Recently, we ducked behind the scenes for a quick conversation with each of the women starring in our new Find Your Perfect campaign. Tune in as we talk closets and careers, makeup and motherhood, and more.
Sun Mee lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the beautiful Cathedral Hill neighborhood, where F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. Her home sits on a lush, tree-lined street, flanked by historic houses. Inside, it’s peppered with old paintings and antiques—an arresting mix of offbeat accents and elegant fixtures in every room. From this, we might have known that Sun Mee herself would be an original. Sitting down to talk, she impressed us with her novel ideas about the “spirit” she brings to the fashion statements she makes—and not in a New Age-y way. We could relate to her ideas, and we think you will too. Read on for Sun Mee’s tips on standing out from the crowd.
SS: Where did you grow up?
SMC: Detroit, and then I lived in California and New York. But I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else, about 12 years.
What brought you to Minnesota?
The arts. I’m a playwright, and this is just an incredible place to live as an artist. One night I’m at the Minnesota Orchestra for an event, and then the next night I’m at an art opening. I’ve had two plays produced here. There are so many craft disciplines. It’s like New York, but livable. You can be an artist and still have a beautiful yard.
How long have you been writing?
About 10 years.
What are some of the themes in your work?
Highlighting the history and lives of Asian-American women.
I wrote a play called Asia Amnesia about historical stereotypes of Asian women in Hollywood and how we’re still battling some of these early portrayals. Like Ana Mae Wong—she is the biggest Asian-American film star to date. She made films in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, and there has been no Asian woman since then to make that many films.
Then I wrote a play called How to be a Korean Woman, which was very personal—it was about me searching for my birth family in Korea. I was on a reality TV show in Korea, and through it I found my birth family, so I wrote a piece about the reunion. Like many adoptees, I thought a void [would] be filled, and it wasn’t.
And now you’re working on a film version?
I just applied for funding to make a film version, because I just want to get it out there, to share with others.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Toni Morrison, Junot Díaz, Isabella Allende, Tony Kushner, Caryl Churchill. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a new African-American playwright. Mia Chung, who just wrote You for Me for You. At the Guthrie Theatre here they just did Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar, which won the Pulitzer two years ago.
Tell us about your writing routine.
I’m a very outgoing person, so I have to quarantine myself. I do best if I can get a residency and go away for a few weeks and just write. And you know, for every page you write, you probably read 50 pages of research. I wrote about Isabel Rosario Cooper, the mistress of Gen. MacArthur, who was stationed in the Philippines when they had their affair. She was a 16-year-old film star and he brought her to the states and kept her in a flat in D.C. He was married, and she was the most famous film star in the Philippines. She was finally was released by him and went to Hollywood and committed suicide. This is only half the story. You do all this research about these people to be able to write two paragraphs.
How do you find creative inspiration? And discipline to complete things?
I think seeing other plays, and seeing the power, the effect, the waves of conversation it creates in a community. Like Tony Kushner said, “I used to think art could change the world, and now I realize it can’t, but what it can do is remind people to sit in a room with strangers and laugh and cry and examine the human experience, which is just as important as changing the world.” So it brings people back to pleasure, to tenderness. I’m inspired by seeing other art forms, but also by being in the community and having intimate conversations with people. That interaction is an art form in itself.
How important is fashion to you?
It’s become much more important, because I think it affects every opportunity you have in your career. It affects how seriously people take you. It’s a reflection of your work ethic, and it’s a reflection of where you want to go in life. If I have a meeting with an artistic director who’s considering my play, and I walk in looking like I haven’t left my desk in three weeks, it doesn’t matter how good my play is, they might not want to market me to do press interviews or lead a talk. Your style is a reflection of your inner life. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to think about fashion.
How would you describe your style?
Sophisticated, classy, and fun. And artsy. If you go to a play, an art opening, it’s not the same as going to something more conservative. There’s more room for self-expression. I love classic lines. I like to feel put together and polished. But I want to look unique, eye-catching.
If someone were to dress as you for Halloween, what would they wear?
Something Audrey Hepburn would wear, but with more color.
How has your style evolved? What did you love to wear as a child?
I was a total tomboy. I had two older brothers, and I got all of their hand-me-downs. My mother is a complete feminist—I wasn’t allowed to play with Barbie. It wasn’t until my 30s that I discovered the power of femininity: that you can look completely feminine but still feel smart and empowered.
Growing up, I always thought that if you were super feminine, somehow you weren’t focusing on your intelligence. But now I think role models like Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Beyoncé are showing that you can be fierce and beautiful and make a difference in the world, and a huge part of that is style. Like if I wear something I love, I get comments all day. People just notice. It’s not noticing just my style; it’s noticing my spirit.
Would you say you have an outfit for every occasion? I’m imagining your sleepwear is on point, your gym outfit is cute…
It’s becoming like that. I spend a lot of time in Lululemon. I’ll go to yoga and then sometimes to rehearsal in the same clothes. And I definitely don’t want to be frumpy when I’m out.
Are there certain brands that you love to wear?
How do you style your dresses for fall and winter?
I’ll wear a tunic-length dress with jeans and just have a sweater over it. Otherwise, I wear a lot of tights, boots, and thick socks. I love layers. I always wear cozy, chunky scarves.
Do you shop on eBay?
Yes, I’ll usually buy things I’ve seen at the mall. Like, I saw these $300 Cole Haan shoes, and I got them for $75 on eBay. I also love finding beautiful vintage dresses. I’ll talk to the person who’s selling it and get more details before I purchase. If it looks one-of-a-kind, I’ll buy it.
Do you sell on eBay?
Yes, I sell things too. When I was younger I used to wear those Nike “Sky High” wedge sneakers. Those sell really well on eBay. Coach purses sell well, too. I’ve always had good luck selling classic, stylish, hip things. Things that aren’t going to go out of style, and that people are searching for.
Where do you find fashion inspiration?
Magazines. And then when I go to events, I notice what people are wearing. The other day, I was at this outdoor music festival, and I was thinking: Who really stands out, and why? Nine times out of 10, it’s not even what they’re wearing; it’s just their energy.
Wow. Have you figured out how to tap into that?
Yes! You just need to get more sun and buy clothes that make you feel happy, breezy—and enjoy the moment. Update your wardrobe regularly, but just for new energy, not for any other reason.
To meet more of the amazing real women featured in our Find Your Perfect campaign, click here.