21 Nov My Stellafly Story
Every once in a while I’m asked to tell my Stellafly story. “How did you come up with Stellafly?”
Back in the 80s and fresh out of high school, I ran with a group that my parents referred to as the “Rat Pack.” Picture the kids from the movie Valley Girl, blended with a hint of Less Than Zero and throw in the Breakfast Club, and that was us. There were several of us who developed lifelong relationships and spent enormous amounts of time together well into our 20s. Eventually, everyone got married and had kids of their own and we began to lose touch.
During that time, probably the coolest of the pack was a guy named Matthew. Matt had a punk haircut with a long braid that wrapped around his neck and fell over his shoulder. Matt always seemed a lot older than me, even though it was only by a few years. I’m sure his maturity came from life experience whereas I was brought up in the Bubble. He always had a beautiful girlfriend. He smelled of Djarms. Wherever Matt was or was going, everyone else wanted to be there too. My appearance, on the other hand, was a horrible hot mess somewhere between Madonna and Molly Ringwald. My hair was an overly processed permed disaster, I wore way too much make up, as many of the other girls did that I hung out with at the time.
I was one of the younger people in our select group of friends, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to go undetected in the local bar. At 19 years old, it was no secret that I wasn’t old enough to be in there — the owners, the bouncers, and even the bartenders knew but I was part of this special group, and they would often turn their heads. There were times where one of the bartenders, Mina, would spot me coming in, and spray her soda gun at me screaming for me to get out. Each experience was quite varied.
Then there was Matt. Each time I walked into a bar, a party or a crowded room for that matter, he would yell out, “Hey Stellaaaaaaaaaa!” For a young girl who was trying to fly under the radar, this proved to be somewhat problematic. To this day, I’m not sure why I reminded him of Stella Kowalski, from Streetcar Named Desire but he did it every single time I saw him. It became his nickname for me. No one else used it, and it stuck with me.
Years passed, and after graduation, I left Grand Rapids to head west to Oregon. Calvin College launched me with an Arts Degree, and I thought to get as far away from the Bubble sounded like a great idea. By this time, I was in my mid-twenties, most of my friends had moved out west, and it was time for a change. I began my adult life in Eugene and landed a job at a print shop doing graphic design and production work on a computer. It was around the time that the machine was being utilized for production in the print world.
I was lucky. I had been raised on a computer from the age of ten and was a faithful nerd to my trade. That job at the print shop led me a couple of blocks over to an advertising agency who was looking for a production artist for their ‘old school’ art director. Tom hadn’t spent a lot of time on a computer, so we made a complimentary pair. He was a great man. I named my son after him.
During the years I was living and working in Oregon, the internet came to fruition. One day a magazine with the AOL disk showed up at my apartment and just like that, real-time, online access to the entire world became available. All I needed was a computer, a modem, a phone line and a screen name. LauraO? Elbow? Stella124? No. Too boring.
I loved the 1980’s show In Living Color and the Fly Girls. I tried a combination with my nickname Stella.
Enter username: Stellafly
In 1995, Stellafly slowly infiltrated the social media landscape or at least the chat rooms… before they were creepy, of course. The rest is history.