After the cam

JIM WALSH | Updated 1/30/2013

Early Internet star Ana Voog turns suburban artist and mom.

Ana Voog at home. She'll perform music for the first time in a decade Sunday.
Photo by Tom Wallace

The four acres of woods and spacious suburban Minneapolis rambler where Rachael Olson lives with her husband and two toddlers is a far cry from the tiny Loring Park apartment that the artist/singer/provocateur known as Ana Voog once used as her techno-gateway to the world.

There's a big part of Olson that wants to share it with you in the same way she shared every aspect of herself 15 years ago via Anacam.com. But a bigger part doesn't want you, or anyone, to know anything about her new life.

"I want to start wearing a burqa; there's a part of me that wants to shut down, like I don't really want you to see me anymore," said Olson, 45, who on Sunday will perform a live set of music for the first time since 2001, opening for Midge Ure at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge in Minneapolis.

At one point, she said, Anacam attracted 700,000 hits a day from voyeurs who tuned in to see her eat, sleep, watch TV, sit at her computer, make art, get naked or have sex. "I was just in my little apartment and poor, eating TV dinners and ramen noodles and being a slob. It was nothing glamorous at all; I'm sort of the anti-Kardashian: Here I am, in my pajamas, or whatever. I didn't do it to get famous. I did it because it was fun."

The fun caught on. Olson appeared on "Hard Copy" and "Entertainment Tonight," and was featured in Newsweek, USA Today and Playboy. Now, everybody and their dog is an Internet star, but back then she was something of a pioneer.

"I was sort of the first Facebook," said Olson, only half-kidding, about the community that sprang up around Anacam. "If you put a webcam on everybody's Facebook, which I'm sure is what will happen, because people Skype so much now, then yeah, everyone will know what it's like to be me."

At the moment, what it's like to be Olson is to be in semi-recovery from self-exposure. Along with the fun she had with Anacam, there was a dark side -- the stalkers, haters and gossips who populate the Internet, and a very real energy-suck. For Olson, Anacam was akin to giving a performance, but with no dressing room to find safe harbor in.

"I got sick the first month of Anacam because there was 7 million people watching me, and I felt depleted," she said. "I didn't feel really grounded, and I just wanted to sleep a lot. And I realized I wasn't filtering all that energy that was coming at me."

For Olson, part of her grounding process has included marrying Matthew Bruce (whom she met via -- what else? -- Anacam), and raising their two daughters, who were conceived and born on camera. "I was 40, he was 25, and he had insightful comments, and we connected in a good way," she said.

Olson launched her stage career as leader of '90s local rockers the Blue Up?, with whom she often performed shirtless. That exhibitionism led directly to the no-fear philosophy of Anacam, but at the moment it all feels pretty tame, considering the tsunami of personal information that comes over the electronic transom every day.

Olson turned off Anacam in 2009 after living online for 12 years. She still maintains the website, through which fans can purchase Olson-designed clothes and read her riffs on a book she'd like to write about male-female energy, pornography, feng shui and the Internet. But for the moment, her main contribution is just long posts on Facebook.

"I miss showing people stuff, talking to people, and the photography of it. I miss almost all of the aspects of it -- I don't miss the people who stalk me to this day. But I would like to have my cam again and show how my house is being decorated. It's fun having a cam, but I don't want a bunch of creepy guys looking at my daughters. I just won't go there."