András Arató was shocked nine years ago when he discovered that his face became a meme. Now he wrote about this experience in The Guardian.
“People online thought my smile, combined with the look in my eyes, seemed terribly sad. They were calling me “Hide the Pain Harold,” he says in the article.
He writes that the photo which became a meme came from a shoot he had done a year earlier when he was still working as an electrical engineer. A professional photographer got in touch with him after he saw his holiday photographs on Facebook, and since everybody, including him, is a little vain, he was happy to take part in the project. Then, the photographer invited him to a photo shoot that went so well that they worked together for two years, and during that time
he took hundreds of pictures of Mr Arató.
He says that he never ever thought that not only businesses and websites would use his photos but one of them would become one of the most popular memes. “People overlaid text on my pictures, talking about their wives leaving them, or saying their identity had been stolen and their bank account emptied. They used my image because it looked as if I was smiling through the pain,” he wrote.
Fame came quickly, journalists from all over the world began to contact him and wanted an interview from him. His wife hated the whole hype because she thought that it interfered with their private life, and she did not like the way he was portrayed. Interestingly, some
people did not even believe that he exists at all
and wanted proof that he is a real person.
Since he realised that he cannot stop people creating memes using his photo, and it annoyed him that some use his photograph as their profile picture, in 2017, he decided to create his own fan page, and he has been updating it with videos and stories about his travels since then.
After taking ownership of the meme, he started to receive job offers. For example, he was given a role in a television commercial for a Hungarian car dealer.
The fee for his first commercial, finally, changed his wife’s mind about the whole meme issue.
“Now my life has changed dramatically,” he says because people ask him to talk about his story demonstrating the power of memes. “A football website flew me to England to make a video about Manchester City; I got to tour the ground and watch them play a Champions League game. The German mail-order giant Otto flew me out to make commercials for them. The Hungarian hard rock band Cloud 9+ have a song called Hide The Pain, with me in the video. I’m the face of Totum, the British discount card run by the National Union of Students – they got me to wear a bucket hat. I’ve even given a TED talk,” he wrote in The Guardian.
Last year, he took 20 flights from Budapest to destinations all over the world: Europe, Russia, and, increasingly, South America. For example, last month, he travelled to Chile and Colombia for some TV appearances where he felt like a real celebrity for the first time. “Every time I walked down the street, a crowd would gather, so they gave me bodyguards. I have never enjoyed a fame like that before; sometimes it was frightening,” he wrote.
He is also doing good with the help of the meme. For example, he is the face of a campaign for a mental health service in Hungary. He is proud that something more has come out of the last 10 years than just an idiotic smile.
He added that
he is not a sad guy,
he thinks that he is a rather happy one.