“Stephanie is not only a great person, but she was able to be a beautiful subject in a self-portrait,” said Ben Fink Shapiro, a photographer.
“Ben!” Ms. Wei hollered from the next room.
“I’m not going to describe it! She was a great subject in a self-portrait of mine that one day will, in 10, 15 years—“
“It will be in a gallery! It’s tasteful, it’s tasteful.”
Jason Ross, a model-turned-accessories designer, called Ms. Wei a “fashion altruist.”
“I think that may describe her,” he said. “Last night we met; she saw my work. She is, like, wearing it around on her wrist!”
He was referring to a leather wristband with a silver eagle that looked vaguely fascist to me.
“I showed her a couple of my pieces and she’s like, ‘I want to wear them,’” Mr. Ross went on. “And it’s really nice for me, starting out, and people wanting to sort of champion your work.”
Ms. Wei reappeared. “Moises says hi, he’s coming over,” she said.
She gave me a tour of her bedroom, which was a mess after she literally tore it apart looking for something to wear. She’d decided on a Stella McCartney top, tights and Jimmy Choo boots.
In a corner were Callaway golf clubs in a Yale golf bag. On the wall were pictures of Stephanie with her mother; with socialite Lydia Hearst; and with what looked to be her twin but was in fact Julie, her best friend growing up and, until recently, her roommate. (What happened was, after Ms. Wei returned from St. Barts in December, Julie informed her that she was in love with Ms. Wei’s ex-boyfriend. Ms. Wei asked Julie to move out: “I’m not mad, I’m just you know, sad,” she said. “We grew up together, known each other since we were two and a half. We were like sisters.” This happened around the same time Ms. Wei’s grandmother died. It had been a “challenging” period, so she escaped to St. Barts for a second time, just before New Year’s.)
She showed me a small poster with an inspirational message that her friend John Kluge Jr., son of billionaire mogul John Kluge, gave her. There was a picture of Chris Brady, grandson of Nicholas Brady, the treasury secretary under Reagan and the first President Bush. Young Mr. Brady—a financier, party boy and skilled swordsman—ran with a fast crowd at Yale and helped Ms. Wei advance socially there. In New York he introduced her to friends like Barbara Bush and Dabney Mercer (Tinsley’s sister).
“We’re best friends—we tell people that his family adopted me from rice paddy fields for 80 cents a day,” Ms. Wei said of Mr. Brady. “We say this to the WASP-iest, whitest people, it’s hilarious. If you look around the room a lot of times, I’ll be the token Asian. I was a rice paddy worker for Halloween last year.”
Stephanie Wei’s mother, Theresa Fang, was born in Taipei to a family of wealthy landowners who fled to Taiwan when the Commies took over. Stephanie’s father, Chamer Wei, was born on an army base in Xongxing. His family, too, made it safely to Taiwan. Mr. Wei earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California at Irvine. Stephanie was born in Boston, where her father worked at a biotech firm. The family moved to Redmond, Wash., when she was 3; her parents separated two years later and lied to her about it. She discovered the divorce papers and didn’t take it well.
“I always had a rebellious quality, very persistent about it,” she said.
After the divorce her father moved back East, and eventually sold his company on the New York Stock Exchange and retired early. Mr. Wei now lives in southern China and Houston. Meanwhile her mother opened a mortgage company with her second husband, Hank Lo. In second grade Stephanie transferred to a school attended by sons and daughters of Microsoft employees, where students called teachers by their first names.
At first Stephanie wasn’t happy about her stepfather. But then he took her shopping, skiing, bought her a pony named Peter Pan, and when she was 11, he taught her how to play golf. At 7:30 on Saturday mornings he would drive her an hour away to see a golf instructor.
“I wanted to be a regular kid,” she said. “I joke that my training regimen was like a Nazi kind of training camp. My stepfather would pressure me, but it was good for me. Golf shaped me a lot in terms of discipline, trusting myself and my intuitions.”
During her freshman year in high school, she played on the boys’ golf team. For her 16th birthday, in exchange for promising to practice really hard, her stepfather bought her a BMW 323ci. Stephanie says her mother, who was opposed to spoiling her and herself drove a Jeep Cherokee, was “so pissed.”
Follow George Gurley via RSS.