Angie Varona: How a 14-Year-Old Unwillingly Became an Internet Sex Symbol
Varona was 14 when her private provocative photos were leaked.
Nov. 9, 2011— -- Angie Varona is one of the most recognized young sex symbols on the Internet, not because she is an aspiring model, or even asking for the attention, but because her private photo account was hacked four years ago.
The 18-year-old said her likeness has shown up on porn sites, humor sites and reddit.com's now defunct "jailbait" section -- where people traded and commented on photos of underage girls, even on advertisements. There are also numerous unauthorized Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels, all claiming to be Varona -- one Facebook fan page has more than 41,000 likes.
A recent Google search of "Angie Varona" turned up 608,000 original search items, including 63,000 photos tagged with her name. Many of the photos out there now, Varona said, are not her originals, but are remakes or women pretending to be her.
"They Photoshopped one of my bikini pictures," she said. "I have the original and everything. They Photoshopped the top off."
For four years Angie kept hoping the online obsession would stop, but it's only gotten worse.
"People wish to exploit me and I guess stalk me in a way...they want every picture that has ever been taken of me," she said.
This summer, in an effort to spread awareness about the dangers of photo hacking, Varona decided to tell her story to the "Miami Montage," a publication put together by high school journalism students at a University of Miami, then decided to tell her story to "Nightline."
Varona was just 14 years old when she uploaded some provocative photos of herself wearing lingerie and bikinis -- no nude pictures, she said -- to the image-sharing website, Photobucket.com in 2007. It was decision that she said has ruined her life.
"When you're 14 you don't realize that the things you do really do matter at that point," she told "Nightline" anchor Terry Moran in an exclsuive television interview. "No one ever thinks that, 'yeah, I'm going to take these pictures and it's going to end up all over the Internet.' You just do it for yourself."
At the time, Varona said the photos were intended for her then-boyfriend's eyes only, but when someone hacked her private account, suddenly her private photos were everywhere online.
"We started emailing all the websites that had it already," she said. "It just progressed instead and exploded way too much."
Varona immediately told her parents, who were "dumbfounded" when their daughter came to them crying. Her father, Juan Varona, said that while he was "disappointed" in Angie, he was angry at the people who were spreading the photos.
"At first you look at it and it's on a porn site and it's horrible," he said. "Then you look at it and say, 'It's a bathing suit picture,' I would rather have her not put it up, but it's a bathing suit picture. None of her pictures are any worse than you would see in Victoria Secret."
The family called the police and hired a lawyer, but they continued to hit dead ends as photos of Varona's provocative poses rapidly multiplied on the Internet.
"There's not really a lot you can do with that because it's not child pornography I guess, it's more child erotica, that's what they classified it as," she said. "So they couldn't really take it down off any website, which I thought was wrong. ...Basically they told me, 'yeah, you have to sit and watch it all happen.'"
When her high school classmates got hold of the photos, Varona said she was tormented and called a "slut" and a "porn star."
"You have your teenage drama, but that was the basis of everything," Varona said. "Honestly, if that wouldn't have happened, half the drama that I do have wouldn't exist."
But the nasty comments went way beyond mere opinions. Varona received numerous threats, which she said became so severe that her family had to contact the FBI.
"[People] telling me that I deserve everything that's going to come for me, that they're going to rape me when they see me because I want it and because I ask for it," Varona said. "Someone found out my address and everything... threatening me, saying that they know where I live."
She changed schools twice, but eventually, her family decided to home-school her. Unable to escape the humiliation and to stop the photos from spreading, Varona said she became depressed and turned to drugs, alcohol, even tried ran away from home.
"It's a wound that doesn't heal," said her father, Juan. "Every time it's healing, something comes up on the internet, so it's an open wound, constantly."
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