When Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeff Goldblum and More Stars Met Flat Stanley — and Inspired a Sweet Reunion!
While doing some spring cleaning in June, New York City photographer Amanda Crommett stumbled across her Flat Stanley photo album from the third grade, made a short video and shared it on TikTok. Her post went viral and led to a friendship with the stranger who took the pictures of her Flat Stanley posing with celebrities.
"It kind of blew up," says Crommett, 31. "He had always wondered where [the album] went, and I had always wondered who he was. It's this beautiful marriage of social media bringing people together, and kismet."
Crommett remembers her third grade class at Chelsea's PS11 reading a Flat Stanley book by Jeff Brown. Then everyone in the class made their own paper doll as part of The Flat Stanley Project, founded in 1995.
Crommett drew pigtails on her paper doll and added fingernail polish and a sweatshirt from the Gap, which was a sponsor of the program. She named her new paper friend "Flat Lisa."
Usually, school children send their Flat Stanleys to friends and family around the world and ask them to photograph it in interesting places — but in April 2000, the Gap paired students in Crommett's class with Gap employees.
Crommett's doll was selected by then-Gap-designer Lisa Davis since the doll had her same name. She went above and beyond the assignment when she asked her husband, celebrity photographer Jake Chessum, to join in the fun.
"My wife brought it home and was like, 'Okay, what are we going to do with this?'" says Chessum, now 55.
"We knew what you had to do was take it around and make interesting pictures," he adds.
Davis suggested Chessum take Flat Lisa on the road with him to California, Arizona and Washington State.
"I was insanely busy with a bunch of celebrity assignments and a lot of travel," he remembers.
Chessum photographed "Flat Lisa" at airports, resting in a hotel bed, talking on his cell phone and posing with the Limo driver. At the end of all his photoshoots, he pulled out a separate camera, explained the project and all but one person he asked agreed to pose with Flat Lisa.
He wound up photographing the paper doll with the likes of David Bowie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rosie Perez, Jeff Goldblum, Sandra Bernhard, Debi Mazar, Giovanni Ribisi, Busta Rhymes and Patrick Stewart. The stars all autographed the back of the doll too.
"I remember Sarah Jessica Parker was absolutely lovely and said, 'Oh my God, yes! I love Flat Stanley,'" Chessum says. "She kissed it! There's a picture of her kissing Flat Stanley. It's fun!"
Davis then put the photos into a scrapbook along with his various plane tickets and mini bios for the stars.
"Lisa put together the book and wrote all the captions. It was so sweet and it had little stickers and little annotations, because obviously we knew this was a kid who wouldn't necessarily know who a lot of the people were," he says.
"I guess everyone knows who Sarah Jessica Parker is," he adds, "but a 10-year-old in Brooklyn might not know who Bowie or Busta Rhymes are — you just don't know."
When Amanda received the book, she was thrilled to see that her Flat Stanley got to ride in a limo, but she was also a little jealous of her classmates who instead received Gap swag as gifts with their Flat Stanleys.
"We started flipping through it and my face kind of fell. Because I was like, 'Who are all these people?'" says Crommett. "My teacher came over and she was totally stunned because it was filled with pictures of my Flat Stanley with a bunch of celebrities."
Crommett wrote Chessum a thank you note and saved the album, which would end up inspiring her June 6 TikTok video.
"When your flat Stanley was randomly assigned to a photographer in 2000 and 3rd grade you didn't fully grasp the icons she met," she wrote in the clip, which has since been liked by over 219,000 users.
One of those followers saw the reel, found a New York Times Magazine story Chessum had photographed and messaged him.
"I had a message on Instagram from a photographer that I didn't know saying, 'Did you see this? It's on TikTok. I think you are the photographer,'" Chessum tells PEOPLE. "I was just blown away, completely amazed... Because from time to time, I really did wonder what had happened to her and [the album]."
Chessum says knowing that Crommett saved his work and grew up to become a professional photographer herself "is icing on the cake!"
The fast friends had the chance to marvel at fate on June 16, when they met for the first time in New York.
"We hugged it out straight away," Chessum says. "It's like the best thing on Instagram that's ever happened."
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