What This Woman Did On Vacation Was Unbelievable

December 20, 2018 | Matt


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Zilla van den Born, a model from Amsterdam, decided to go on vacation to Southeast Asia for a month. Not a very sensational or unique story. Her trip would be anything but normal, though.

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Van den Born was thrilled for her upcoming trip, and posted about it constantly on her social media. She also told her friends and family all about her plans, and how excited she was to see the sights and taste the tastes. Her plan was to travel alone. Traveling alone comes freighted with all kinds of risks, so her parents were understandably concerned.

To placate them, Zilla agreed to take a ton of photos to send them, and have Skype video chats with them on a regular basis so they could make sure she was safe. Despite their trepidations, they were excited for her. As were her friends. She would be touring famous landmarks, reclining on beautiful beaches and eating all the local delicacies. Who wouldn’t be jealous of Zilla and her month of rest and relaxation in an unfamiliar place?

What looked like it was going to be a standard early-adulthood find-yourself trip wound up putting Zilla in the headlines and shocking everyone she knew.

She Learned A Lot As A Model

Zilla van den Born, originally born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, started modeling from a young age. When she started posing in front of the camera professionally, she was only sixteen years old. It was a foregone conclusion that such a beautiful young girl would find modeling work if she sought it out. What surprised her, though, was how her photos were treated after they were taken.

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There are many steps between when a photo of a model is taken and when it’s published in an ad or magazine spread. You might think that the photographers and editors would make just a few tweaks here and there, adjust some lighting in post, and that would be enough. Especially if the subject looked like Zilla. What is there to change, really?

Zilla was shocked, though, by how radically her pictures were altered in Photoshop. The final product, run through multiple filters and editing techniques, looked strange to her. She became fascinated by the process, and started learning to do it herself. These skills would serve her well during her Southeast Asian excursion, and would totally change how her friends and family came to look at her. They would also help her become internet famous.

Zilla Is Not As Innocent As She Looks

At first, Zilla felt most at home in front of the camera. Cameras loved her, and she loved cameras. As her modeling experience grew, so did her interest in stepping behind the camera herself.

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She took up photography herself. Where better to cut your teeth as an amateur photographer than Thailand, Laos and Cambodia? There is seemingly nothing in Southeast Asia that does not beg to be photographed. The neophyte photographer could have a field day (or month) there, refining her craft and also refining her taste buds, as she sampled the delicious foods that help make the area a huge tourist destination.

Not content with just spending a week or two traveling the area, van den Born decided to stay for an entire month. She had been working hard and needed the break. Zilla, however, would use the opportunity to do something truly bizarre.

Behind her beatific exterior, Zilla is a very smart, very clever, and apparently very cunning individual. She would combine all of her skills and experiences accrued during her modeling career to pull off a stunt that would make her name ring out in praise and condemnation across the internet. What she did was controversial and very impressive.

Zilla Packed Light For Her Long Trip

Zilla started the photo documentation of her vacation early. She took lots of photos of herself packing and prepping for the trip. She posted them to her Facebook, where her many friends, family and followers egged her on. She was going to Southeast Asia, and she was taking everyone with her, at least virtually.

TravelFuntu

She was set to embark on her trip on April 23, 2014. Her followers noticed that she was packing extremely sparely. Keeping a minimum of belongings with you when you travel is a wise idea. You don’t get as tired lugging a bunch of stuff around, you don’t have as much risk of things being stolen, and you really don’t need that much stuff when your boots are on the ground anyway. She explained many of her packing strategies with her Facebook.

With just some toiletries, passports and IDs, and a few changes of clothes, Zilla was ready to tackle whatever challenges would await her abroad. She was planning on spending as much time as she could on the beach. You don’t need a lot of stuff to go to the beach, after all. She would be gone for a total of five weeks. She was, indeed, gone for five weeks. But all was not as it appeared.

Zilla Embarks On Her Trip

The day finally came. Zilla’s parents came with her to the airport, to see her off and wish her well. They waved goodbye, and Zilla disappeared from view.

