András Arató Hide the Pain Harold Interview

András Arató Shares His Story Of Becoming "Hide The Pain Harold" And Learning To Embrace Internet Culture

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ndrás Arató was suddenly thrust into the limelight when his stock photos began appearing in a number of memes. Dating back to 2011, Arató’s image became known to the world as “Hide the Pain Harold,” a character used to express suppressed pain or discomfort. At first, Arató was startled to discover that his face was being used across the web in such memes, but as time passed, he eventually embraced his online persona and traveled the globe, giving speeches, meeting fans and ultimately becoming the internet’s beloved symbol of hiding the pain. We caught up with Arató to see what he’s been up to lately and let him share his story about becoming an online phenomenon.





Q: Hey there, András. We appreciate you getting back to us and agreeing to the interview. Let’s begin with your background. Can you tell us your backstory?

A: I was born in Hungary, in a town called Kőszeg near the Austrian border, right after WW2 in 1945. My parents fled there from the Siege of Budapest. It took us a few years to be able to go back to Budapest, but I had already started primary school and have lived [in Budapest] ever since. I graduated from a local technical university and became an electrical engineer. After university, I was called up as a soldier and served at a radar station for five months and then later for another eight months. After being disarmed [transitioned to civilian], I got married, but my wife wants to keep her privacy, so I won’t say much more about that. Now, I am retired and living in Budapest. During my active years, I was involved in lighting technology, received several professional awards, wrote numerous publications and was even elected for the vice-president of the Hungarian Lighting Society. I also have a son who was born in 1973, and now works as an architect.


Q: So how did you get into modeling? What were some of your early gigs like and was it always revolved around stock photography?

A: It was a coincidence. I never wanted to be a model. A photographer saw my vacation selfies on the net and contacted me, saying that he was looking for a model of my character, and invited me for a trial photoshoot. He liked the pictures, I liked them too, and in the coming months, he took hundreds of photos. All this happened 10 years ago.





Q: So, as you know, many of these stock photos eventually went on to become memes with your image known as “Hide the Pain Harold.” Do you recall when you first saw one of these and who it was that showed you?

A: I knew what stock photos were generally used for, and that wasn’t against me. I [was told ahead of time] that the images where I was a doctor would appear on the website of a hospital, and where I was portraying a professor, those would be posted on the site of a university. After a while, I did an image search to find out what my photos were being used for. It was a scary experience to see myself as a meme, and I think everyone would react the same way if they saw themselves being used in jokes with their face.


Q: Once you’d seen several of these images, what was your initial reaction? Was this your first encounter with memes, or did you already have an idea of what they were?

A: My initial reaction was that I wanted to withdraw all the pictures. However, this was not possible because I had previously agreed in writing to the use of the images. Of course, the memes were not made legally, as the meme-makers did not buy the copyright to publish and did not follow my restrictions.





Q: As your image and the meme became an online phenomenon, what did some of your friends and family think of it?

A: My friends were all happy when they saw a Harold meme. The situation was different in the family … they were not so happy, and my son hates to see them.


Q: After that initial period, we heard that you sort of loathed your association with the meme and didn’t enjoy your face being used in such a way. Could you elaborate more on that response and why you didn’t enjoy them?

A: For the use of the stock photos, we stipulated that they may not be used for political, religious or sexual purposes. The early memes ignored this, and I am not proud of these memes.


"'m GOOD LOOKING, ING TC



Q: As time passed and you eventually learned to accept the association, what caused that change of heart? Was it something you begrudgingly accepted, or did you come to enjoy it ultimately?

A: When my pictures had spread on the internet, more and more fake pages started to use my photos and the name “Hide the Pain Harold” as their own. Among these pages, there were some with hundreds of thousands of followers. I realized that if someone else could do that, I could do it too. So I decided to embrace my role given by the people of the internet and opened my Facebook and Instagram pages.


Q: Now that you’re aware of Hide the Pain Harold and can appreciate the meme, do you think they’re funny, or do you still not quite understand most of them?

