire back at Twitter taunts, Zeva mostly brushes it off. "These personas are just that: personas," says Zeva. "I never let any of the negative criticism get to me."
What does get to her are the comparisons to another young fashion blogger, Tavi. This is a girl who started her blog, Style Rookie, at age 12 and spurred enough buzz to secure her front row seats at Fashion Week alongside Anna Wintour. Tavi, now 15, knows her fashion. Zeva doesn't. And she's the first to admit it. She has a passion for personal style, not the use of latex in Marc Jacobs' last collection.
Yet, Elle magazine and others continue to compare the two, which has pitted them against each other in the cyber world. It's to the point fans have picked sides, Team Tavi or Team Zeva.
"Please don't have a team," says Zeva, insisting she's not worthy of the comparisons. "We're not even in the same dimension. She blogged at 12. I wore Hollister at 12. It's so sad because we'll never be friends."
In November, Tavi announced she and Sassy magazine founding editor Jane Pratt planned to start an online feminist magazine for teens. She asked readers to send in contributions for consideration. Zeva "humbly" sent one in, but never heard from the blogger who inspired her to launch Fated to be Hated. If she had the opportunity, she'd love to tell Tavi one thing: "I'm your fan."
Zeva's popularity can be traced back to connections with the anonymous blogger behind Hipster Runoff, Carles; Tao Lin, founder of the online magazine Thought Catalog and author of "Shoplifting from American Apparel"; and Mark Hunter, creator of party photo site The Cobra Snake. All of them are men, all of them are online celebrities, and all of them met Zeva before she turned 18.
None of this was lost on her mother, Elizabeth Hershkovitz. "I put spyware on her computer so -- she didn't know, but -- I was monitoring all her conversations," she says. "I knew everything."
As an extra cautionary measure she insisted her daughter blog under the pen name Bebe Zeva, which ended up sticking. So much so, Hershkovitz and Zeva will go to court this week to legally change her name.
As for Hershkovitz's spyware measures? She says it never turned up anything more than typical teenager talk, which didn't surprise her. She and her two daughters (Zeva's older sister Rachel is 19) have an "honest, open" relationship. Their father has never been in the picture.
Hershkovitz is quick to point out that her daughter is more than just a pretty face. "She scored in the 96th and 97th percentile on her SATs," she says. "I always told her, 'You'll either go to Hollywood or Harvard.' ''
For now she'll settle for UNLV. A case of seasonal depression, coupled with her unpleasant public school experience, caused Zeva's grade point average to dip. After transferring to Virtual High School, where all classes are conducted online, things started to improve. When her family moved out of the suburbs and into a high-rise condo at Turnberry Place, they got even better.
She hopes UNLV will act as a launch pad for either a prestigious fashion school such as Parsons or acclaimed academic school such as New York University, where she'd either study journalism or sociology. Either way, she knows she needs something more metro, more culture-driven than Las Vegas.
To have the kind of success she's enjoyed in the 10 months Fated to be Hated has existed is phenomenal. In August she'll serve as a Teen Vogue style judge at WWDMAGIC, but her long-term future could be so bright that those wraparound shades from her Palo Verde days may come in handy again.
If only the kids who rejected her in high school could see her now. "Oh, don't worry," says Zeva. "I made sure to 'friend' them all on Facebook."
Check out Fated to be Hated at ftbh.blogspot.com. Follow Xazmin Garza on Twitter at @startswithanx.