“Who do you think you are?”
“Nobody cares how many books you’ve read.”
“Non-conformity is also a performance.”
If I hadn’t personally signed myself up to receive Co–Star’s famously passive aggressive push notifications, I’d probably be offended. My camera roll is full of them, screenshot for posterity: some I saved because they arrived at the exact time I needed to hear them, others because they were downright brutal (see above), and a lot because they delivered an element of joy and whimsy that none of my other notifications do, like the reminder I received a couple of months ago to try being a plant for a day.
As long as I’ve had Co–Star, I’ve wondered who exactly is behind the notifications that blow up my phone screen each morning (and the only Instagram memes I still bother tagging friends in). It turns out that person is Stone Parkway, Co–Star’s Community Ambassador. Stone is a Pisces sun, Cancer moon, and Taurus rising, and—along with the brand’s head writer— creates and distributes all of Co–Star’s social content, including memes and push notifications. Below, Stone and I talk astrology in the workplace, the art of making people feel “seen,” and what happens when there are too many water signs on the one team.
So, what exactly do you do at Co–Star?
I run our social media, I make all our memes and our push notifications, and I write content for our app. I’m on the internet a lot.
How did you end up working at Co–Star?
I actually went to school for animation. After school, I was interning at Adult Swim doing animation on the show FishCenter Live. I transferred to New York and met Banu Guler, our CEO and founder, because we ran in the same social circles. A mutual friend connected us and we met up at the Arlo Hotel one day. We sat in the lobby, and she asked me about the app and any ideas I had, and I was just kind of hired on the spot.
It was completely surprising. I mean, I love astrology—I’ve always loved astrology—but it never seemed like something I could make a career out of.
Co–Star has such a specific tone. Can you tell me a little about the thought behind the brand’s voice?
Yeah, definitely. When I’m writing things I want it to feel like this ex-punk, cool older sister who you trust and would smoke weed with, but who would also remind you of that embarrassing note you wrote to your crush in fifth grade. We write things the way that we talk to our friends and the way that we want our friends to talk to us.
How exactly does one go about making a Co–Star meme?
Our memes always have some kind of header and then a little snippet for every sign. Most of the header ideas come out of actual conversations that I’m having with my friends or colleagues. Our head writer, Ona, and I are in conversation about meme ideas all the time. We’re both Pisces, so we work very intuitively together and we’ve been able to incorporate each other’s styles in this really cool way. I don’t know, it just feels very seamless, probably because there aren’t that many people involved.
It actually makes a lot of sense to me that you’re both Pisces, because I’m a Pisces and I’m honestly always so taken aback by the Pisces content on your Instagram.
Oh, people always write in about how mean we are to Pisces. And it’s just because Pisces are self-deprecating and we’re all just being mean to ourselves.
Do you have a personal favorite meme that you’ve posted on Instagram?
It’s got to be [this one].
I need to talk about the infamous Co–Star notifications. What do you think it is that makes them so chaotic (in a good way)?
I try to write things the way that I want my friends to confront me when they notice some kind of behavioral pattern that’s negative. I think a lot of the discourse around “self-care” these days often promotes a kind of coddling and a validation that it’s good. Sometimes you need to be spoken to in a tender and soft way, but sometimes you need the truth to be said to you more bluntly in order for it to actually push through. And in my experience, the blunt truth is the one that actually sticks with me, the one that wakes me up and makes me change my behaviors.
What are some of your favorite Co–Star notifications?
My favorite notification I’ve written is: “Tie a love letter to a brick and throw it through their window.” It was originally a line from one of my poems. To me, it’s the most romantic gesture imaginable. I also really liked, “Turn your wet dream into a wet reality” and, “Wear your heart on your sleeve, set your sleeve on fire.” I just want to encourage people to get over their fear of rejection and find each other in real life.
Are there some days when you’re working on a notification and you’re like, “This one is really going to get people going?”
A lot of the push notifications just come from Ona and I talking to each other and giving each other advice on our own lives. That said, in general, I think we’re good at catching any that are too blunt or too mean before they go out. Our purpose isn’t to be mean. We want to be helpful and we want to say things that may be difficult to hear but in a loving way.
Do you two read a lot of the online commentary around your notifications?
Definitely. I’m always looking at what people are saying about the notifications. It’s really sweet to see that. There was this cool little meme going on where people were mimicking the notifications on Twitter.
I’ve seen an amazing one of those about a clown suit that I thought was very funny.
That’s the best one! I really, really loved that.
┃🌔 CO — STAR ┃
┃𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗮𝘁 𝗮 𝗴𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 ┃
┃I see you’ve got ur clown ┃
┃suit on like you always do ┃
— a (@brokeangeI) March 16, 2019
Do you talk about astrology with your team at work, outside of relevant work conversations?
Yes! Most of the time when I’m talking to people at work, it’s about astrology. Banu, our CEO, will say something about her personal life and I’ll be like, “Oh, of course, Scorpio,” or Ona will talk to me about her personal life and I’ll reference her planet placements.
When Co–Star started, we were all water signs, which made a lot of sense because our job requires a lot of empathy to send this content out to people and have it be relatable. You have to be very empathetic.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
One of the hardest things is dealing with negative comments on social media… it’s hard to not take the shit-posting personally. People can be incredibly mean. People also assume there’s an entire team fielding their comments instead of just a 22-year-old with a seltzer habit. And I’m a Pisces, I’m very sensitive.
On the flip side, what would you say is the most satisfying part of your job?
I wouldn’t have described this job as “my ideal job” but then I fell into it and it was the perfect fit. I didn’t think I could have a job where I write a lot of poetry, but I kind of get to do that here. I also really love astrology and those two things get to map together in a certain fun way here. I’m also working with people that I really immensely respect.
And finally, I wanted to ask about your name, because it’s truly amazing.
Oh, it’s a funny mix of things. I went to school at CalArts, which is located on McBean Parkway and so as a joke—because I hated the name McBean—my friends used to call me McBean Parkway. My middle name is Stone and when I started at Co–Star and told people at the office, they had me cut the McBean and just go by Stone Parkway.
Graphics by Lorenza Centi.