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Their twenty-five-year-old daughter was going to be in a foreign land for five weeks, and this was the last they’d see of her in person. They would be seeing a whole lot of her in the photographs she sent them, though. The same photographs that she showed to the world through her Facebook. The same photographs that would eventually make her an object of attention for journalists and casual internetters across the globe.

Zilla gave her parents an itinerary of her trip before she said goodbye. That way, they would know exactly where she was at all times. Or so they thought. Coupled with the frequent updates, they could rest assured that she was safe and sound in Southeast Asia. Again, or so they thought.

She upheld her end of the bargain. She gave them frequent updates and Skyped with them from her exotic hotel rooms. No misfortune befell her. She was looking well rested, happy, and surrounded by strange new sights. But she was hiding something. Something really significant.

Zilla Is On Her Way, Apparently

No vacation is truly a vacation unless you upload a photo of yourself holding your passport and plane ticket.

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She posted this photo, as well as a picture of her putting on her backpack in the airport. She appeared to be ready to really get underway with the trip.

When she posted the pictures, her followers lavished her with praise and jealousy. Here was a beautiful young girl out and about in the world, gaining all kinds of exciting new life experiences. These kinds of trips are very common. At some point in your early adulthood, it is almost mandatory that people belonging to the upper classes make some pilgrimage to a developing country to get an “authenticity” fix. Many people have very fond memories of these trips, making Zilla’s vacation an object of yearning, tinged with nostalgia, for her friends and family.

Despite all the care and consideration Zilla took to keep her family in the loop, promising to text them when she landed and keep them updated about her whereabouts, she was deceiving them in a way that would eventually upset many of them. She was staking a lot on this deception, which, when it was revealed, absolutely floored everybody.

Zilla Told Her Family Everything, Or So They Thought

Just like she said she would, Zilla van den Born texted her family fourteen hours later to tell them that she had landed in Thailand. Later, she Skyped them from her first hotel room. She was safe and sound, about to get into the swing of the vacation.

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She gave them a little visual tour of her room. Then she talked all about what she was planning to do for the upcoming days. She was going to be visiting the country’s famous temples, as well as eating at local restaurants. She wanted to bring them along for the ride. She promised that she would photograph everything for them, and describe her adventures in detail. And so she did.

It wasn’t just for her family, either. She made constant updates on Facebook, posting pictures of herself at famous landmarks and swimming at exotic beaches. Her friends drooled over the scenery. People were very supportive of her, wishing her well and hoping that she was having fun on her trip abroad. Many of these same people would later feel betrayed by her, when they learned the truth about what she was really up to. And it was certainly not unreasonable for them to feel that way.

Zilla Takes In The Sights

The photos started trickling in. The first of many was a pic of her standing in front of a Buddhist temple in Thailand. It was a beautiful sight, with blue skies and gorgeous lighting. Who wouldn’t be jealous of Zilla on her trip? The sights seemed absolutely gorgeous.

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The photo was captioned with “Thailand, the Land of Smiles.” This is the country’s slogan. A slogan with a story that is apropos to Zilla and her trip. Thailand has embraced Southeast Asia’s boom in tourism more enthusiastically than any other Southeast Asian country. The nation offers a very low cost of living, good food and good air connections. Thailand sees about 32 million visitors every year. It is renowned for its beautiful beaches and friendly locals. Hence the smiles. Thailand is not all smiles and sunshine, though. It is one of the world’s capitals for sex trafficking and prostitution. Despite its underbelly, Thailand is still one of the more beautiful places people regularly travel.

Thailand is home to many Buddhist temples made in an ornate architectural style that makes for great photographs. Zilla van den Born was seen in front of this temple as well as many other notable Thai landmarks.

Zilla Makes Friends With Fish

Along her travels, Zilla stopped at Phuket Island. While she was there, she took a photo underwater, giving the camera the double “OK” sign as colorful tropical fish swam behind her. It looked like she was swimming in an aquarium. It appeared she was having a postcard-perfect Thailand vacation.

