Photography Jonno Revanche

@virtualbabyangel on finding yourself as an internet celebrity

As a 20-year-old with a massive online following, Jane Stanely — aka @virtualbabyangel — is familiar with growing up and self discovery in the internet age.

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Jul 15 2016, 4:21am

Photography Jonno Revanche

Jane Stanley is a 20-year-old Canberra resident with an interest in art and fashion. Like a lot of young women, she posts picture of herself, her friends and things that interest her on Instagram and Tumblr. The only difference is Jane calls what she does "internet curation", she also goes by the name @virtualbabyangel and has over 62 thousand followers.

Through her teens and into her 20s, Jane has lived a large part of her life online. Her feed is a timeline of adolescent exploration and discovery. It's not a new narrative, in fact as an audience we've been obsessed with coming of age stories for decades. But today you don't need to go to the movies to witness one — you can watch them unfold in real time on your feed.

The result is people like Jane, who have decided to figure out who they are in a public, virtual world. They use the internet to explore and try on different personas. What we once did in front of bathroom mirrors, they do in front of thousands of fans.

We caught up with Jane to talk about growing up, putting your life online, and took the chance to ask, what actually is an internet curator?

Tell us about the evolution of dressing how do you? What was your style like before, and how has this current image changed your personality, life and outlook?
It changed so much! I started dressing the way I wanted to when I was about 16 or 17; I had depression, and had dropped out of school. During that time in solitude I realised I was my own person, I had my own style, I dressed differently to people around me and I liked to dress that way for a reason. It was all very new, before that I just wore whatever my friends wore, whether that be short shorts, tube tops or tight skirts. It wasn't until then I realised I liked weird shit, different stuff. So I started making my own chokers and watching lots of anime — cat-girls on anime were a big inspiration for me.

It's interesting to look at mental illness in that way, it can be a motivator to evaluate yourself and your control over what makes you happy or sad.
Exactly. I spent three whole years inside my house. I didn't leave; I was afraid to because I was hurt by people. It wasn't until I started posting online that I found a community of people who were similar to me, who wore similar styles and had likeminded views. That was when I realised I'm not the only person who dresses like they came from a Hello Kitty factory. It helps when you find people similar to you, whether that be online or in person.

Would you say there's an element of "playing a character" in your online identity? Is it escapism?
At first it was a bit like a costume, a bit of an escape. But now it's the real me. I wear everything I wear on Instagram, the way I act is how I am in real life. I like the reactions — I think it's interesting, almost like a social experiment of sorts. So many people go through different phases, they label themselves as scene kids or goths. I think it's all a journey of finding out what your identity is and what you feel comfortable with. It is a big part of self acceptance.

It feels like Instagram and Tumblr have had a really transformative effect on you. I want to ask you about the influx of "online curators" and what that title even means. Is it an artistic role, telling a story with someone else's work? Or is it more like being an editor, an early adopter, and using your platform to promote other's talent?
I think there's a difference between just using Instagram as a daily thing and how I, as well as many others, use it. There are people who use it to socialise with friends, tagging each other in club photos and what-not, but for me I see it as a gallery where I put my own art. Everything I post is well thought out. If I have an idea I want to bring to life I'll be thinking about what colours and textures match, what background I want to use — it's an artistic outlet. It's a creative thing that I get to put thought and effort into. I think there is a huge difference between the two.

You've mentioned before that you don't take notice of trolls. I feel like that's what everyone says, but at some point anyone with an internet profile needs to develop a thick skin. Is there a moment when you stopped caring and let go of that negativity?
The first few bad comments you get you think, oh, whoa, that's a bit harsh, I'm just posting on Instagram, you don't have to be so negative. I'm a human being and I don't deserve that for posting a picture — it did get to me at first.

When I started I had very little confidence and this was my way of gaining it; trying out different things and having people look at it gave me confidence. But the more abuse you get the more you realise how little it matters and how unimportant a stranger's opinion is. They don't know me, they don't know my life, all they see is a picture.

People don't like what they don't understand. If they see me wearing ridiculous fluffy shoes and hair clips or underwear, they think "she's just posting it for attention, she's a slut" or whatever. I get a lot of degrading comments from men specifically. If I get something that is really gross, I'll block them, and if it's degrading to my body I'll delete it. But I also keep other negative comments because I think it's almost good to show that I do have detractors and I'm not some perfect idol, I want to keep it as real as possible.

@virtualbabyangel

Credits


Text and photography by Jonno Revanche