When Amir Pleasants arrived in Manhattan for his Tinder date on Sunday, he was met not by Natsaha – a 20-something woman he met on the popular dating app – but by hundreds of other, similarly dumbfounded young men.
Mr Pleasants was one of more than 1,000 men lured to New York’s Union Square by the self-described “actress, model, singer” and “world traveller," for what they thought was a one-on-one date.
Instead, they arrived to find a crowd of men, a camera crew, and Natasha taking the stage in front of them.
“The scene was just crazy,” Mr Pleasants told The Independent. “There was a huge turnout of guys, and we were all just kind of standing there stuck.”
Minutes after Mr Pleasants arrived, Natasha grabbed a microphone and informed the crowd of the real reason they were there: To compete for the privilege of taking her on a date.
She instructed the suitors form a single-file line in front of the stage. From there, she began “swiping left” or “swiping right” on each man, indicating with a flick of her wrist who should stay and who should go. At the same time, she kept a running commentary, saying things like “No one under 5’10!” as the line slowly thinned.
The remaining seven or eight men were required to do 30 pushups, race through the park, and give a one-minute pitch on why they should win the date, Mr Pleasants said. Over the course of an hour, Natasha narrowed the approximately 50 participants down to a single winner.
The whole time, passerby stopped to take videos and giggle at the men’s misfortune. Even the police officers who approached the scene started laughing when they figured out what was going on.
Most of the men, meanwhile, reacted with shock or outrage. Some started heckling Natasha from the crowd, Mr Pleasants said, and one tried to rush the stage. At least one man came from as far away as Portland, Oregon.
I am about to tell you an epic tale about subterfuge, dating in the 21st century and the fall of human civilization. This actually happened to me and it could happen to you too. Get some popcorn. *Thread*— миша (@bvdhai) August 19, 2018
But it appears Natasha was not the only one to blame. Reached by The Independent for comment, the actress directed all requests to Rob Bliss Creative – a self-described “viral marketing company” that specialises in viral video campaigns.
According to the company’s website, they have worked with companies like Procter & Gamble, Amtrak, and Motorola, and were responsible for a controversial 2014 video about cat-calling in New York. The actress in that video told the Village Voice she landed the role through a casting call, and was paid $200 for her time. She later sued Mr Bliss for use of her likeness, but the suit was dismissed.
Mr Bliss declined to comment for this article, saying all relevant information would be released on Thursday.
Mr Pleasants and several other men at the event said they had matched with Natasha in June, and quickly exchanged numbers. According to text messages provided to The Independent, she told him them she would be busy for most of the summer, but promised to reach out when she was free.
Then, about a week before the event, Mr Pleasants and the other men received individual messages from Natasha asking if they wanted to hang out. She told them each independently to meet her at a concert in Union Square, and suggested they could leave for drinks from there.
At the event, many of them compared notes, and then – realising they had been duped – simply commiserated. By Monday, Mr Pleasants was still oscillating between being hurt by the deceit, and impressed by the level of planning that went into it.
“She had a big turnout,” Mr Pleasants said. “I’m definitely impressed by the numbers, but I’m super disappointed I wasted my time and my money to get out there to get played.”