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She posted it to her Facebook expecting a lot of engagement, and she got it. The post attracted a ton of likes and comments, with people chiming in that they were jealous of her vacation. One even warned her to watch out for dangerous fish.

Phuket, because of its tourism draw, is now Thailand’s richest province. People are drawn to its gorgeous beaches and tropical waters, which obviously make for great snorkeling. Phuket was badly impacted by a hurricane in December of 2004, but has since made a total recovery. It stays hot and humid throughout the year, making it an ideal destination for swimmers and sun worshippers from around the world. It is reachable by direct flight from the Thai mainland. It would be hard to find somewhere more simultaneously exotic and convenient.

She wasn’t wearing sleeves in the photo, but if she had been, there would have been something up them.

The Only Person On The Beach

The more photos Zilla posted, the more it seemed like she was having the perfect vacation. Like this photo of her standing in / on a pristine Thai beach with not another soul in sight. This is what people dream about when they’re looking forward to their vacations. Reality never quite stacks up to those high expectations, though. In Zilla’s case, though, it was all silver lining and no cloud.

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She bounced from Buddhist temple to immaculate beach to meals with locals. The people following her updates felt like they had front-row seats to the vacation, like they were there with Zilla herself.

In addition to the scenery, Zilla also took pictures of all the incredible food she was eating. The photos were so copious, and so exactly what they were expecting to see, that nobody rose a single eyebrow. They took it at face value that her vacation was a totally normal one, and that there wasn’t something else going on behind the camera. After all, why would they suspect the 25-year-old of any kind of subterfuge or deception? What reason could she possibly have for sweeping things under the rug? Turns out, she had a whole rationale.

She Connected With The Locals

She continued to post photos throughout her entire stay in Thailand. She saw some amazing things, and did some even more amazing things. People were blown away. After Thailand, she went to Cambodia and Laos, which were no less visually impressive.

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She posted this photo of herself sitting with a child in an ancient temple. This is exactly the kind of photo people want the most when they go on vacations to these places. It looked like she was not only getting to see all the famous sights, she was also connecting with the people who lived in those countries. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a child in a temple like this? She was right in the heart of these countries, having the quintessential experience. Allegedly.

Whenever she’d move to a new city and into a new hotel, she’d Skype with her parents from her hotel room. She’d show off the room and recount all the amazing anecdotes she lived. Her family was able to live the thrills and chills of her trip vicariously through her descriptions. Even though they were back in the Netherlands, they felt like they were right there with her, shouldering their own backpacks.

We’ve All Sort Of Been To Thailand

Southeast Asia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for young people. It’s so popular that the “Southeast Asia travel photo” has become a ubiquitous genre on Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes it seems like it’s just a matter of time, browsing through a new person’s social media, before you see a photo of them petting a tranquilized tiger or riding in a Tuk Tuk.

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These photos are so pedestrian to us now that we barely think twice about them. The backgrounds all seem interchangeable, even though they’re so beautiful. Everyone seems to be doing the same things in the same places. Which is partially what motivated Zilla to get up to her mischief. Bangkok, Thailand is not just a popular tourist destination. It is technically the most popular tourist destination in the world. In 2016 alone, it saw 12.75 million visitors. There is no ground more well-trodden by tourists, on the planet. On some level, when we think about travel, we probably picture Thailand as our archetypal foreign destination.

Hundreds of people saw her social media posts. Hundreds liked and commented. They were all, on some level, duped. They were about to find out how.

Wrapping Up Her Trip

Towards the end of her trip, Zilla van den Born made a collage on Facebook of her favorite photos that she took during the trip. She had made memories to last a lifetime, and now, thanks to the internet, they’d be permanently available without having to stuff them into a physical photo album. The photos were also available to the hundreds of people who were along for the ride, or who wanted to admire her exploits after the fact.

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She was eager to return home to Amsterdam. And her friends and family were eager to see her again. It had been a full forty-two days since they had last seen her. She had traveled to the other side of the planet, and now they could enjoy her company again, and hear all about her adventures.

