HBO’s Documentary ‘Fake Famous’ Combines My Personal and Professional Worlds


It was a normal Tuesday night during the pandemic and I found myself in yet another “what should we watch” conversation with my sister. Little did I know, she would choose HBO’s new documentary “Fake Famous” which would occupy my mind for the days and nights following our viewing “party” that Tuesday night.


Nick Bilton writes and directs this documentary where he explores Instagram Influencers and conducts his own social experiment to see if he can take three random people and get them to be “fake famous.” From staging his three test subjects in exclusive experiences and increasing fake followings (a.k.a. buying bots) on their social media, Nick was able to gain attention and traction for these three L.A. common folk to become “influencers”. Just think: a toilet seat staged as a private jet window!


In case you haven’t had the chance to watch it, all three of the selected test subjects had very different experiences with the process. One in particular, Dominique, grew a following quickly and had no problem with the massive quantity of Russian bot followers that Nick was purchasing for her. Wylie on the other hand, turned his account to private in the middle of filming, and said it was the best thing he could have done for himself in that moment.


So, what does this all mean for someone like me, who spends hours of my day working on influencer marketing for our various clients? Of course, I know these bots exist, and of course I am wary that not everything I see on Instagram is exactly what it may look like in real life… (#InstagramvsReality).


I am proud to be a part of an agency like Hollywood where we use a combination of technology and actual people vetting influencers to make sure they are authentic. We measure engagement to find the best representatives of our brands, rather than just sending products to any person on Instagram who reaches out to us or appears to have a large following. Influencer marketing is a tedious, yet a very rewarding and effective part of our day to day. It is tedious for a reason, to weed out these people who may not be as authentic as they portray on their Instagram.


That’s how I feel about it professionally. Personally, I think it is just as - if not more - important to understand the messages behind this documentary. I pride myself on not altering my pictures on Instagram and trying to keep it casual and fun. I even have one friend whose captions read: “Comment your… ‘favorite salad dressing’ or ‘favorite ride at Disney World’” always accompanied by #MakeInstagramCasualAgain. Instagram can be a very daunting, curated and competitive platform for people.


I hope we are cautious, and as our friend from the documentary Wylie would say “not taking this too seriously.” The third test subject Chris even stated that whatever he puts on his Instagram, he wants people to feel and believe in. Chris would “rather be broke and real than rich and fake” which I loved almost as much as I loved his fashion and his life story.


Both professionally and personally, I learned a lot from the new HBO documentary Fake Famous. As a lesson to myself and us all, I am carefully proceeding with my time on Instagram and posting authentically while also finding authentic fits for our clients.