It's one thing to wake up to a heroic graphic design of your face on the cover of TIME, a la Sarah Mason of Occupy L.A.
It's another to wake up to an unflattering (and even more unflatteringly manipulated) photo of yourself on a New York City billboard, and all over the Internet, posing as a fat guy who ate so much junk food that he had to get his leg amputated.
Welcome to L.A. actor/director Cleo Berry's Friday night:
"I was beyond shocked," he told The New York Times this weekend. "I cried at my computer screen for, like, a minute. ... I said: 'Oh my gosh, they even gave me crutches. Come on, people.' "
Though the photo had reportedly been 'shopped by the New York City Health Department to fit the needs of its anti-diabetes campaign, Berry instantly recognized its origins: a photo shoot in a Manhattan studio some years back.
He said he had answered an ad for the photo shoot because the $500 it promised would help pay his rent. He remembered liking the photographer, Morten Smidt, though said he did not understand that the pictures were for a stock photo agency, Image Source. But he acknowledged that he had signed a standard release allowing alteration of his image.
Thus reteaching an age-old lesson to the starving artists and Norma Jeans of the Great Recession: No matter how desperate you get, don't dump embarrassing pics into the world's general-use photobucket, because you never know where they might end up.
Though in this case, Berry couldn't do much about his right leg being lobbed off at the knee. The NYC Health Department's shame should run much deeper than the struggling actor's. The department pulls the "saving lives" card in an official statement:
"This issue isn't about one actor but rather the 700,000 New Yorkers who struggle with diabetes, which kills 1,700 people a year and causes amputations in another 3,000. Advertising to warn the public about health concerns saves lives, and we will continue our efforts to warn New Yorkers about diabetes."
F that, says Berry. He has big plans for revenge:
He said if a soda company "would like to call me so we can do a commercial, I'll sing and dance for them and I won't charge an arm and a leg."
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The young Angeleno is also kind of basking in the national attention, despite its unflattering origins. Via Berry's Facebook: "Crazy weekend all ready!!!! Interviews with the NY Times (will tell you about that Monday smh)...fittings...meetings...tears.... Ahhhhhhhh."
Perhaps he'd rather be remembered for that redorkulous AT&T Stadium ad?