I’m a '90s kid. If you have a Twitter account, and are also a '90s kid, you know how awesome the feeling is. There’s constantly Twitter throwbacks for '90s kids of some of our most sentimental memories, like Rugrats, That's So Raven, Motorola flip phones, old Britney Spears songs, Lizzie McGuire, etc. The nostalgia is real, but being a '90s kid is so much more than that. For me, it means growing up through the 2000s.
As a young kid, I loved entertaining. At that time, social media wasn’t really “a thing,” and let's be real: I was too young to even use it even if it was. I’ve always loved singing for and entertaining just about anyone who would watch. My family never lives down the time 5-year-old me hopped on the restaurant table and sang "Mambo Number 5." A little later on, I got into musical theater. I was around 12. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but the first musical I ever did, I landed the lead role of Annie, so basically I’m kind of a big deal. I absolutely fell in love with theater. I then started the fifth grade, and in a new school. Around that same time in my life, social media was slowly forming around me. Everyone had Facebook. My parents were the strict and conservative type, so the whole putting-yourself-on-the-Internet thing was a "hell no" from them. Naturally, I created a Facebook account under the alias Lola Aldo. (If that account still exists somewhere, the amount of prepubescent fashion choices blackmail will be endless.) You can’t blame me, though -- I couldn’t be the new girl in school and NOT HAVE FACEBOOK. That'd be social suicide.
Growing up with strict parents is hard. Doing it in a brand-new school is even harder. It made it incredibly hard to fit in and make new friends. I would finally make a friend and when they invited me over after school or to hang at the mall, it was usually a "no" from my parents. The best way I can put how I felt is simply left out. Facebook was one of the only ways I could feel included at the time -- even though the Facebook world only knew me as Lola Aldo. I eventually did fit right in and formed my clique, despite not getting to hang out as much as the other kids. Middle school came around, and since by then I was all adjusted to the school, I felt more comfortable.
I took all honors classes and did well academically, but my favorite class by far was drama. My teacher, Ms. Loiseau, made it fun and carefree, something I genuinely looked forward to. To this day, that class remains one of my best memories. But middle school also meant more freedom for my friends and me. They could do things like go to sleepovers every weekend, go to the mall, walk places after school, and go to parties. With strict parents, I couldn’t do the majority of it. I still had friends that loved me and somehow I managed to be popular, but once again, I constantly felt left out.
Every Monday, my friends would have to catch me up on everything they did that weekend, since it was so rare I could ever go. It got to the point where I coundn’t be mad at them for not inviting me somewhere, knowing they didn’t since I wouldn’t be allowed. Instagram then started gaining some popularity. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to make an account, but I did anyway. I blocked my parents along with any relatives I could find on the app. Instagram was an awesome way for me to stay connected and in the loop with my friends. I forced them to use a code word for the word “Instagram." (No way was I letting a slip-up expose my Instagram account to my parents.) It was a challenging couple of years. And yes, while I was allowed to got to bar mitzvahs and the occasional friend’s house, social media was my way of belonging.
High school came around and, no surprise, more freedom for my friends, a new school, and a new app: Vine. Freshman year of high school I signed up for drama magnet, which meant two and a half hours of theater every single day. I met some of the funniest and most interesting people that year, and while I strongly disliked the new high school, some hilarious and unforgettable memories happened in that drama room. One of which was my friend Estrella showing me Vine, an app where you post six-second videos. It seems so simple, but to me, it was the coolest thing in the world.
I immediately went home and created an account. I used the name “Princess Lauren” because I’m royalty and deserve to be treated like it. (Totally kidding -- I didn’t want my mom finding my Vine account.) I posted the most random videos, with the intention of giving my friends and me something to laugh at. Before I knew it, more and more people started watching them. Soon, local schools knew who I was because of my videos. I never liked the attention. I actually kind of hated it, which is something I never really talk about. But for me, social media was a way to stay connected and all of a sudden, hundreds of people I’ve never met are following me. (Not to mention, this put me at a huge risk because my mom could find the accounts I'd done such a great job at hiding.)
Eventually, the cat did come out of the bag. My parents found my accounts. I do give myself major props, though -- I reached a million followers before they found out. But hey, finding out their kid has a million followers was cool for them! They were instantly supportive, which I genuinely appreciate. At the end of the day, them finding out didn’t really change anything. I kept making my videos, kept getting more followers, and they continued to be strict. I find it funny how people all over the country thought I was so cool for having so many followers, and meanwhile, I wasn’t allowed to go out on Saturday nights. The weirdness of having so many people know who I am quickly became normal. I loved being able to impact and connect with that many more people online. Luckily, I was never bullied or made fun of for it. I have friends now who tell me horror stories about getting bullied for having a large online presence.
I now had a new mission. I would move to L.A. At the time, I was an ambitious 16-and-a-half-year-old. But I knew I would make it happen. I attended my first VidCon in Anaheim, California. This is the trip that forever changed my life. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Internet, but damn, was I wrong. I held a meet-and-greet and remember one of my supporters asking me if it felt awkward being in between both Kian Lawley and Andrea Russett’s meet-and-greets. I asked her who they were and she looked at me like I didn’t know who Obama was.
That night, I realized I had some serious research to do. I thought Jenna Marbles and Fred were the only YouTubers. But what I found that night was a whole new community of people and a whole different form of content. I ended up making a bunch of YouTuber friends that trip and decided it was something I wanted to try. After several painful attempts of making videos I thought were good, I eventually got the swing of things on YouTube. I loved it, too! The Internet became this huge part of my life that I loved, in between my normal high school day-to-day thing. It was finally something I felt fully accepted in and could do from my bedroom without my parents' approval. I loved the connection I got to make with so many people, and the feeling of alway having so many people to talk to.
Things got crazy and I had to travel so much to attend meetings and events that I had to switch to online school. I finally felt like I was doing what I loved all the time. But at the same time, I felt like I could be doing more. I love to sing and act. I knew I wasn’t perfectly content. My mission was L.A., and I was going to make it happen. Fast-forward to now: Here I am, sitting in L.A., where I currently live. The no-rules thing is great, I must admit. I wish I could insert some corny “I miss rules and bedtimes,” but I don’t. It's great. I finally feel like I can be who I am and live my life without restrictions. But more importantly, I’m here doing what I love. I’m connecting with my supporters every single day while creating new content I’ve been waiting to do my whole life: music. Working on my music right now feels like what I’ve been waiting for all along. I just know that sharing it with my supporters, performing it, and being able to express myself artistically that way will be the most satisfying feeling.
My life so far might be untraditional, but that’s what 2016 is -- untraditional. And maybe if it weren't for my traditional and strict parents, I wouldn’t have gone to social media as an outlet of creativity. 2016 is a bizarre time to be 18 years old, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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