Author Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “In love there are two things – bodies and words.” Looking for love isn’t for the faint of heart. We’ve probably all been on the hurt end as well as the one causing the hurt, intentionally or not, at one point in our lives. It can be a cold, cruel world out there but with the inventions of social media profiles and dating apps, it can be even harder and I’m betting that Joyce Carol Oates would agree. Because what happens when you can’t be sure that those words making you fall in love are coming from the particular body that you think they are?
Catfishing is what can happen and it’s becoming something of an epidemic. There’s even a TV show dedicated to it as well as a couple of a movies. Motives aren’t always the same but the result of heartbreak is sure to hit its victims across the board.
Thanks to catfishing being such an open topic these days, it’s easy enough to figure out ways to catch your own catfish in a lie. With reverse number lookups, reverse image searching with Google and pretty much the fact that if your online love refuses to video chat with you, you can confirm the truth for yourself. We all probably know a co-worker’s cousin or have a former roommate’s best friend’s brother’s boss who has been a victim of this heartbreaking emotional nightmare but our favorite stars would never fall for this, would they? Even though at times it can seem that celebrities are immune to much of the wear and tear us everyday folks are subjected to, like falling in love with people who are pretending to be other people, but here, as proof that celebs can lend their tender hearts to internet tricksters just like anyone else, are fifteen celebrities who were absolutely catfished.
15. Nev Schulman
In 2010, budding filmmaker and photographer, Yaniv “Nev” Schulman met a young girl, Abby, who reached out to him after she painted a photograph that he took. He then proceeded to meet (via phone calls and online chats) her entire family. His filmmaker brother and friend chronicled the journey of Nev meeting his true love, Megan Faccio, who (spoiler alert) doesn’t exist and the photos turned out to be of Aimee Gonzalez, happily married photographer who was completely unaware of Nev or his story. As it turned out, Angela Wesselman was the one using Aimee’s photos (without her permission) and was behind every character that Nev was introduced to since hearing from Abby. Some consider Wesselman to be the ultimate catfish. Nev created the term “catfish” from an interview with Wesselman’s husband and has parlayed his own experience into hosting the MTV show of the same name, helping others discover if their online love is who they say they are or is, in fact, a catfish. More often times, it’s the latter but Nev still holds out hope that he can unite the hopeful wisher with a face that matches the online profile unlike his own experience.
14. Brad Paisley And Kimberly Williams-Paisley
When Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Father of the Bride actress, heard of a young girl named Claire dying from neuroblastoma who had a dying wish to hear from her favorite actress and maybe an endearing rendition of a classic, soothing song from Kimberly’s famous country singing powerhouse husband, she and Brad were touched. They responded to Claire’s mother, Carrie, to learn how they could help. Photos were sent along with letters and contact was made to the dying little girl. Brad sang Amazing Grace over to the phone to Claire. When Claire passed away, Brad and Kimberly were deeply saddened and inquired about funeral arrangements when Carrie requested a photo of the couple for Claire’s casket. However, sadness turned to confusion when the couple couldn’t seem to get a clear answer about Claire’s funeral from Carrie. The couple wanted to send flowers but Carrie insisted that they make a donation to a children’s hospital instead. It didn’t seem to add up to the couple so Brad turned to investigators, providing the GPS-encrypted photos they had received from Carrie. Investigators were able to track down the location of the online photos and determined that they were sent from a motel room in Wyoming not in Southern California where Claire and Carrie supposedly had lived. Hope Jackson was quickly discovered as the one behind the scam and though she thought that she was just in moral hot water, it turns out that she had unknowingly committed a crime— theft of services for a private concert from one of country’s hottest stars. That Amazing Grace request earned “Claire” aka “Carrie” aka Hope Jackson a jail sentence with parole.
13. Patrick “Pat” McAfee
This story is a little different as punter for the Indianapolis Colts, Pat McAfee was rightfully suspicious when he started to receive tweets from what he describes as a “smoking hot blonde” named Abigail Johnson a few years ago. He took to Twitter to describe Abigail as a willing groupie who offered to meet him at his hotel when he was in town as she lived nearby. Pat thought it best not to reply but Abigail was persistent, direct messaging him lots of flirty messages. Finally, Pat replied with his beliefs that it was a fake account and cut off contact. He had always wondered if he did the right thing however, what if he had in fact closed the door on Abigail Johnson, real girl? His thoughts were put to rest one morning as he turned on the TV and an episode of MTV’s Catfish was playing. The episode chronicled the story of Jarrod, hoping to meet his true online love— you guessed it, a smoking hot blonde by the name of Abigail Johnson. And of course, she wasn’t.