While they indeed had not seen Zilla for a very long time, she had a surprise in store for them. Something that they were not entirely happy about, but which she felt she needed to do anyway. They would meet a very relaxed Zilla, though not a Zilla who was nearly as culturally enriched as they had innocently believed. After all, why would they ever suspect deception?

She Even Sent a Postcard

Just to round out the perfect stereotypical vacation, Zilla sent her parents a postcard while she was abroad. She wrote them a nice note about her travels. They were looking forward to seeing their daughter again. Although it’s important for people to have new life experiences, there’s still that part of every parent that can’t help but worry while their child is alone in a foreign country. It would be good to have her home.

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In the card, she asked her family if she was missed. She also described how much fun she was having, and how many new people she was meeting. She included a note about visiting the famous Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, Laos, as well as Laotian temples. This was the trip of a lifetime. Something that every young person dreams of doing but often don’t have the money to follow through with. Zilla seemed like she was living out everyone’s dreams.

She would be back in Amsterdam in no time. Surely, she would be a changed woman, full of worldly wisdom and fascinating stories. This was not to be the case. Well, she certainly had a fascinating story to tell. But it was not what anyone was expecting.

Zilla Returned Home, Sort Of

Her vacation time was up. She needed to get back to the Netherlands to resume her daily life as a student and a daughter. She seemed sad to leave Southeast Asia behind. It would be quite a culture shock to integrate back into life in Amsterdam after spending five weeks in a tropical paradise. Not that Amsterdam isn’t somewhere you’d want to be.

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Zilla packed her minimal travel belongings back into her bag, slung it over her shoulders, and boarded the plane back to the Netherlands. Or did she?

Nobody she knew had seen her for the full five weeks. Then, she was back. Ready to resume her studies and click back into life with her family. Everyone was eager to hear about her vacation, so she organized a time and place for all of them to get together. But instead of the typical slideshow of vacation photos, they were shown something that truly shocked them.

Zilla had not had the vacation she had purported to. It was simultaneously way less glamorous and way more interesting than her observers had supposed. What was, for all appearances, a totally standard mid-twenties Southeast Asian jaunt was actually an impressively sophisticated illusion.

The Big Reveal

Zilla gathered her family together and sat them down to show them a video of her vacation. Or her alleged vacation. As the family watched the video, it revealed to them that they had been consciously deceived. Zilla had never actually set foot out of Amsterdam.

TravelFuntu

Instead of flying to Southeast Asia, she holed up in her apartment and fabricated all of the photos and stories that she shared on social media, and with her family. The ruse had been part of a project for art school, and was meant to show how easy it is to mislead people on social media. It was also meant to be a commentary on how we all manicure our own public faces on those platforms.

For the full 42 days, nobody but her boyfriend and a hired photographer had been aware of what she was doing. The family was surprised, confused, and some of them were angry. They had dropped her off at the airport and everything. How was it even possible that she could produce such a convincing body of fake photos? How could she create such a complete picture of a vacation out of thin air? Through a combination of Photoshop skill, interior decorating and general cleverness.

How She Tricked Her Family

Zilla’s parents dropped her off at the airport. They watched with their own eyes as she waved goodbye and walked out of sight. Presumably to go through security, board a plane, and fly to Thailand. Obviously, that was not the whole story.

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After she was out of their line of sight, Zilla donned a disguise. In the event that she ran into someone who knew her, if she was recognized, it would compromise the whole enterprise. When she was hidden behind a hooded jacket and a large pair of sunglasses, she walked to a train station and boarded a train that took her back to her apartment.

That apartment became her vacation spot and base of operations for the ensuing five weeks. She remained totally committed to the deception for the entire time, not telling a soul other than her boyfriend that she wasn’t actually in Southeast Asia. She came up with all kinds of cunning ways to maintain the illusion. This ultimate staycation would not only earn her a good grade in school, it would also make her famous online, at least for a while.

Spending five weeks free of all obligations other than eating takeout and watching movies doesn’t sound like that bad of a vacation. No Buddhist temples, but certainly lots of R&R.

