An adolescent attempt at channeling  Britney Spears' iconic 2001 VMA performance  (courtesy of the merchandise buckets at D.C.'s Rainforest Cafe).

An adolescent attempt at channeling Britney Spears' iconic 2001 VMA performance (courtesy of the merchandise buckets at D.C.'s Rainforest Cafe).


I like people, places, and things that look like mistakes.

Though San Francisco is currently home I spent six years in Richmond, Virginia. Where I learned chambray is appropriate attire for all seasons, discovered a deadly kiwi allergy, and got very good at avoiding potholes on jagged city roads.

A couple of those years were spent earning a master's degree in branding and strategy at the VCU Brandcenter.

I believe a brand is everything that comes to mind when people hear or see your brand's name. Whether that's Kanye West rapping about “a Mayonnaise-colored Benz”, the Harley-Davidson tattoo on your barber’s forearm, or Maria Menounos holding a Coke during the pre-movie trivia sequences at the theater.

These connections are everywhere. I'm just trying to make sense of them.


(and some infrequently asked questions)

What did you want to be growing up?

A professional chef, an MTV VJ, or a reality TV editor.

What are your biggest accomplishments?

  1. Being followed by Justin Bieber on Twitter.
  2. My 90s playlist went Gold on 8tracks.
  3. Unintentionally selling a painting I did (for two dollars).

What does your version of hell look like?

Being trapped in a movie theater that isn't playing any movies.

If there was a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

Jenny Slate would play me – and it would be an absurdist-action-comedy-mockumentary written by Tina Fey that blends the 1988 cult classic “Heathers” with Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic.”

What are the last three playlists you made titled?

  1. d0n't 0verreact 
  2. w0rk0ut blandlist
  3. ik ur reading this spotify, bring back my inbox feature

What's a typical coffee shop exchange like?

Explaining my name isn't an exotic spelling of Michelle (see below).




Can I have a name for the order?



No, Mishaal. M-I-S-H –

What a weird name. Where are you from?

Washington, D.C. 

No, like where are you really from?

Pakistan. But I moved here when I was five. 

That's the Middle East right? I've got a friend from Persia.

It's not in the Middle East, it's – 

Here's your coffee, Michelle! 

– thank you.


One of my earliest memories is being lost on a beach somewhere on the coast of Pakistan. I eventually see my dad, through the legs of a very tall man playing badminton, building something in the sand. There was an old lighthouse perched on a cliff in the background that looked like it was growing out of his head. I couldn’t have been more than three years old, so this was hilarious at the time.

Additionally, in Arabic, Mishaal translates to “source of light,” “lantern,” or “torch.”

So a lighthouse just felt right. 

© Mishaal Abbasi 2018