12. Thomas Gibson
Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson fell hard and fast for a gorgeous fan from North Dakota who tweeted some scantily clad pics of herself… supposedly. Apparently, compliments from a gushing fan plus sexually suggestive photos of a very attractive woman overcame his better judgement and he struck up something of an online relationship with the woman, going so far as to send her specially made homemade movies just for her, at least two while he was in a hot tub. The woman behind the hot (and fake) photos reportedly told TMZ that she and Thomas were involved in a two-year online romance. She admitted that the photos she sent to him were ones that she stole from porn sites. When the actor found this out, he had his lawyer send her a letter which promptly ended the relationship. Too bad Hotch wasn’t available to sniff out this catfish.
11. Kate Gosselin
Star of Kate Plus 8 and Dancing with the Stars alum Kate Gosselin was another victim of Hope Jackson. She tricked Kate into thinking that her young dying and fictional daughter’s dying wish was to have contact with the reality mom. Kate bought into the story, hook line and sinker and felt so sorry for the girl that she dedicated an episode of Kate Plus 8 to her. For this scam, Hope Jackson used her own name as the suffering young cancer patient so Kate had the message “In Loving Memory of Hope” display after one episode. Kate said when she found out that the heartbreaking story was a trick, she screamed.
10. Manti Te’o
Some say that Manti Te’o, current linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, knows a thing or two about playing on the field and unfortunately, getting played off the field. However others say that Manti Te’o was a full participant in a scam that involved catfishing himself. Back in 2009, Te’o reportedly gave dreamy interviews about meeting his true love and long-distance girlfriend Lennay Kekua. Te’o won hearts, seemingly fully committed to becoming the next big NFL star and real life hero to his sweetheart who seemed to have fallen on bad times. First, there was a car crash in which she was severely injured. Then came a diagnosis of late stage leukemia. In interviews, Te’o vowed to be there for his true love until the end. After her passing, two sportswriters received an anonymous tip that Te’o had gotten catfished by someone pretending to be the face of the photos he saw and once he discovered the ruse, he invented her death to exit the fictitious relationship while saving face. The sportswriters pulled some rather suspicious points from the footballer’s stories and some say that he faked the entire scam for publicity.
9. R. Prophet
R. Prophet, rapper from Nappy Roots, was a celebrity catfishee seeking help on the MTV show. After falling helplessly in love with a beautiful girl he believed to be named Trinity, he had grown frustrated over the classic catfish signs— the biggest one being that Trinity was never able to video chat. And in today’s times of iPhones and Skype, that’s pretty much a no-brainer as far as catfish clues go. Of course, the hosts of Catfish were very quickly able to determine that “Trinity” never existed, her photo was stolen and it turns out that the real girl behind the photo was Chris Brown’s ex. The voice and mind behind “Trinity” was in fact, Crystal, a middle-aged middle school worker from Crestwood, Kentucky. The rapper decided to forgive the trickster and reportedly, they are still in touch. As friends. Only. He’s moved on, by tweeting out that he’s on the market and has received several replies from (hopefully) real girls. I personally recommend a FaceTime preliminary screening.
8. Bow Wow
Back in 2013, life was pretty great for a young girl named Keyonna. Not only was she in a relationship with rapper Bow Wow but she was about to appear on a national TV show… because she wasn’t entirely sure that she was dating Bow Wow due to the minor fact that they had never met and “Bow Wow” refused to video chat. Okay so maybe things weren’t going great but she seemed to hold out hope that perhaps the young rapper really did have a busted camera. Hmm, perhaps not. Not surprising to anyone at all, “Bow Wow” turned out not only being a fake but not even a man at all. Budding rapper Dee Pimpin is the name of the girl behind the faked Bow Wow profile and she hoped to not only love but start a rapping career. Bow Wow was nice enough to take things in stride and accept the imitation as flattery. Sadly but not shockingly, any chances of online romance or new rap careers did not come to fruition.
7. John Henson
Former Talk Soup and Wipeout host John Henson told a producer for Nightline that he spent a period of two weeks communicating via email with the mother of a young daughter suffering from neuroblastoma, which is a fatal form of cancer. She claimed that her daughter was a huge fan of Wipeout and it was her dying daughter’s wish to talk to the host. John was touched by this, as expected, and any doubts were erased when he received handwritten letters and pictures sent to him from the sick girl. Sound familiar at all? Well that’s because Hope Jackson struck again, this time calling herself Katherine and her dying daughter Scarlet. Eventually John became suspicious because “Katherine” aka Hope apparently forgot to do her homework and was unable to answer questions about “Scarlet’s” condition. After hiring a personal investigator to look into it, the truth came out. Nightline actually tracked down Hope Jackson and after a psychiatrist watched the interview, he declared that she was suffering from “Munchausen by Internet.”