She Kept Up The Disguise

The only times Zilla would leave her apartment was to buy supplies like groceries. When she did it, she went out in her incognito getup, with a heavy jacket, scarf and big sunglasses. People might not have recognized her as Zilla van den Born, but she still looked like a celebrity trying to stay under wraps.

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Her boyfriend was supportive of the project. Zilla explained to him that she would lay out the whole ruse to her friends and family when it was done. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be too many bruised feelings. This was, unfortunately, not to be the case. She cooked up quite a storm with people who knew her, many of whom had a hard time accepting that being lied to was for the greater good.

Zilla’s project was meant to convey how easily it is to fabricate a perfect life on the internet, and how we may be unconsciously doing something along those lines all the time. It’s not a terribly novel point, but it was certainly illustrated in a dramatic way. Those photoshopped photos look extremely real. Had she decided not to reveal that she’d been lying, nobody would ever have guessed she’d never been to those countries.

She Worked Hard To Make The Deception Perfect

There were so many details that had to be fabricated convincingly, and consistently, that it required a great deal of planning. Zilla’s vacation involved quite a bit of hard work, both mental and physical, to pull off the ruse.

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Right away, Zilla knew she had to totally redesign the inside of her apartment. She would be using it as a set, for those video chats with the family that were meant to reassure them that she was safe and having a great time abroad. That took a lot of rearranging and buying a whole lot of props. After all, she was on an extended trip through multiple countries, staying in multiple hotels, and would need multiple backdrops to prevent any eyebrows from being raised.

She would also have to spend a great deal of time staging photographs that would later be painstakingly edited in Photoshop to make them look totally real. She did a great job. Until she dropped the bomb that it had all been a scam, nobody had voiced even one suspicion that she wasn’t in Asia. With all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, Zilla was ready to start spinning her complicated yarn. One that would fray when it unraveled.

Setting the Stage

Here is one of the sets, meant to portray a Southeast Asian hotel room. In retrospect, it does seem a little on the nose, with the fans. However, it totally worked. Nobody was ever the wiser.

Daily Mail

The communication with her family was one of the hardest parts of the scam. She had to keep the details of her story straight, and act convincingly that she had been spending her days on white sand beaches and fraternizing with the locals. Doing this required waking up at odd hours of the night to text her parents and have the video chats.

Those sets weren’t free, either. She had to have spent some considerable amount of money to make all of this happen. She invested in Christmas lighting, Asian props like the fans, and even new pieces of furniture like a futon. She was more than all-in on the ruse. It wasn’t just for fun in her mind. She was proving a point. And she would go to great lengths to prove it. She even committed to learning how to cook Southeast Asian food in order to take photos of her eating at “restaurants” along the way. She did a pretty good job, too.

She Made Her Own Asian Meals

Southeast Asian food can be a challenge to make taste authentic. The spice blends can be very complicated, and the cooking methods long and involved. However, it’s not tough to make them look authentic.

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This is what Zilla did. She made presentation meals in her own kitchen, modeled after Southeast Asian dishes and presented like she was eating them in nice restaurants. She put a lot of effort into the food – it’s one of the most important details to get right, considering how focused on food everyone is when they travel. It’s also something she had to photograph close-up.

Making the food look convincing was tough. But it was nowhere near as tough as putting herself in exotic locales. It’s not like she could go anywhere in Amsterdam that had palm trees and blue water. She had to stage multiple photographs of herself, then meticulously edit herself into the photographs you saw previously. Everything had to be just right. If the lighting was off even a little bit, it could cue the eye that something was wrong. People have gotten fairly good at spotting fake photographs, so she had to get all the details right. To her credit, it worked beautifully.

One Ticket To Paradise

Editing herself into photos of beaches, and even underwater shots, would be the most challenging part of the whole project. Lucky for her, she had a swimming pool available. The pool would prove instrumental in helping her carry off the illusion.

