Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire

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The Ostrengas called the police. The investigation took Kiki off-guard: a series of graphic interviews; a pelvic exam in which a doctor searched for remnants of her hymen; meetings with a victim's advocate, who told her parents, "If she doesn't get counseling, she's either going to become more promiscuous or she's going to hate guys." Kiki tried to stay calm. She sought refuge in the online life she had created. But her two worlds had veered into each another and were now spinning way beyond her control. The investigation into her rape was unfolding amid the nonstop noise of her growing fan base and intensifying backlash. Because while Kirsten Ostrenga's life was falling apart, Kiki Kannibal continued posting as though nothing had happened. Buzznet, a popular online community, had approached Kiki to blog about pop-culture trends, expanding her Internet fame. The online death threats were still swirling. The Web was filling up with fake Kiki Kannibal profiles, mostly malicious ones, but some calling themselves "role players": imitators who saw Kiki as a style icon, posing as her in tribute. It was very confusing. At a show of the metalcore band the Devil Wears Prada, Kiki was swarmed by guys in their twenties who pleaded to take her photo — but as the camera clicked, one man punched her in the head. And then the Ostrenga house was vandalized, waking the family up to how vulnerable they had become.

Two weeks after the vandalism, Cathy Ostrenga was folding laundry when Rosa's words from months earlier rang in her head. You ain't gonna be around no more. Cathy's mind raced. How would Rosa react once Danny was arrested for Kiki's rape? For that matter, how far would any of Kiki's stalkers go to hurt the family?

Days later, the Ostrengas packed up and moved, leaving their house an empty shell. "I asked the detective, 'Are we going to end up being killed?'" Cathy recalls. "And he told me, 'I'm going to be blunt with you. If somebody wants to kill you, they're probably going to succeed.'"

Kiki unplugged from the Internet for three weeks while the Ostrengas settled in at her grandmother's house near Orlando, three hours north of Coral Springs. Insulated from the chatter, Kiki felt calmer. When she finally logged back on, it was with the faint hope that the tempest had died down. Instead, Kiki discovered pages of hate mail, as well as a notice that MySpace was kicking her off for unspecified "disorderly conduct." Kiki was stung, but rather than pull back and leave her online life behind, she went in search of a forum to project herself even more aggressively onto the Web.

She found it in Stickam.com, a then-new site where teen users stream themselves live while IM'ing with viewers. "I felt like it'd be a chance for people to get to know me," Kiki explains. "I wanted to show them, 'Hey, the girl you're seeing on MySpace with all this hate is not me.' That I have feelings. I wanted to be more relatable." She was sick of feeling like a victim; this was her chance to turn things around. Besides, if she left the virtual world, she'd have to return to being Kirsten Ostrenga full-time, an unappealing prospect: a traumatized, friendless girl, a girl drowning in guilt for her family's ordeal. They were terrorized and uprooted. Her father had taken a substantial pay cut in order to quickly find a new job in the area. "I wasn't in a position to negotiate," says Scott. "We needed to get the hell out of there." And until their Coral Springs house sold, their family of five would be squeezed in with Grandma. No, it was far better to be Kiki Kannibal, fierce and funny and free.

Kiki Kannibal broadcasting on Stickam.com, a site where teen users stream themselves live while IM'ing with viewers.

Her Stickam debut, in July 2007, was emblematic of Kiki Kannibal posts to come. In it, 14-year-old Kiki dances like a lunatic to Styx's "Mr. Roboto" dressed in an oversize top and a hoodie with kitty ears. But as the song reaches its climax, Kiki wiggles out of her panties and strips off her shirt, revealing a minidress that, too baggy for her flat chest, droops to expose one pink bra cup. Undeterred, Kiki dances the remaining minute of the song with her boob out. "People really loved that video," she says. "They thought it was really funny. So that was encouragement to do more." She became a Lolita-ish teenage diarist, whispering to the camera, winking, showing too much skin and lingerie — wielding her sexuality like a clumsy weapon, still innocent as to the effects of its power. Hundreds of viewers tuned in. Then thousands. Then, incredibly, tens of thousands. To date, the "Mr. Roboto" video has been viewed 387,000 times.

Her parents thought her videos were adorable. "We've always had a philosophy of letting the kids express their creativity, as long as they're not harming themselves," explains Scott softly. "There's always been supervision behind it. But we've been more permissive from a certain perspective." Cathy advised her daughter to take a "block and delete" strategy against unwanted commenters, banishing them from her chat room when they posted vulgar statements like "I want to put my cock in your mouth." This was welcome advice to Kiki, who simply wanted to bask in the praise of the new friends who loved her. Their attention and approval gave her the affirmation she yearned for. In no time Kiki Kannibal became one of Stickam's top entertainers. "It was definitely a boost of confidence," says Kiki. She even started flirting with boys online again.

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