Briana Cornelius: The DLG-Proust-Actors Studio Questionnaire

by Joseph McKeown

“I’m an old person now,” Briana says and laughs. She’s talking about her predilection to stay home with a nice glass of wine and also, of course, to study long hours, the good law student she is. Briana is our Summer Associate (along with Carolyn), who is back at Daryanani Law Group after having worked previously for three years at the firm as a Paralegal and Office Manager (we affectionately called her BOM—Best Office Manager).

But she is not old. She’s only twenty-five with a bright future ahead of her. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Briana moved to Manhattan in 2006 to attend New York University (move-in day of freshman year was her first time in the City), and upon graduation she joined the firm fulltime. After her stint as “Best Office Manager” (Protima laughs and says: “No comment”), Briana left last year to attend William and Mary Law School (where she made Law Review!).

“My first semester was tough,” she says, “but I really got into it second semester. I like law. I’m sure it’s been said before, but law school for me has been useful in how it teaches you to approach and to think about things. I’m learning that there’s not an answer to many things. You can research and research and not find an answer, because there is no answer. You have to think of what the answer should be. You have to make the best argument. It’s difficult but it’s also an appealing aspect.” 

Bri and Cody "boatdancing"

Bri and Cody "boatdancing"

Briana is fond of Williamsburg, Virginia (“very quaint, cute town”), and every morning on her drive to law school she goes past a beautiful pasture with horses, sheep, and trees—all of which are sadly lacking in New York City. Speaking of animals, she is very fond of them, and proudly names off the pets she’s had with her boyfriend Cody: Buns, Bessie, Luther, Baby Pig, and Mary. She laughs. “I hate when people say this but they are like our children.”

I met Buns once. She was a much-loved guinea pig (now she is AngelBuns in guinea pig heaven), and Briana brought her into the office on my birthday one year. Needless to say, it was one of the best birthdays of my life. 

I change topics. I need to delve further into the Briana psyche. What makes Briana Briana? “You like science fiction a lot,” I say. “How’d you get into it that?”

“My dad—he’s an engineer,” she says. “He’s a very curious guy, wants to know how everything works.  When I was little he used to ask me questions: ‘Why is the sky blue? Why is the faucet leaking?’ Just questions and questions. He’d ask because he knew the answers. I’d say, ‘I don’t know, dad, why?’ And he’d go on his spiel, explain all these things to me. It helped spark my curiosity. He used to read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time to me when I was five, six, seven, eight--all about black holes and relativity. I loved it.”

It’s about time to wrap up the interview. Briana is going to “Boot Camp” at a gym near her New Jersey apartment. It was a Groupon she signed up for back in the spring when she was feeling brave. “Working out is not my thing,” she says. “I have to have paid for it and have someone yelling at me.” She sits for a moment, staring out the window at the sunset. For some reason there’s bagpipes playing on the street below. “I think I’m going to be late,” she says. “Fuck it. I’m getting a burrito.” 

(Questions taken from and/or inspired by the Proust/Inside the Actors Studio/Bernard Pivot/AnOther Magazine questionnaires). 

What is your least favorite word? 
Phlegm. Or Bologna.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Isolation.  But I don’t particularly like to be alone, so perhaps this speaks to my lack of creativity.

What turns you off?
People that lack an open-mind. 

What is your favorite curse word?

What sound or noise do you hate?
An alarm clock. Or when the smoke detector goes off because I’ve burnt something in the kitchen. Heart attack every time.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Writing. Specifically, science fiction.

What is your idea of happiness?     
In the morning, happiness is good coffee and an egg sandwich that doesn’t get soggy after carrying it a few blocks.  At night, it’s a glass of wine that doesn’t taste like it was from a seven-dollar bottle, and cat snuggles.

What is your idea of misery? 
Feeling uncertain or powerless. Also, being away from my cats while I’m at law school. Also law school.

Where would you like to live?     
Realistically, I would like to live in Seattle. Less realistic—Iceland (though I’ve never been, so this decision is based quite wholly on Google images). 

Who are your favorite prose authors?     
William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Jeffrey Eugenides.

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction?     
Case and Molly Millions. DAENERYS TARGARYEN.

Who are your heroes in real life?     
Charles Darwin. 

What would your last meal be?     
Something Mexican—enchiladas suizas, a burrito, or maybe some excellent tacos. A side of mashed potatoes with gravy, and casserole-style macaroni and cheese. Wash it down with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône.

What do you hate the most?     
People whose actions create the need for ASPCA commercials.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

How do you wish to die?    
In a field of flowers on the top of a mountain that overlooks the Pacific, while I’m surrounded by horses. Or something similar to that.

What is your present state of mind?    
It’s all about dinner planning for me right now. So, hunger, and a bit of anxiety—must get home soon. Ate lunch too early today.

What makes you laugh?
My boyfriend thinks he’s good at doing accents—he is not. His “Boston” accent gets me the most.

What makes you cry?
ASPCA commercials. 

What do you consider to be the greatest invention?
Right now, it’s summer in NYC—I’m pretty sure the greatest invention is an AC unit.

Where do you feel most at home?
“Home” is wherever the people I love are.

What do you most like about the age we live in?
Instant access to information. Netflix.

What is your earliest childhood memory?
My dad and my older cousins jumping off our balcony into the pool, during a Labor Day party. Some Journey song was playing in the background on the outdoor speakers, and I was about to have cake.

If you could wish for one change in the world what would it be?
More understanding, and less righteous (or religious) fighting.