Kamie Crawford talks ‘Are You the One?,’ ‘Catfish’ popularity
Kamie Crawford, who hosts both “Are You the One?” and “Catfish” discusses the popularity of the reality TV shows. (Jan. 25)
WARNING: Spoilers from “Catfish: The TV Show” Season 8, Episode 89 ahead.
People typically reach out to the show because they’re suspicious of the identity of the person they’ve been having a romantic relationship with online. Nēv Schulman and Kamie Crawford investigate whether the person in question is indeed who they’ve been saying they are … or have been pretending to be someone they’re not.
On Tuesday night’s episode, Zach, a 31-year-old wedding photographer living in Milwaukee, wanted to find out if Lexi, the beautiful Minnesota college student he had been Snapchatting for months, was the real deal … or not.
Potential red flags? Snapchat was their sole form of communication. Lexi “occasionally” asked Zach to pay for her Chipotle. And, she had few — and not new — Instagram posts.
While their plans to meet up had always fallen through, Zach said that had “mostly” been on him and his schedule.
“Can’t say for sure I’m being catfished,” Schulman read in an email from Zach. “But, I don’t want to ignore any warning signs. I’ve been burned in the past and need to be sure before I invest more time into this relationship. I could sure use your help.”
It was off to Brew City for the “Catfish” crew.
Was Lexi a catfish? What local spots did the show film at? What Milwaukee puns did the hosts use?
Here’s a look at all of that and more.
Get to know Zach
In true Wisconsin fashion, it was snowing on Schulman’s and Crawford’s drive to Zach’s place.
Zach, a self-proclaimed “momma’s boy,” grew up in Michigan, he said during a sit-down with the hosts. His family ended up moving to Milwaukee and, a couple years ago, he did, too.
Despite being a wedding photographer, Zach hadn’t had much luck in the love department.
He tried nearly every dating app, plus paid for their premium subscriptions.
And, an experience he had on one of those a few years back was downright dangerous. He went to meet up with a match and ended up being robbed at gunpoint, he told the hosts.
At one point, he also gave a matchmaking service a go. It charged $1,200 per date, he said.
How Zach met Lexi
After taking a hiatus from dating following the robbery, Zach made a return to the apps. That’s how he met Lexi the summer before the filming of the episode.
They messaged every other day and did voice calls — all via Snapchat, Zach said on the show.
As far as Zach knew, Lexi was in her early 20s, in school and was working nights and weekends as a bartender.
“She’s really nice, she’s smart and she’s definitely above-average attractiveness — which is kind of a red flag,” Zach told the hosts. “Because my experience is that that just doesn’t happen in online dating. That’s rare for me.”
One thing Zach felt was concerning: Lexi’s lack of Instagram posts, especially recent ones. But, with Lexi’s more than 12,000 followers, and the fact that she was following Zach back, Shulman thought it looked “pretty legit.”
That is, at first.
Milwaukee’s Mobcraft Brewing was where the hosts conducted their investigation into Lexi
After their meeting with Zach, Schulman and Crawford went to Mobcraft Brewing, 505 S. 5th St., to debrief and get down to research.
It was there they discovered that the photos Lexi had posted on Instagram and sent to Zach were actually of a model named Justine Ouellet.
They tracked down another man who had also been talking to Lexi — and his story sounded an awful lot like Zach’s.
“Lexi is a full-blown catfish, who may be talking to countless people on the internet — all with the same intention, which is to simply scam them for small amounts of money,” Schulman said on the show.
The hosts met with Zach at Milwaukee’s Fuel Cafe to share what they uncovered
Fuel Cafe, 630 S. 5th St., is where the hosts met with Zach to share what they had uncovered.
They all did a video call from there with Ouellet to confirm that she had not been the one talking to Zach. Ouellet told them that she had been dealing with people using her pictures to catfish for years.
After the call, Zach told the hosts: “It’s jarring. And, it’s a very weird feeling. I’m not sure I processed it yet. It’s a lot. I hate being lied to. You know, you want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but this is disappointing.”
Catching a catfish — or two
The hosts, along with Zach, flew to Minneapolis to see what was up with this so-called “Lexi.”