A: I really enjoy the memes -- with very few exceptions. I like them best when some well-known artwork, painting or photo is modified so that I am in it. For example, “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where I’m not only the face of Adam, but also of all the heavenly angels. Or the sculpture of American presidents in Mount Rushmore, where all four are me.





Q: In 2016, you identified yourself as the man behind Hide the Pain Harold. Were you concerned at all about revealing your identity, or was it more intriguing to you by that point?

A: The crucial moment was when I realized there were some fake pages using my name and photos as their own. Some of these pages were followed by several thousand people, but I had no influence on the content of them. I thought, “If anyone else could take advantage of my popularity, I can take it too.” So I set up my own Facebook and Instagram pages where I am the owner and can control the content appearing there.


Q: We’ve seen tons of photos with you alongside fans who recognize you from the meme, how often does that happen, and what are those encounters like?

A: Right now, I live in a voluntary lockdown, and the streets are almost empty. Otherwise, people recognize me on a daily basis no matter where I am in the world -- from London to Moscow, from Siberia to South America. These folks mostly ask for a selfie or just want to shake hands with me. I am always happy to comply with such requests because I see the joy on their faces. In Hungary where I live, this popularity is not disturbing, but for the instances in Colombia and Chile, I had bodyguards to keep the crowd away.


Hide the pain Harold taking photos with two female fans



Q: You spoke at a TED Talk in 2019 for TEDxKyiv. What was that experience like, and how did they approach you to take part in the event?

A: It was a great honor to be asked to give a TED talk, I think it was the highlight of my career. I was very excited because I spoke to thousands of people for the first time, plus in English, which is not my native language. Prior to the event, we made several rehearsals, and the content of the talk had been changed too. Some parts were omitted, others were told in more detail.





Q: Because Hide the Pain Harold has become such a sensation, have you capitalized on that internet fame at all? How so?

A: I gave numerous interviews for print and the online press, as well as radio and TV. In general, these interviews are not paid, but they helped to increase my reputation. As a result, I got invitations for paid appearances, mostly in commercials, including some leading worldwide companies. Recently, I was invited to take part in the local version of “The Masked Singer” as the Monster, where I was revealed in the third episode. By the way, my first song was “Don't worry, be happy” by Bobby McFerrin, which is the basic message of my memes.





Q: Looking back on everything that’s transpired with your photos becoming such a huge meme, what’s it like seeing your face being shared around the world? Is it still surreal, or do you feel like you understand the ways of the internet better now?

A: The internet is not new to me. I already had my own homepage in 1996, which included my professional resume. Nevertheless, I am still amazed every day when my memes appear in the most remote parts of the world, in the most diverse languages. It seems the message to “hide the pain” is universal.


Q: You’re obviously more keen on meme culture in general nowadays, so do you enjoy any outside your own, or do you not really follow that kind of stuff for the most part?

A: In today's world, memes are a part of our life, only the form of appearance differs from the “memes” of the past centuries -- I mean comics, cartoons, caricatures, posters and flyers. Humor helps to see things in an amazing new way and to discover new contexts. One picture can sometimes say more than a thousand words. The best memes I like are the ones that make you think.





Q: In your TED Talk, you read several messages you received from people thanking you for becoming a meme. Do you feel like it’s had a positive impact on people’s lives in the end?

A: When I stepped out into the world, my goal was to convey a positive message. Instead of my own words, I would rather share some of the messages I received from people living in different parts of the world. “You are one-of-a-kind sir, and I love it so much. You're so kind, yet funny! I have a lot of respect for you.” “Most wholesome living meme! An absolute joy.” “We absolutely love him. He is so sweet, kind, and expresses our pain through his tear-stained smile.”




Need more Harold in your life? Follow Arató's social on Facebook or Instagram and stay updated on the latest news by visiting his website.



Top Comments

izaihb
izaihb

in reply to Killer "KEEMSTAR"

KYM is supposed to be more of a neutral territory on the internet. Most of the users are aligned more with 4chan or Reddit culture, but nowadays, platforms like TikTok and Instagram are just as important for the internet as a whole. This is why there are so many TikTok entries, despite no one on this site asking for them. That's also why KYM can't just ignore people with an alignment opposite of its userbase.

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