The INSIDER Summary:
• A travel blogger claims someone is following her around the world, copying her photos, and posting them on her own Instagram account.
• The story has gone viral, but the pieces don’t all add up.
There’s a story making the rounds on news outlets and fashion sites alike about an Instagram star who allegedly discovered a copycat account.
This 23-year-old Australian Instagram star, originally from Lennox Head in northern NSW and famous for her travel photos, says another Instagrammer followed her around the world and mimicked every detail of her photos, from the angles to the outfits.
It’s a crazy story. Imagine the planning and expense that would go into following a travel blogger to multiple countries just to replicate her exact photos.
In fact, it’s such a crazy story that when we started digging into it, we found that it was all a little fishy. And then we found one particular piece of evidence that made us even more suspicious.
Here’s the story, in case you missed it: Travel blogger Lauren Bullen (who goes by @gypsea_lust on Instagram) claimed in a November 11 blog post that she had discovered a copycat Instagrammer named @diana_alexa who was allegedly following her around the world and imitating her pictures with impressive detail.
In the blog post, titled “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Bullen shared screenshots of the alleged copycat photos and noted that “Diana” had made her Instagram account private. A few days later, Bullen updated the post to say that she had been in touch with Diana, and the two had reconciled in the wake of the media storm.
But that’s when things got weird. Bullen later took down her blog post (she restored it on Nov. 17) and when INSIDER got in touch with her, she refused to put us in contact with Diana or to share any details of their conversation. We’ve been unable to find Diana on our own.
And while it’s not impossible, it seems beyond reason that someone would go to the trouble and expense of recreating another person’s travel photos in such detail. This has led some to speculate that it was a stunt to gain Bullen more followers on social media.
Bullen, who currently has 778,000 Instagram followers, gets paid for her photos and posts. Diana doesn’t have much of a following, and would likely have to travel on her own dime.
Putting aside the expense and unlikelihood that Diana would have been able to book identical hotel rooms to the ones Bullen stayed in days before, here are some of the other red flags we can’t get past:
Many of Bullen’s geotags only list cities, not exact locations. It would have taken an absurd amount of time, money, and effort for Diana to track down the exact fruit stands or market vendors that serve as Bullen’s backdrop.
Just look at these photos taken in Marrakesh, Morocco. What are the chances a stranger would have stumbled on the exact same doorway in a city of almost 1 million people?
Diana also wears the exact same outfits as Bullen, and they look a lot smaller on Diana. This makes us think that the two were travelling together. Bullen could have been lending the much taller Diana her outfits, which would explain why Diana’s hemlines are so much higher. Some of the outfits, like the yellow t-shirt in the Moroccan doorway, would have been almost impossible to replicate.
We considered the possibility that Diana’s pictures were Photoshopped. Business Insider senior graphics editor Mike Nudelman took a look at the images and thought they were real (or a really impressive Photoshop job). He said it seemed more likely that the photos were taken around the same time, but not one immediately after the other.
Then there’s what could be the smoking gun: when you Google “diana_alexa” and “gypsea_lust,” the results include a Twitter account from 2011 that appears to link “Diana” with Bullen’s email address. The message board sleuths who discovered it are citing it as evidence that Diana doesn’t exist and the whole thing is a hoax.
Diana Alexa’s Twitter account is private, but the Google search appears to show a cached version of the Twitter account’s information, from when it was still public.
At this point, we’re totally baffled. In an email to INSIDER, Bullen maintains that it’s no hoax — but we still can’t find Diana.
Publicity stunt or not, the whole debacle has been a boon for Bullen: She’s gained nearly 200,000 Instagram followers in a week.
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