Invisibilia: He Mocked Celebrity, Then Came To Crave It Himself : Shots - Health News This week the NPR program Invisibilia talks with a guy who despised our mindless worship of celebrities. So he devised an elaborate prank. It succeeded in ways he never would have anticipated.
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Invisibilia: He Mocked Celebrity, Then Came To Crave It Himself

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Invisibilia: He Mocked Celebrity, Then Came To Crave It Himself

Invisibilia: He Mocked Celebrity, Then Came To Crave It Himself

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/487817962/487884895" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Power posing is the idea that you can just arrange your body in a confident position, like raising your arms in a V - like I'm doing now - and you can feel more confident. Basically fake it 'til you make it. This weekend, the NPR program Invisibilia examines this question - can meaningful change happen this way, from outside in? Hanna Rosin has the story of a young guy who tried posing as something he wasn't to prove a point. And the results were not what he expected.

HANNA ROSIN, BYLINE: When he was in college, the thing that annoyed Brett Cohen the most was celebrity culture.

BRETT COHEN: There's so many people who are famous nowadays for doing absolutely nothing, just for living and driving cars and wearing clothes, showing up at events, walking the red carpet, putting out a sex tape.

ROSIN: Plenty of us have felt this way. But one day, noting the intensity of worship a single reality star could get...

COHEN: Thirty million followers on Instagram.

ROSIN: ...Brett had a devious idea.

COHEN: (Laughter).

ROSIN: A way he thought would prove to us all just what celebrity-worshipping suckers we all are.

COHEN: I said, well, what if we just created, like, a fake celebrity entourage?

ROSIN: What if he and his friends just manufactured all the trappings of celebrity and then just stuck Brett in the middle of it?

COHEN: And eventually, that evolved into let's do that and walk through Times Square on a - you know, a busy Friday night and let's just see how many people actually will think I'm famous.

ROSIN: So a few days later, Brett gets a couple of guys to play bodyguards, recruits another friend to be his assistant and then gets a whole swarm of people to be the paparazzi.

COHEN: Basically anyone who owned a camera with a flash was qualified to be a paparazzi.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMERA SHUTTER)

ROSIN: And then the day came. It was a very hot day. And Brett, who's normally kind of schlubby (ph) in sweatpants and a t-shirt, he cleaned himself up.

COHEN: I got a pair of really tight jeans.

ROSIN: Big sunglasses.

COHEN: An Italian button-down shirt.

ROSIN: Spiked hair.

COHEN: My mom put a little bit of makeup on me.

ROSIN: And then he and his entourage headed to midtown Manhattan. They slipped into the NBC building, headed right back out the revolving doors and...

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "FAKE CELEBRITY PRANKS NEW YORK CITY")

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

ROSIN: ...People go crazy. This is actual tape from the day. His friend Edward filmed it. In it, you can see Brett trying to walk down the block, but circles of fans keep surrounding him. Edward stands next to him interviewing people.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "FAKE CELEBRITY PRANKS NEW YORK CITY")

EDWARD STURM: Do you know Brett Cohen?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

STURM: Where do you know him from?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When he's Spiderman?

STURM: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

STURM: Yeah. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Very good actor.

ROSIN: And then there were the groupies, the adoring and very attractive groupies.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "FAKE CELEBRITY PRANKS NEW YORK CITY")

STURM: Guys, what was it like meeting Brett?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Only the best day of my life.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I love him.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Can I just say that he's beautiful?

COHEN: You know, not to say anything about those girls, but I definitely think I could've gotten any of their numbers.

ROSIN: And then a few hours into the night, something unexpected happened to Brett. He'd gone into a Walgreens to buy himself a bottle of water.

COHEN: And two security guards came up to me. They said, sir, is everything OK? I said yes. He said, is there a problem? Like, what's going on? I said, I'm just buying some water. What do you mean? And then he just pointed at about 50 to 60 people who followed me in and were taking pictures of me, waiting on line.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMERA SHUTTER)

COHEN: Me.

ROSIN: And Brett says seeing all those people, something cracked open inside him.

COHEN: It was - it was just really crazy. All these complete strangers were just completely fawning over me. And...

ROSIN: He knew he was supposed to feel disgust and contempt, but...

COHEN: ...I was loving it.

ROSIN: Staring into the eyes of all those adoring strangers, a new question floated into his mind.

COHEN: How do I now shed this?

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMERA SHUTTER)

ROSIN: How could he shake this off? He'd started out faking it. But now you really wanted it.

COHEN: Yeah.

ROSIN: And maybe Brett had always wanted to be a celebrity and was just masking it with disdain. Or maybe deep down, we all just crave attention. But whatever it was, Brett had changed. At some point in the night, this role he'd been playing, it had become him. And he wasn't sure if he could shake it off.

COHEN: It's sort of an irreversible thing. How do you go from being the center of attention of all these people to just, like, all right, well, I want to just go home? Like, walking away from it was the hard part.

ROSIN: And four years later, Brett still hasn't walked away. The video of his experiment went viral, which he also loved.

COHEN: Yeah.

ROSIN: And when an LA production company approached him about hosting a reality show...

COHEN: I'm not going to lie, I was really excited about that.

ROSIN: That never got off the ground. But this craving he has for fame, it won't leave him.

COHEN: How ironic is that?

ROSIN: So if you step into a role, even if you're faking it, it can change you. Change from the outside in can work.

COHEN: I was just on cloud nine. I was just so happy.

ROSIN: It can turn an avid celebrity hater into a wannabe.

COHEN: Do I think it would be awesome? Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTUBE VIDEO, "FAKE CELEBRITY PRANKS NEW YORK CITY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I love him.

COHEN: How could I say no to that?

ROSIN: Yeah.

COHEN: How could I say no to that (laughter)?

ROSIN: Hanna Rosin, NPR News.

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