When they went to Boom Island Park to meet her, they were met with a different blonde named Lacie, Lacey, Laceigh? We’ll just go with Lacie.
Turns out, Lacie was the voice of Lexi. She was doing it to help out her friend, Levi, who was the one sending the typed messages, she revealed. One thing this episode wasn’t lacking? “L” names.
Zach was far from the only person they were catfishing, Lacie said on the show. Why? She said she was sick of men objectifying women … and for the free Chipotle and money.
When Levi met with Zach and the “Catfish” crew outside a home, he cockily told them that he does social media management for women content creators. So, why was he using a fake profile for a made-up person then? That was Schulman’s question.
“Sometimes, it just spirals out of control like that,” Levi replied. “If we meet a guy who wants to send money to a random person they’ve never met, it’s kind of hard to say no.”
Levi explained to the group that the ultimate goal is to get the hundred men he’s talking to over to his content creators’ accounts. That baffled Schulman since that hadn’t come up at all during “Lexi’s” monthslong convos with Zach.
The one thing Zach wanted to bring up to his catfish
The only thing Zach wanted to confront Levi about was how he was putting Ouellet, a real woman, at risk by using her pictures to deceive people.
Levi’s response? Essentially, that’s the internet for ya.
“Saying it’s ‘the internet’ excuses you from the reality that you’re (bleep-ing) with real people,” Schulman told Levi and Lacie, who had joined the group outside by that point.
“For both of you, I would urge you to work on developing some empathy for how your actions affect those around you. So, grow up and stop. It’s just not cool to mess with people. Zach is trying to find someone he can actually be with. And, however much time he wasted with Lexi, he can’t get that back.”
Lacie offered Zach an apology. Levi did not.
In the car ride afterwards, Zach “just couldn’t get over the fact that (Levi) didn’t seem to have any remorse.”
“Whatever’s coming to him is going to come, and he’s going to have to live with the choices that he’s made,” Crawford said.
“I’m just glad to know you’re going to be OK,” Schulman told Zach.
When the hosts checked in with Zach and his catfishes months later, Levi said he stopped with the fake profiles and felt “a little bad,” especially for the pictures he had used.
Milwaukee puns and places
Who knew so much rhymes with Milwaukee?
After calling Zach about the email he had written to the show, Schulman said to his co-host: “Guess we should go talk-y in Milwaukee.” Her cringing? Literally all of us.
As they boarded a plane in Milwaukee to fly to Minnesota, Crawford said: “Me walk-ee onto the plane.” C’mon, Crawford.
Shots of Milwaukee were sprinkled throughout the episode, especially during car rides with the hosts. The Third Ward and the exterior of Colectivo Coffee at the Foundry, 170 S. 1st St., were a couple of them.
Back in March, Schulman shared a photo of himself on social media in Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport’s iconic “Recombobulation” area.
Remember that viral TikTok trend to Lizzy McAlpine’s song “ceilings”? Schulman did it by Lakeshore State Park — dress and all.
How to watch the full episode even though it already aired
Season 8, Episode 89, “Zach & Lexi,” can be viewed at mtv.com/episodes/08nwar/catfish-the-tv-show-zach-lexi-season-8-ep-89.
People can sign into the website with their TV provider information. Without having a TV provider, users can sign up for a free 24-hour “Viewing Pass” on the site.
New episodes of “Catfish: The TV Show” air Tuesdays at 7 p.m. CT on MTV.
More on ‘Catfish’
Schulman created MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show,” which began airing in 2012. He initially hosted it with Max Joseph. Crawford, a TV show and podcast host, became the “Catfish” co-host a few years ago.
In 2018, Schulman was faced with sexual misconduct allegations that resulted in an investigation and the temporary suspension of the show, per a USA TODAY report. Production resumed that year after the investigation found claims were “not credible and without merit,” MTV confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.
How to avoid being catfished
The FBI recommends being careful about what you post and make public online as scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you, according to a USA TODAY report.
It also recommends searching the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
Other tips from the FBI include:
- Ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Beware if the person attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse as to why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
USA TODAY contributed to this report.