Re: Sean Pablo Murphy

A skateboarder who was born the year Princess Diana died probably doesn’t care about that fact

FAMOUS TO ME celebrates the notable residents of the internet: charming characters, dedicated professionals, the headstrong, the bold, our true gems. Some of our readers may be unfamiliar with these local personalities, but those of us with the good fortune of knowing them from around town know they deserve recognition for their work, warmth and integrity. If you’d like to nominate someone for this honor, please mail it in. This week’s star: Sean Pablo Murphy, in pictures.

Princess Diana married Charles at 20, which makes you wonder if she was ever a teen. She and Charles were both the same height — 5’10” — as I am now. At 20, I too was having sex with a titled man in his mother’s house, though I suppose it was in Notting Hill and not wherever Kensington Palace is. Neither of us was employed. He sewed a large pocket inside his father’s Burberry trench so as to shoplift eggplants and other types of oversized produce. It is not outside the realm of possibility, like my someday being buried on an island, that I weighed 128 pounds — as Princess Diana is often said to weigh on Google — at the time of having sex with the Earl. I wish I’d known! What I would have given in 2011 for a narrative, a rabbit’s foot for the mind, that internal monologue: Im Princess Diana.

I still believe a route to leading an existence conspicuous to oneself is to weigh the exact same as a celebrity. I’m unemployed again; I live alone. I suppose I could weigh 128 pounds in two weeks. Less, if I’m feeling eccentric. (In 2011, Janet Jackson went on television and accused “women” in Hollywood of eating paper to stay thin. Models, more refined, are said to eat tissue paper.) I could buy a scale and go on Bowie’s Thin White Duke diet — invented, as it were, in America — of cocaine, red peppers, and milk. Bowie too was 5’10’’. In the repose necessitated by low-caloric living, I would watch the five-hour-and-39-minute YouTube video of CNN’s coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral. On a loop. Then, after a half-glass of milk, 14 days a hermit, I would take the train to a boyfriend-figure’s studio, where I would announce, triumphant, that I weigh the same as Princess Diana. It’s possible he would find this attractive. It’s enough so often to be attractive to oneself. Still — it’s hard to eat like a celebrity!

It is easy to eat a celebrity. You can break them down to bite-sized morsels with a simple click, click, click, which one presumes is why it’s called a “mouse.” Celebrities, on the other hand, that cannot be ethically consumed are either (1) not celebrities at all or (2) the best celebrities of all time. Vogue’s sex columnist once described me, to her readers, as “25 and still in that phase where she’s playing side-bitch to men in their late 40s who she thinks are famous.” It’s not just embarrassing to think someone is famous when they are not, in fact, famous; it’s also difficult. There simply isn’t food enough for these thoughts to be found online, or calories enough to perform the askesis of an info-binge in the glow of a computer screen. Consider the teenager currently eliding my fork: Sean Pablo Murphy, a skateboarder who was born in Los Angeles in 1997. Sean Pablo probably doesn’t know that’s the year Princess Diana died, let alone that her favorite food was bread pudding, and his only reference point for gratuitous public mourning may well be the makeshift altar for Bowie that lived across the street from Supreme. I worry about the teens.

I’m not alone in thinking Sean Pablo Murphy is a celebrity, though that’s not the best definition of the word “comforting” I’ve ever come across, especially since my avidity is seemingly matched only by 18-year-old skaters in line at the Supreme store in the middle of the workday, in the middle of the workweek. They want to be Sean Pablo. Perhaps they’re already halfway there: shy, inarticulate, underweight, skid marks on their decks, donning high water Dickies and white socks, skating all day. I do not know his weight — only that I could not personally attain it; he is scrawny, arms made to be akimbo — but I know that he is half Salvadorian, half Irish, and a fan favorite in Supreme’s first full-length skateboarding video, Cherry, in which he held a cardboard sign: “Please take my virginity.” (One fan Tumblr is seanpablosvirginity, while another is, optimistically, fuckingseanpablo.)

As with squad-stalking any Los Angeles-based teen, a cursory sweep of Sean Pablo’s feeds pulls up some notable surnames: Soloway, as in the son of Jill; Ford, as in the nephew of Harrison. He has a tattoo of a dollar sign on his left ring finger. He likes Bruce Springsteen. Ice cap fonts. He made a clothing line called PARADIS3. The logo has Snoopy drinking from a bottle. On a baseball cap there is a small embroidered detail of a woman’s red-lacquered hand holding an also-red rose. A cobra coils out of a Lamborghini on an undersized sweatshirt. He made a zine called Teen Stabbing, hoping it “would bring you back to feeling like a teenager.” The photos are blurry. His girlfriend, Kaila, walks in a graveyard. She’s his age and has statement bangs; they look like siblings. His last two Instagrams, at the time of this writing: a skater drinks a Modelo; a skater lights another skater’s blunt. He does not seem at all preoccupied with creating anything new — would you, if at 19 you got to live the cliché?

Once Sean Pablo sat two tables catercorner to me at the restaurant Lucien, with Chloe Sevigny, and ordered a steak. Another time I saw him get carded; his entire table had fake IDs. Will he ever be famous enough for someone like me, a laywoman, to know whether or not he is talented? It’s a subject of consternation on the message boards. A photographer comments on YouTube that Sean Pablo has a “mean” backside 360 “for his age.” He is on three skateboarding teams, which I think means he skates in their videos and wears their clothes: Supreme, Converse, and F.A. Kids, the F.A. standing in for “Fucking Awesome.”

He’s sheepish, quixotic in interviews. I felt like I understood him when I read, on a science blog, that skateboarders “rotate in midair using a trick borrowed from housecats.” I can’t tell what it would be like to talk to him, or even vice versa. Add to the list of quality of life violations committed by skaters — disturbing the peace, violating park rules, public beer drinking — a new one: only participating in interviews conducted by other skaters. “I wake up get some coffee, maybe read a book, and then go skate,” he says. “Go skate, come home, maybe cry,” he says elsewhere. Why is he in New York? “I’m here to fucking party.” He tells i-D about “drinking a six pack and dancing in the dark.” What does he do with his friends? “Take a chill pill.” I’m trying, Sean. I’ve had worse dinners than those found in cabinets…

Kaitlin Phillips is a writer living in New York.