András Arató became a laughing stock 10 years ago when pictures of him became widely used in memes. But the newly-baptised "hide the pain Harold" has reclaimed his image.
Ten years ago, András Arató's life changed when he agreed to model for some stock photos and quickly became an internet sensation.
Online users detected a hint of sorrow behind the retired Hungarian electrical engineer's smile and a flurry of memes bearing his image were created.
"Hide the pain Harold" was born.
"My first thought was that I don't want this to happen," Arató told Euronews.
Unfortunately, the memesters could not be stopped so Arató decided to take back control of his internet alter-ego
"It took me five years to accept it. I had to come to terms with the fact that I cannot stop it, cannot do anything against it, and in the end, I decided that if I can't get out of this, I have to try to make the best of it," he said.
His solution was to create accounts on social networks and interact with his fans.
"When they realised I am a real person, the offensive and harsh jokes disappeared almost entirely," he explained.
András now has hundreds of thousands of followers and is regularly invited to attend events where young people queue to take selfies with him.
"Through this, I have constant contact with young people, and, well, it is better to joke around with young people than to listen to the health-related complaints of those of my age," he said.
Furthermore, embracing his alter-ego has turned out to be a lucrative business.
András, or Harold, now travels the world to meet his fans, shoot television adverts and the odd music video.
"If I wanted to draw a lesson from what happened to me, I would say life throws all kinds of challenges at you, and you have to accept it. You have to take it as it comes, try out as many things as possible, and who knows — you might even become a meme," he said.