In Meili Cady‘s compulsively readable memoir Smoke: How a Small-Town Girl Accidentally Wound Up Smuggling 7,000 Pounds of Marijuana With the Pot Princess of Beverly Hills, we meet a young, bright-eyed Cady as she moves to Los Angeles to become a struggling actress and gets snagged in the web of master manipulator Lisette Lee. Lee claimed to be the “the Korean Paris Hilton,” and an heir to the Samsung fortune. In the name of friendship, Lee hired Cady to be her “personal assistant,” a job that required taking private jets to Ohio, an ostensibly fabulous perk that was — whoops — the front for a million-dollar pot smuggling operation.
If you’ve read the Rolling Stone article on Lee’s life, “The Gangster Princess of Beverly Hills,” you have an idea of how long the high life lasted, and the truth that came out after the fall. I had the chance to talk to Cady about what it was like to be a twentysomething drug smuggler, and where she’s going from here.
Flavorwire: Reading Smoke, I kept thinking, “Look out!” How naive were you when it came to Lisette Lee?
Meili Cady: It was a combination of things. At that time in my life, I had been very naive, and I had little to no frame of reference for the kinds of things that should been red flags for me. I was willfully putting blinders on in crucial moments and insisting that they stay on.
Later in our friendship she said, “God, you have battered wife syndrome, whenever I’m a bitch to you, you come right back.” She was very aware of it. The role I played with her was not a role I played in any other relationship in my life. I was submissive and she was very dominant. That came about organically in our relationship, and it developed in ways that weren’t healthy.
What job would she be good at?
Maybe PR, she’d be good at being the face of an operation but not necessarily running the mechanics of it.
Was she a textbook narcissist or sociopath? It seemed that way from how she talked and played with people.
Have you read The Psychopath Test [by Jon Ronson]? I read it after the arrest, I was really fascinated by it. It was interesting that the term sociopath and psychopath are interchangeable. One of the characteristics that [Ronson] talks about as a psychopath is that they have an unrealistic expectation of consequences to their actions, they’re so narcissistic that they look at themselves as being immune. It was a trait that was very strong with her — there was no cover story [to the drug running], she was doomed to fail with what she set up. She had multiple phone calls from jail about continuing the business.
What advice would you give to other young women who may deal with a situation and a friendship similar to yours?
It’s like airport security: never travel with luggage that’s not yours, no matter who gave it to you. Doing business with friends is hard enough, and any kind of employment without knowing the exact terms of what you’re going to be doing: never do that. You have to be responsible for your actions because you’re going to be responsible for the consequences. You have to own your own decisions, and you should never let people make decisions that are going to significantly impact your life. Your life is your own. The decision to let someone else decide is a decision in itself. Passivity can be its own decision.
Is Smoke going to be a movie? Your life rights have been optioned by a studio, right?
Television is the way a lot of things are going these days.
Did you ever regret having to go to Ohio?
I didn’t have a lot of fun in Ohio.