I can't believe we've made it to the 10th anniversary of the World of Champagne - though to be fair, we've spent a big chunk of the last year offline. We'll get to that.
This is a new version of JanessaJaye.com, and I want to kick it off with a new version of this yearly letter. Usually I review what we did here on the site over the last year, and then give you all of my wild plans and schemes that I want to implement over the coming year. Don't worry - I still have plenty of plans and schemes (was there ever any doubt?!), but for this milestone anniversary, I want to talk about the origins of this site. I want to talk about Natalie.
Natalie was the person who set up my very first World of Champagne set. Anyone remember that version? It was bright Barbie pink with rainbow buttons - it was glorious. Even before the site was up, she was the one who met me at Perkins for bread bowl salads, and convinced me that the site was a good idea. She'd found some success blogging (I think the site was called Orble?) and she and her business partner were starting their own network. She had read some of the random blogs I had posted on my MySpace page (yes, I am an old!) and she said that she thought I would make a good addition to the network. More than that, she thought that I had something to say.
She had floated the idea of getting me started blogging a couple of times before, but in early 2012, I was freshly divorced and still trying to decide what to do with my newly single life. Before my divorce, I had fallen into a very dark place. I felt like I had lost a lot of my sparkle. I was in the middle of my very own annoyingly manic "Eat, Pray, Love!" journey, and I was very determined to say "Yes!" to things that used to scare me. I started going to karaoke. I started trying new looks and new songs when I performed at drag shows. And I decided to finally set up a website.
Natalie hosted my site on her network. After a couple of years, the network hadn't really taken off the way she had hoped, but she allowed me to stay on her servers. She told me that she enjoyed my content and that I was the only person who showed any appreciation for the work she put into building my site. A few years ago, there was a problem with the servers, and before it could be resolved all of my published articles from the first version of the site were erased. I was able to retrieve most of the content through internet caches, but I had to start over on a brand new version of the site.
Once again, Natalie was determined that I had a home on her servers. I found some templates and did a lot of my customization of the site on my own, and Natalie and her business partner got me all set up. If I had questions, she usually had an answer...and if she didn't she poked around and researched until she found one.
The original banner to the World of Champagne, designed by Natalie
Last year, Natalie passed away. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and it was devastating - not only for me, but also for my friend Angie (who YouTube viewers will recognize as the voice behind the camera who occasionally pops in to try weird foods) who had known her for pretty much her entire remembered life.
I knew that with Natalie gone, there was an invisible clock ticking: at some point, the bill for the servers was in her name, and at some point the bill would be unpaid long enough that the site would go offline. In December of 2021, that's what happened. Someone who is more "on top of things" than I am would have gotten it taken care of right away, found new hosting, gotten the site switched over, all of that. I've never been built like that.
For me, I didn't feel like jumping right into problem solving mode. I wanted to sit with the sadness for a bit and not worry about the business side. Plus, I needed time to think about what it would mean to have a website, for the first time in nearly a decade, that Natalie wasn't involved with in any way. In 2012, I believed in it because she believed in it. I felt like I had things to share because she told me that I did. Was it time to hang it all up, decide that we've had a good run but move on to some new adventure?
Spoiler alert: you're reading this, so clearly I didn't do that. I love this little space on the web, and even as it grows and changes and evolves, I love that I have this thing that reminds me of this shared history with a very special person. It's funny: whenever I would tell people about Natalie, I always referred to her as "Angie's friend Natalie," and I'm sure that will always be how my brain references her. But she was also my friend, and I am very lucky to have known her as much as I did. She believed in me at a time when I didn't, and all of the amazing, wonderful things that have happened to me over the last decade are because I kept going and didn't give up. And Natalie had a part in that.
I'm still figuring out how this new site is going to look and function, and I'm sure there will be updates with more information as we go along. But for now, I'd just like to thank you for being here, and for taking the time to read about a very special person that I miss, and without whom I would probably be living a very different life.
Here's to the next ten years!
XOXO, Miss Jaye