6. Meri Brown
Wife #1 from TLC’s Sister Wives, Meri Brown, says that she felt a connection to Sam, a man she met online. At first, they struck up a friendship and Meri found it easy to chat with him because they seemed to have so many things in common. Sam was a typical Southern gentleman, courteous and thoughtful to Meri’s feelings and eventually the friendship turned to more of a courtship, from Sam’s end, at least according to Meri. She says that even after she told Sam she was a married woman and nothing could happen between them, Sam would send text messages saying that he loved her. After talking about meeting up, Sam insisted that Meri meet with his female friend instead. Confused, Meri went along and met Sam’s “friend.” Somewhere in the meeting, things took an even stranger turn when the friend, Lindsey, started threatening Meri and her family if she ever did anything to hurt her or Sam. TLC cashed in on this, airing a special chronicling Meri’s online romantic woes called Catching the Catfisher. And as you might have guessed, there was never a man named Sam to begin with.
5. Tracie Thoms
Tracie Thoms is a film and Broadway actress best known for her role in Rent and her work on The Devil Wears Prada. But to MTV fans, she may be best known for being one of the small group of celebrities who looked to the network’s Catfish to help solve an online mystery in their lives. Tracie went to Nev and Max not for help with a romantic potential catfish like R. Prophet but for help with a super fan whose stories were beginning to become more and more outrageous. Sammie, a bonafide Tracie Thoms hardcore fan, was something of a blessing to the actress as she helped spread the word about all of Tracie’s projects on social media platforms like Twitter, which is where she and Sammie first made contact. Sammie Twitter-duced Tracie to Reese, her best friend. And just when Tracie was getting to know Reese, she died from cancer. Tracie was touched and saddened and felt uneasy when Sammie sent Tracie video footage from Reese’s funeral as proof because come on, who does that? Nev and Max were hot on the case and tracked down Sammie, her real name but of course, not the same face as in the photos. She admitted that Reese was fake and ultimately, it was decided that she did it just for the attention. Another case of Munchausen by Internet?
4. Katy Perry
MTV, Katy Perry and six years. All sounds pretty compatible, right? But in this case, it’s no six-year exclusive contract but a six year online romantic relationship that Katy Perry had no idea she was a part of. MTV comes in (wait for it) in the form of the show, Catfish, when a lovestruck eager beaver named Spencer thought he had hit the girlfriend jackpot when somehow the “pop star goddess” (Spencer’s words) picked him out of all the internet to online date. When one day Katy cut off contact and a break up email got lost in cyber space and she refused to send it, Spencer was left with a lot of unfinished business. Naturally, he contacted the show so that Nev and Max could assuage his fears and assure him that he was indeed dating the incredibly famous pop star. Stars in his eyes and a stubborn love in his heart, Spencer, who had spent 25% of his savings on this relationship, refused to believe that the real Katy wasn’t his girlfriend even when he went all the way to England to come face to face with Harriet, the woman who had conned him. To be fair, they did meet in a texting app, she gave him a Canadian phone number and she even sent him never before heard releases to her new tracks aka unavailable YouTube links so it was a fair assumption. Finally, he came to his senses and realized the awful catfish truth… if it seems too good to be true that you’re dating a super famous household name from a texting app, it probably most definitely always is. The real Katy Perry responded to this in an interview saying that her heart goes out to Spencer but you know, just not in that way.
3. Little Big Town
For those of you who are not country music fans, Little Big Town is a four person vocal harmony group (two guys, two girls) from Alabama who have been around since 1998. They also are just four more victims of Hope Jackson, possibly the winner of the Catfish With The Most Time On Their Hands award. However, it appears that things didn’t get so intense as they did with Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, John Henson and Kate Gosselin. The only thing that Hope Jackson got for her troubles was an alleged concert dedication in the name of her famous fake dying daughter. Maybe the group sensed something was up and thus, didn’t get their achy-breaky hearts too invested, just in case.
2. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
You may have heard the heartwarming romantic story of Jordan Daigle, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who spied a handsome Oklahoma State college footballer named Zack Craig during a game’s coin toss one night. She followed him on Twitter and he immediately thought he was being catfished because well, the obvious. Dreamily, their story ended up having more to do with Cupid than catfish but as it turns out, there was an actual catfish in their future. In the form of none other than, yes, Hope Jackson! This time her non-existent dying daughter was in awed admiration of the cheerleaders and requested contact from them. It isn’t clear all of what happened between Hope and the famous cheerleaders but Hope got another target crossed from her celebrity list.
1. Debra Danielson
MTV Teen Mom star Farrah Abraham’s not teen mom, Debra Danielson joins this list, having also suffered from catfishitis. After Debra divorced her husband and Farrah’s father, Michael, she found herself on the receiving end of loneliness and joined one of those dating websites that she had been hearing so much about. The mom claims that she found what she thought was an interesting business opportunity on the dating site so as anyone would, she entered into a romantic and business relationship with the man. As a shock to only Debra, the man turned out to be a major scammer and she had to work with local law enforcement as well as the FBI to take the scammer down. She even wrote a book about her story called Vapor in which she details all of the money that she got taken for. In an interview Debra once said, “You never know who you are actually talking to when you are on dating site. You never know where they’re at in the world when you’re talking to them.” Hindsight in 20/10, eh, Deb?