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This story contains sexually explicit material that may be NSFW.
The 21-year-old camgirl who calls herself Aella spent her first night in a decadent Las Vegas mansion getting to know the other women who were staying for the weekend. “There was lots of drinking,” she recalls. “Everybody was naked like 80 percent of the time.” The second night, she found herself in a 10-woman hottub orgy.
“It was surreal and awesome to be walking by and wave at a masturbating girl like there was nothing out of the ordinary. Everybody was so sexually open with each other, it was really beautiful. If I had a penis, it would have been the happiest penis alive.”
This is what life was like at Cam Girl Mansion, an exclusive event held in August where some of the Internet’s up-and-coming webcam models party, screw, and make a little (actually, quite a bit) of money. In an industry built on seclusion and privacy, the Cam Girl Mansion has helped these women build real relationships and share tips of the trade. The women were comfortable there; they felt they could really be themselves.
For Aella, that meant wearing mime facepaint and playing with lawn gnomes.
The photo album (NSFW) that rocketed Aella to Reddit immortality starts like any other submitted to r/gonewild, the social news site’s amateur porn hub, where everyday women submit tantalizing images in various states of undress.
The first 17 photos feature Aella standing in her living room. She slips out of her blue skirt and green top. Bare except for a pair of lacy thigh-highs, she begins to caress herself. The camera moves in closer to her chest.
Then, suddenly, we see a group of small lawn gnomes at her feet. They start to attack her. The last images show the gnomes dragging Aella away.
Redditors couldn’t believe what they just saw.
By comfortably mixing comedy and sex, Aella became the most popular woman on GoneWild in 2013. The at-times controversial community boasts more than a half-million members—and they respond to Aella’s personality, not just her figure.
“There’s so much more than just boobies,” Aella says. “People are so used to watching girls take themselves seriously when it comes to sexuality. I don’t care about looking pretty. I care about making people laugh. People need to realize you’re a human being.”
Aella grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. Her father held theology lessons after dinner.
“It was a very rigorous process,” she says. “I memorized nearly a thousand Bible verses during this time. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Christian.”
Today Aella considers her father an “unhealthy person, very religious and judgmental.” The two haven’t talked in years. She hasn’t practiced faith in just as long.
Aella was introduced to the world of camming in September 2012. She had just moved back to Idaho after dropping out of college. She was living with a friend and in need of cash. The friend recommended she try camming—performing sex acts on webcam for a private audience.
Her first time didn’t go over so well.
“I licked things and put fingers in places and tried hard to be seductive, but by the end of it I was giggling and farting and there was no going back,” she said. “I just can’t keep a straight face when it comes to making boners.”
Aella still made $80. She was intrigued. But something was missing.
Merely taking off her clothes in front of a camera didn’t reflect her personality. A month after she started, she came up with something different.
“I actually just got really drunk one night, looked over, and saw a tube of white face paint (from Halloween), and figured I should put it on my face,” she explains. “And then, next thing you know, I’m trapped in invisible boxes and humping chairs.”
Over the next 10 months, the Internet fell in love with Aella’s mime shtick, forking over hundreds of dollars to see her do her best Marcel Marceau impression on sites like Chaturbate and MyFreeCams.com. On 4chan, she became known as the “mime girl who fucks the chair” after, well, you can probably guess.
Aella wouldn’t share how much she makes today. But when I interviewed her late last year, she said that she earns more money than if she “had gone to college and had worked at a regular job after that for 10 years.” With her immediate financial future secure, Aella could express her weird side even more. That’s where Lawrence the Australian Lawn Gnome and r/gonewild came in.
After returning home to Portland, Oregon, Aella came up with a new spin on the girl-gets-naked scenario. She called it “gnomerape.” Redditors loved the images so much they helped make the first Imgur album and second one two of the top 50 r/gonewild posts of the year.
“You have to be the only person in the history of r/gonewild with a special-effects budget and gnome-related costs,” vyborny5 commented. “Love these posts, but I would have loved to see what else those ‘gnomes’ did to you.”
Aella spent Christmas with Awesome Kate and Jane Zef (@janeZEF), two other camgirls. Aella considers them her real family, and she’s featured them on a couple GoneWild photo albums, too.
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“I’ve found girls I love dearly,” Aella says. “They’ll be lifelong friendships.” This week, the three are back in Las Vegas at the Cam Girl Mansion. Filmmaker Sean Dunne, whose latest movie, Oxyana, was released last year, is producing a documentary about them.
Aella brought even more face paint this time.
What’s next for 2014? Well for one, she’s moving into a “camhouse” with a few other girls after Las Vegas. The rest is a bit of a mystery.
“I don’t have any deliberate ideas for Reddit, just as I don’t have any deliberate ideas for life,” she says. “Reddit isn’t something I try to ‘shake up,’ it’s simply another outlet for crazy ideas.”
Like this: “We do plan on making music, though.”
Fernando Alfonso III served as an early Reddit and 4chan reporter and the Daily Dot’s first art director until 2016. He’s gone on to report at Lexington’s Herald-Leader and at the Houston Chronicle.