Like her head of dreads reveals, Meli is a nonconformist and reminds me of one of my favorite books and bibles of the industry, Unfashion, in how completely emotional and rawly expressive her style is. She says that she deals with doubt by crying and wears her multi-patterned colorful shirt to make her happy. That particular blouse reminds her of her days on the road in Spain as a teenager with nothing but a backpack to her name. She feels that not knowing the language opened her up in ways that she wouldn’t have otherwise, always “pushing herself to see how far she could go before returning home.” Brave at heart, she was a long way from where she was born and raised in the Bronx, but the juggler in her not only loves suspenders and argyle knee socks, but sets her mind to something and adapts. She says that living far out of her comfort zone changed her life. The contrast to what she knew literally made her weak in the knees while doing her photography: “Barcelona, the mountains, the vineyards, the olive trees, almond trees and beaches, it healed me a lot…Spain taught me about warmth and smiling, taking a rest and has been the start of my career with photography.”
Meli says that the airplane raised her, but in truth it was her teachers who have been her guides, including Pamela Lawton, who first took her to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at nine years old. Meli and Lawton have maintained their closeness throughout the years, so much so that she would call her mentor from the airport for moral support before embarking on journeys to Europe. These forays began with a high school exchange program, where the director of the art school in Vilafranca del Penedes liked her so much that he kept inviting her back. Meli ended up publishing a book there, a photographic documentary of the festivals, architecture and people of the town she was living in. Currently, Meli is creating a community of artists, like herself, in a loft in Brooklyn. She calls it home because it is a place that she can wake up and deal with her intense emotions and sleep in her wild dreams.