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She would go for a dip in the pool wearing the outfits she was to have worn on her imaginary vacation. Then, she’d have someone snap a photo of her. Then she’d find a photo that looked like somewhere she’d want to be, and edit herself into it. It’s interesting that she chose photos of beaches without any people on them. Despite how implausible that it, it both appeals to an idealized vision of what Southeast Asia is like and also makes it much easier to edit these photos without worrying about other people throwing the scale off.

She also used the pool to take the underwater photo of her snorkeling. Thankfully, the pool’s water was approximately the right shade of blue to make it seem like she was genuinely swimming in the tropics. Her graphic design skills really kicked into gear on these. It wasn’t all smoke and mirrors, though. She went to even more creative lengths to get some of her photos.

She Even Visited A Temple

Among the many photos that Zilla van den Born staged, the photo of her in a Buddhist temple was probably the funniest, in retrospect. She did not edit herself into this photo with Photoshop. She found a Buddhist temple in Amsterdam that was willing to let her pose next to a monk. It is unknown whether or not the monk was aware of her motivations for posing with him in the temple.

Daily Mail

She then passed the photo off as having been taken in Thailand. Again, with nobody having obvious cause to doubt the authenticity of her claims, the illusion went off without a hitch. The suburban-looking exterior of this temple is inset in the top-left corner of the photo. Not exactly a postcard-perfect temple.

Really the only giveaway in these photos is that Zilla isn’t tanned or sunburned. For someone who is allegedly spending all of her time at the beach, she remained remarkably pale.

Zilla could have stopped at the Photoshop and the fake meals. But she went the extra mile. You have to hand it to her – she was a thousand percent committed to the bit. Some of her family members thought it was funny. Others didn’t.

Fake Friends

And all the friends she supposedly made along the way? They were fake, too. She even made a fake Facebook account for a fake travel friend, with whom she conducted fake conversations.

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In an interview with the Washington Post, Zilla said of her project, “I’ve always been fascinated by Photoshop and before/after pictures — the many possibilities they have. It intrigues me that a photo has an insidious, ambiguous relationship with reality, because there is a constant battle going on between two photographic considerations: making the photographed object as beautiful as possible, and telling the truth. What a picture finally really shows is never the exact situation as it really was, it is a flavored version of the truth!”

She says that she was troubled by the way tourists looked at the world, and how they portrayed their vacations on social media. She says she even noticed, in observing others, that they would apply filters to their photos to make them look even more perfect. They also heavily cherrypicked what photos would make the social media cut. She believes this contributes to a kind of pervasive false reality in which people’s experiences become diluted and perverted by their need to look a certain way.

Zilla’s Motivations

Zilla knew that she would probably get mixed reactions from her family when she revealed what she’d done. But she figured that it would turn out alright in the end.

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“I wouldn’t have done this if I wasn’t sure my parents would get the point of it and support me,” she said in her Washington Post interview. Apparently, that’s what happened. Many of her family members were angry at her. They had spent the five weeks worried on her behalf, unnecessarily. After a while, though, things apparently settled down. And it was all for a good cause.

“My goal was to prove how easy it is to believe in a distorted reality. I wanted to make people more aware that the images we see are manipulated, and that it’s not only the models in the magazines, but also our friends on social media who contribute to this fake reality. We should be more careful about what we believe, and ask ourselves why a photo is made — how and by whom and with which intention.”

It’s an interesting point. One that was illustrated in a very grand fashion. Zilla’s message resonated with a lot of people, and her story was picked up in various media around the world.

Zilla Goes Deep

The idea for the project came from her studies as a graphic designer, her experiences as a model, and some interesting insights she had while traveling.

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“Before my graduation project, I traveled to Australia to do research about ‘the tourist gaze’: how people from abroad look at an environment in a totally different way than locals. Most tourists are experiencing their trip through the lens of their camera, which blocks them from reality. We are always looking for those picture-perfect moments. So that’s why we filter what we show on social media (in this case only the holiday photos of sunny days, spectacular moments) and even put filters over them to make them look more beautiful. Together we create some sort of ideal world online which reality can no longer meet. So I decided I wanted to do this experiment to show the people around me how it feels to believe in a false reality.”

