Pop culture writer and queen of the throwback Randi Bergman made ’90s babies squeal when, earlier this year, she took to Instagram to share a time capsule that she made over the course of a year at 13 and recently discovered in the back of her childhood closet. Little did she know then, thoroughly documenting the movies that she snuck into as a teen, her crushes from the year 1998, and her borderline obsession with The Backstreet Boys, the capsule would become a catalyst for our collective nostalgia (awkward pen pal letters, anyone?). Randi’s year of unpacking memories may be almost over, but don’t worry, she has a brand new ’90s-themed podcast to fill that Aaron Carter-shaped hole in your young, impressionable heart, and it’s about to become your new favorite. We sat down with the purveyor of hair mascara and tamagotchis to talk her dream podcast guests, run-ins with Jason Priestley, and the joy in reconnecting with your younger self.
Your time capsule is amazing—obviously because the ’90s was a great decade, but also because it’s extremely relatable. What was your initial reaction when you discovered it?
I died. I didn’t remember making it, which is crazy because it took an entire year to make. I was obviously really detailed and obsessed with it, so it was shocking that I would have no recollection. I spent weeks going through it over and over again, crying laughing.
How would you describe your 13-year-old self?
Confident to the point of delusion. Everything I read in the capsule was like, “I’m a star. Girl power.” I was very crafty and creative. Obsessive, in a similar way to most 13-year-old girls. As part of the time capsule, I found a diary from the same time, and it’s really interesting because I think that time period marks a big change in girls. The beginning of my diary is very teeny bopper-y. Everything is pop culture-related—Backstreet Boys, Hansen, whatever. The older you get, around 13 or 14, you start becoming obsessed with boys. Everything is about crushes and who you’re going to kiss—that’s funny.
As a kid, I had a similar laser focus on detail and obsession with documenting everything, from who I went to a certain movie with to what I got for Christmas that year. Do you still have that desire, consciously or subconsciously?
I do and I don’t. I guess Instagram is the closest version of documenting your life, and I am very obsessive about that. I don’t record every single moment of my life, but if something important happened, I want to get a good photo, and I want to make sure it’s on my ‘gram. I don’t diary anymore, which I guess is too bad because I should. Now everything is visual, so there’s not that tactile documentation anymore, where you’re always writing or collaging or putting pictures somewhere. I would say I’m still documenting but just on social, and now there’s no physical limit on what you can post. I get all those facebook reminders, like, this was 10 years ago. And you’re like, what the fuck? Why did I post all those pictures of being drunk with my friends?
Did anything make you cringe like that when you looked through the time capsule?
I think the difference is that cringing over something you wrote 10 years ago—you were an adult then. So yeah, I cringed, but in a cute way. It’s funny because there is so much distance, and you’re also not a fully formed human. You’re, like, 13.
Some people from your past have reached out to you since the capsule went viral, including one of your crushes from ‘98, and some you’ve found through Instagram, like a former pen pal you met on vacation. What’s that like?
It’s funny for crushes to reach out because those are people that are kind of still in my orbit. You know how I have that list of crushes? Apparently all of them know about it and were talking to each other about it. Not that they’ve all said something to me, but that’s a bit funny. I would say that’s the only thing that borders on, ehhh. My pen pal—that’s amazing because that’s somebody that I legit do not know one thing about. He sent me this long email about what his life is like. I haven’t talked to him except maybe once or twice when I was 12. Like, that’s crazy.
Let’s talk about your new podcast, Capsule 98. How did the idea for it come about?
I have conversations with people all the time, and I love talking about [the time capsule]. It’s like you were saying before—it’s so relatable. Everybody remembers those formative moments. I’m also just a very chatty person, so it seemed natural to make this happen. The dream is to have a million ‘90s people on it.
Podcasts are kind of having a moment right now. Why do you think that is?
I actually wonder about that because podcasts are, in a way, such an old-school method of communication. They’re like old radio shows from before we were even born. Maybe it’s sort of a hark back to different types of storytelling. I always find that, personally, the ones that I respond to the most are podcasts that take me somewhere else. So, I’m not really listening to podcasts about Kylie Jenner or whatever because I do that enough in my daytime. I find that it’s just a fun way to escape. I guess it boils down to the fact that people are always into storytelling and learning about other people.
What are your goals in launching it?
I want to keep it open and just see where it goes. I love the community aspect of it. I also want to engage these ‘90s stars and get them talking and reminiscing because a lot of them don’t necessarily talk about these things anymore. When I became re-obsessed with the ‘90s, or just obsessed with the ‘90s in retrospect a few years ago when it started to bubble up, I was so obsessed with 90210 in particular. I became known as “90210 girl” because I was just nonstop live-tweeting reruns. Jason Priestley’s always in Toronto, and if he was ever at a party, his PR team would invite me. Every time I would talk to him, I would be like, I’m not going to bring up the ‘90s because he probably doesn’t want to talk about it. And then it turns out that they actually only want to talk about that stuff. So, I think that that’s an interesting thing too—bringing these people in to talk about the most obvious, amazing parts of their life that people assume they don’t want to talk about.
Who are your dream guests?
The Backstreet Boys, obviously. I don’t even know what the hell I’d say to them because I’d just probably cry. You know who really would be a dream guest? Thora Birch. I loved her as a kid. Just the cast of Now and Then: Thora Birch, Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci. Also, Tori Spelling, Fran Drescher, Winona Ryder, Chloë Sevigny. Literally anybody from the ‘90s, but those people in particular. Oh my god, and Showgirls was my favorite movie, so Elizabeth Berkley or Gina Gershon. Actually, they would be my number one.
Now and Then is one of my favorite movies! I have all these old CDs that I can only play in my car, so I listen to the Now & Then soundtrack all the time.
I still remember the cover of that really well.
Yeah, with the photo strip?
Yeah. I actually just watched that movie again. I was at my parents’ house the other day, and they still have a VHS player. We never use it, and I’m like, why don’t we take advantage of these billions of movies that we have? So my mom and I marathoned a bunch of movies, and one of them was Now and Then. I think I was crying through the whole thing—I could not get over how much I miss and love that movie. I had three best friends at the time, and I was like, obviously we are these people.
What have you learned about yourself throughout this whole experience?
It’s a nice reminder of who I was as a kid—fun, confident, and silly. That’s kind of native to who I am. Also, I’ve gone freelance in the last year, and I’m always thinking, what’s my next project going to be? I have to do something that’s so cool and revolutionary. [I’ve learned that] it’s about being yourself and following the things that you genuinely love talking about and enjoy rather than doing something because you think you should. There’s nothing that makes me laugh harder or gets me going more than these kinds of conversations, reminiscing about things, and reading my diary. It’s just a reminder to use that as your inspiration rather than looking outside. It’s like the 21st century version of “write what you know.”
Lead photo by Renata Kaveh