American Tea Room with Mariel Cornel of Polydeux

Polydeux, also known as Mariel Cornel, is a fashion and lifestyle influencer who works as a model, brand ambassador, copywriter and content creator! From rebellious catholic schoolgirl to fashion ambassador, Mariel brings us on her journey as a daughter, creative, and fashion enthusiast. Join us as Polydeux and I talk, culture, personal style, how she met her photographer, and her upbringing and inspirations.

Taylor Kim and Polydeux at the American Tea Room

Please introduce yourself!

Hi, I’m Mariel Cornel of Polydeux. I’m a fashion and lifestyle blogger. I know it sounds cliche, but that's the jist of what I do. In addition to blogging, I also work as a copywriter. I write for different brands and create content for their sites. This includes producing print and digital media, writing product description and everything in between.

What’s your story? How did you get started blogging?

I've been interested in fashion and self expression for a long time. I’ve been going to Catholic school since middle school, and I was required to wear uniform every single day. As a catholic school student, you’re not allowed to bend the rules at all. You have to have your socks at a certain height, you can't wear makeup, can't do your hair, and your coller must be buttoned up at least two buttons. There are very specific,strict rules that I remember even to this day. In high school, I got detention so many times for breaking the dress code that I got a demerit, and I started paying for my detention classes. Each detention class cost $5 for a 3 hour detention class, and it started to rack up. I realized, “Omg, I’ve been citing more debt into myself than I intended, just by trying to express myself."

I could never get away from wanting to accessorize a little bit, or wanting to do something to make my uniform a little different from everyone else. I never liked being controlled, and I thought, "So what if I wanted to wear a scarf?". The restrictions that constantly got me in trouble, created a desire to fight against those rules. When senior year came around, our school introduced casual fridays, and I was so excited! I always looked forward to these fridays, and thought of it as my chance to shine. I wanted to be best dressed so badly, and I tried really hard. At the time, I realized that I had no clothes because I wore uniform all my life, so I went shopping every week and eventually I realized that fashion was something I really connected to because it was my creative outlet.

I found that I was also naturally good at writing, I read a lot growing up, and it made me want to channel what I had inside. When I realized that fashion and writing was a thing, I fell in love with blogging and the whole process.

When was that ? High school?

In high school, probably towards junior and senior year I started realizing that I was good at writing. At the time, Tumblr was at it's height in popularity and everyone would post long, personal eplilogues late at night. It inspired me to write more, because everyone was freely sharing their feelings. Now, I feel like many people are too afraid to say anything that others might find offensive or controversial. As as result, I feel that people are more hesitant to write freely, and it's not as popular as it used to be. Nonetheless, I love to write, and that’s why I've picked up some books recently.

Have you ever stopped doing something only to realize you're not good at it anymore? When you're forced to read at school, you don’t want to do the required reading, but now that I’m out of school, I feel like I need it. I crave the knowledge and the enrichment of literature.

American Tea Room in Downtown Los Angeles

How did you develop your personal style? What influences you and how did you find that?

I love that question! My style originally was a little bohemian and I was really inspired by the blog LustforLife. At the time, there was a lot of Caucasian bloggers that were popular before many of the Asian bloggers that are popular now. Things like Coachella and Burning Man were growing, and as a result festival looks were really popular and many bloggers focused on highlighting festival fashion. That was the trend at the time. I started with a more bohemian style and worked my way up to colorful and flashy streetwear. I liked Unif and tight clothing early on. Now, I would say that my style is a mixture between high end street and contemporary wear. I like to try to blend those two together. I think that’s really all personal style is isn't it? Hybrids of what you like.

My boyfriend Justin takes all my pictures, and he’s the other half of Polydeux. He’s the one that really influenced me to do more streetwear, because that's where he started and that’s where he gets a lot of his inspiration from. I wasn’t into streetwear for a long time, but he kept insisting that I try it out and experiment. I found the more I experimented, the more I realized that I liked streetwear. That’s where Polydeux is now.

How long have been blogging? Do you feel like now you can say, “Yeah, streetwear is my thing”?