The project was both a commentary on this “false reality” spinning and on the sophistication of editing techniques to create idealized visions of people. As a model, she experienced that first-hand. By now, it’s fairly well established that big media doctor photos of their models to make them look more attractive. Many people believe this sets up an unattainable standard of physical beauty that is psychologically harmful.

Her Family Was Mad

After Zilla’s big reveal, a lot of people in her family were understandably mad at her for lying directly to their faces for five straight weeks. They didn’t really see the bigger picture, at least not at that time, and were angry that she’d made them feel anxious for her safety as part of a school project.

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Of her family’s reactions, Zilla says, “They were shocked at first, confused and angry that they were worried for nothing. But in the end they understand why I did it and I have won their trust back.”

Apparently, once they had enough time to process what she had revealed to them, and had listened to her reasons for doing it, they were able to forgive her and move on. There’s no way it didn’t damage their trust in her on some level though. When you have a CIA-level psyop run against you by someone you’re related to, that must kind of mess with your perception of them.

The internet was enamored with Zilla and her clever stunt. Her story made the rounds for a while. Not everyone was thrilled. Many strangers weighed in on her decisions, accusing her of being a bad daughter, a liar, etc. They may have missed the point. Or they simply don’t find it valuable. However, Zilla does not regret what she did. It was the perfect capstone to her degree, and established her not only as an intelligent person but as someone with an impressive level of skill in her chosen field of graphic design.

She Got Some Backlash Online

Once the world learned about what she’d done, her story spread virally. Most people thought it was smart, funny and cute. Others thought she was a horrible person. She is still receiving some backlash for what she did. When you publish a story about lying to your family, you are bound to encounter a little bit of criticism.

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On her Facebook, one brain genius recently wrote to her, “Your sick! I would never believe another word you say. You put your boyfriend above your family when it comes to your consideration of the people you care about just to prove a point. I feel bad for your family, the ones who brought your cold heart into the this life. I dont care how pretty your face is. You are sick and ugly. I hope you obtained your grade. You go!!!”

Considering that it’s impossible to even post a photo of a cat online without someone dropping a racial slur in the comments section, her criticism should maybe be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, she deceived her family. But she did it for a smart reason that helped build a professional reputation. Nevertheless, many people still want her to “go!!!”

People Also Loved Her

While some people were mad, others were totally blown away by what she’d accomplished. She was lavished with praise. People thought it was hilarious, meaningful and visually very impressive.

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Lots of comments poured in to her Facebook from people she knew and people she’d never met. Everyone had something to say about it, and most of it was positive. And while a lot of her family were mad about her stunt, many of them were quite happy and found the whole affair funny. Zilla did manage to capture the moment on the internet, in a way that was much more clever than the typical viral fare.

Zilla’s friends, especially, thought that the deception was amusing. How could you not? If your friend spent five weeks holed up in their apartment lying to their families, you would surely think it was funny on some level as well. The continued popularity of her story is a testament to how what she did actually clicked with a lot of people’s worries about social media. It’s also just a great story. It seems ripe for the picking in terms of a movie, or something based generally on this premise. Woman pretends to go on vacation, finds herself instead.

She Finally Did Go On A Vacation, For Real

After the art project, Zilla graduated. And after her graduation, where do you think she went to celebrate? Yes, you guessed correctly. She went to Southeast Asia.

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“I had to go see for myself. And it was pretty weird at times, because I had moments where I thought I had been there before, because I had done my research so well. I already knew where I wanted to go and how to get there. Actually my project was the perfect holiday preparation!”

So Zilla got to take some undoctored photos of herself at the beach, after all. The vacation went smoothly. She didn’t even have to lie to anyone about her whereabouts.

Hers is a very unique story, that would be difficult to replicate. Though it can’t help but give you some ideas. As a result of her project, if you look a bit more skeptically at your social media feeds, she has accomplished what she set out to do. She’s also made quite a name for herself. This credential is freighted with a little bit of baggage, but overall, the picture that comes through of Zilla van den Born is a positive one. Hopefully she has many more vacations to come.




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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.

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