The Fat Jewish Recalls His Brush With Online Fame, Hatred: ‘I Felt Like Robert Downey Jr.’

Internet sensation Josh Ostrovsky talks about his new book, online attacks and his similarities with Gwyneth Paltrow

Josh “The Fat Jewish” Ostrovsky is the Internet’s native son. With 6.4 million followers on Instagram, the comic force made an industry out of giving context to highly shareable photos.

“White people are too afraid to eat gluten but will go and do shit like this,” he captioned one photo of a Caucasian boy giving a belly rub to a tiger.

“When you find out the popular bitch from high school works at Walmart now,” said another upload, featuring a photo of the U.K.’s Princess Catherine laughing and clapping.

But after a book deal, a podcast, a TV series in development and his own brand of wine (“White Girl Rose,” made in response to the 2014 shortage of that particular type of wine in the Hamptons) — Ostrovsky’s empire suffered a blow.

In August, a crush of comedians and social-media users accused him of plagiarism — saying his observations and, often, the very photos he uploaded had origin points that went uncredited.

Ostrovsky copped to the accusations, but insisted this was how the Internet works — he was a curator of this content, and chose only the best to be featured on his @thefatjewish account.

Ahead of the Nov. 3 release of his new book, “Money Pizza Respect,” Ostrovsky chatted with TheWrap about surviving online invective, his similarities to another Internet whiz kid, Gwyneth Paltrow, and his plans to change his name.

In “Money Pizza Respect,” there are so many recitations of disbelief that you even got the book deal in the first place. Has it hit you yet?
Basically, the main goal of this is to go No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List because that will probably mark the end of Western civilization. People are like, “The polar ice caps are melting!” And now the guy with the vertical hair erection is on the best-seller list.

But the book isn’t just novelty. You actually have some personal stories in here.
I couldn’t only tell all debaucherous stories about being on a yacht with some Saudi guys, meeting an ostrich named Bradley Cooper. I tried to generate some goosebumps, and bring in some pathos about my life before the Internet. I have a lot of good stories, like I found a childhood journal. The book is a loose chronological account from childhood to now. But also, reading is kind of boring, so there’s coloring-book pages of Tyrese, recipes for Xanax smoothies and all that.

You’ve got some lifestyle sensibilities.
I’m very Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m more Gwyneth than anyone thinks. I make a wonderful frittata.

You are such a hero of the Internet, or were. In the last few months you seem to have made a lot of people very angry.
The situation was definitely horrendous, but I love the Internet. This was a learning moment for the Internet. There are two sides that now get to understand each other. There were comedy writers saying, “You can’t do this.” And then Internet people saying, “This is how it works.” There are 17-year-olds and 40-year-olds arguing. I know the Internet is a forum for people to scream at each other, but rather than seeing myself in the middle I’d like to see myself as facilitating some change. I’ve also met some awesome people who said, “This is actually my photo.” And now I’m working with some awesome weird people.

It got really exciting at the end when I got chased by the media. I felt like Robert Downey Jr. That was chill. But for the most part, it was a learning experience. I’m getting back to what I like to do. Posting pictures that make your day better.

What was the most Robert Downey Jr. moment in the scandal?
I had a friend who was away in Asia, who came back in the middle of the week and called me — he’s very not Internet, he’s a grown-up with children — he called me like, “What is going on?” I had to explain what was going on and then I notice, some dude was hiding behind a rack of pita chips recording my call. And I was like, “What is happening right now? This is insane.” I felt very Gwyneth.

So let’s say this does land you on the best-seller list. How do you celebrate?
I called the New York State Department of Records, and asked if I could legally change my name to, “New York Times No. 1 Best Seller Josh Ostrovsky.” The woman on the phone, Keisha, who was very nice, was very confused. She asked me, “Why would you ever do that?” I told Keisha to keep her opinions to herself. Whatever, Keisha, can I do it or not? I in fact can do it. So if it happens, I’m going to change my name to that.

“Money Pizza Respect” lands in stores November 3.