That’s a really good question. I started Polydeux in August 2012, but I don’t consider that date it’s actual starting point. Although it was birthed that way, I originally started it with my best friend from high school. However, a couple months into it, we both went to college happened and got busy throughout the summer. It became more clear that we were better off going our own ways. We are still on good terms, but it wasn’t her thing and it wasn’t what she loved to do. I started taking it more seriously about two years after I started idea of Polydeux,

“A lot of people think I’m fairly new, but I feel like I’ve been in the game a really long time.”

However, in the beginning I wasn’t consistent. I kept wanting to start over with different partners, and I realized that your dreams are really something you have to initiate on your own, because not everyone will have the same goal as you.

The girl you started with in high school, was she your original photographer?

No, at the time we didn’t even have a tripod, much less a photographer. I bought a camera with my own birthday money. To be quite honest, I don’t even remember what type of camera it was. We just put it on top of cars and clothing racks when we went vintage shopping, and took pictures of each other. We didn’t have anyone else but each other. That’s where the name Polydeux came from. Poly means ‘many’ and deux means two. Many styles, two people. Although she isn’t part of it anymore, I consider Justin the new ‘deux’ and the name still holds true.

How did you meet Justin?

We actually first met on Tumblr, when we were 15. I didn’t even realize it was him at the time, but he messaged me briefly. 5 years later, I found him on Instagram explore when I was looking for photographers and trying to find the right one. I found him, but l didn’t know that we had met on Tumblr previously because we both look completely different. He found an old picture of me on Tumblr at the bottom of my feed, and then it all clicked. Justin and I had been working together for a couple months before he proposed to be my business partner, and that’s when things started edging off into us really being a brand. Then we started dating!

Do you feel that your background or upbringing has influenced your desire to be a blogger? Or do you think that desire is more influened by current culture?

I definitely feel like it’s more of a nature vs. nurture thing, Coming from an Asian household, my parents never thought of blogging and modeling clothing as an occupation. It was a little hard for my parents to grasp the concept of what I was doing. It wasn’t until I started working with brands, did they finally start to understand what I was doing. They still don’t quite get it, and my dad still tries to micromanage me, and tries to give me advice that isn't necessarily applicable all the time. Asian parents get very protective, because your child is your pride and your joy. Sometimes, if you’re not doing something that they approve of, it can shameful for them. They are so proud of you, more than any accessory of physical object. Asian parents like to brag about their children because they love them and want them to be successful.

Their initial hesitance, made me want to work a little harder to gain my parents trust and acceptance. I feel like that kind of approval is very hard to come by, especially regarding newer careers that may not be as stable.

It was hard to gain my parents support because they didn’t understand it, there wasn’t any examples for them to understand what I was doing. Howver, becayse I’m a person who doesn’t really like rules or restrictions, they just kind of gave up trying to hold me down, but I don’t think that's the same for everyone.

I think that’s another reason why my influence, such as bohemian style, is very whitewashed. I grew up in Simi Valley, and my family was the only Asian house on the block. Even though I have a lot of influence from American culture, I still hold true to my heritage and I’m still very proud to be representing Asian Americans.

Fashion blogger Polydeux( Mariel Cornel) inside at American Tea Room

Have your parents been supportive throughout the process of starting the blog?

In general, I think Asian parents want their children to show utmost respect and be successful. I feel like there's a sense of pride that Asians carry, they just to be the best and they want to be the best for their children. I feel like that's where the values come from, a sense of pride in their children and in their nation. That’s why they come here.

Regarding blogging, it was very rocky at first because I couldn’t explain to them what I was doing. Even copyrighting is hard to explain, and my parents don’t understand it no matter how much I reword it. There’s no language barrier, they are just traditional. My parents aren’t particularly old, but it’s taken a couple years for them to trust me. I often remind them, “I know you don’t fully understand what I’m doing. I know it’s strange and uncomfortable because you have no idea of what it pertains, but if you just trust me I promise you that I know what I’m doing, and if I need help I’ll ask for it. ” That’s when my parents kinda let go, and trust my maturity.

I tell them, “Just trust that I know what I’m doing ”.

It’s hard, but they support it. They let me travel when I need to , and come out to Los Angeles when I need to. I don’t spend a lot of time at home. Simi Valley is pretty far from LA and I spend a lot of time in Alhambra because that’s where Justin lives. I’m always back and forth, and I spend three days out of the week at home, and then I’m here in LA. But I love what I'm doing and I wouldn't have it any other way

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