The Frisky features Rey Rey Rodriguez on one of his infamous marketing tactics.
A disturbing image had been circling around countless private forums, chat rooms, and social media groups for over two years. The photograph appeared to have the lifeless body of a male, with a possibly dislocated right arm, lying face down. The photo didn’t offer many clues. The man was pale, shirtless, and wore stained workout pants and sneakers. He had no visible distinguishing marks or tattoos, and there was nothing that gave away his location. His body seemed to be on a tarp, net, or some other form of cloth, possibly inside of an uncovered dumpster, or in a landfill. No data could be read from the file itself because all of the ones circulating were duplicates, screenshots, or downloaded copies of what others had uploaded.
Many questions needed to be answered. Was this person deceased, unconscious, sleeping, or was he being forced to lie there? How did he end up in this position? Who took this photo? Was it the killer? Was it whoever found him? Was this incident reported? Was there someone missing that fits this description? Who was the first person to post this photo? Were they the killer?
On one of these posts, in a Facebook group for “Photography Lovers,” a conversation began to gain attention after someone named, “Maddy” commented, “I’m pretty sure I know who the guy is in that photo.” After a few dozen sarcastic responses (“Of course you do!” “Me too! And the famous, “Yeah, yo momma!”), someone finally asked, “Who do you think it is?”
The commenter, seemed certain of who it was, stating that the person in the photo had appeared in multiple images found in several Facebook groups she belonged to. “He uploads horror photos and videos all the time and models in some of them,” she said.
The victim was believed to be a South Florida-based artist named, Rey Rey Rodriguez. A Google search of the name pulled up several pages of information. His portraits online did resemble the physical build and complexion of the mysterious person in the photo. And, there were several news articles detailing how he had been missing, that his social media accounts had been displaying strange activity not resembling his usual posts, how some believed he was dead or on the run, and that his dark photography made others worry that he may have taken his own life.
It seemed like the search was over. But, now other questions needed to be asked. Were we looking at a crime that took place or just another one of his dark photoshoots? Was this something that needed to be brought to the police, or was this just some kind of attention-seeking stunt?
It was hard to distinguish what was fact, fiction, or just marketing press when scanning through the media articles. The platforms featuring the stories ranged from top reliable news sources to small / relatively unknown blogs. The narratives ranged from the morbid, “Artist Fueled by his Traumatic Childhood,” to the flourishing, “Entrepreneur that Helps others Succeed.” Job titles were listed by the dozens, “Entrepreneur, Solopreneur, Visual Artist, Graphic Artist, Celebrity Photographer, Poet, Marketing Expert”… the list goes on. One website had him as an “Up-and-Coming Artist,” while another had his net worth listed at $1.9 Million. His social media accounts were filled with inspirational quotes, popular sayings, and memes, while his Instagram seemed to be used as an art portfolio. His website displayed a strange mix of photography starring public figures, athletes, and random macabre works while offering the options for a photo, video, marketing, web design, and other services.
Although the Internet was bombarded with random details of this character, there were some provable facts. His real name was Rey Paul Rodriguez. Rey Rey Rodriguez was his legal fictitious / artist name. He was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Like the actor Johnny Depp, he dropped out of Miramar High School. And, like the dark prince of music Marilyn Manson, he studied at Broward College. Rey Rey founded a company based out of Fort Lauderdale, FL named, The Mind of Rey Rey, had some of his works published in literary and art magazines, won some awards, and rubbed shoulders with some prominent figures.
So, was he dead? Why hadn’t the social media detectives, conspiracy theorists, commenters, and gossipers solved this mystery already? Wasn’t it as simple as calling, emailing, private messaging, commenting on a post, or reaching out to Rey Rey in some way and asking if it’s him in the photo? Couldn’t they contact his company to see if he was still alive or missing? According to written accounts, many tried, but none were able to reach him.
Neither, his personal or business phone numbers were listed anywhere. The phone number that was blasted everywhere was a text marketing number. Like most businesses during COVID, his company The Mind of Rey Rey didn’t have a physical location. Emails received no response, and private messages, DMs, and comments on posts always received nothing more than a GIF, emoji, or some random unrelated answer.
Without the ability to contact him, people assumed the worst. The common theory was that he had disappeared for (and from) unknown reasons and that someone most likely took over his social media accounts. But, all questions were answered in February of 2021, when back-to-back news articles were published featuring new stories and interviews on Rey Rey.
According to reports, he kept a low profile for a few years while silently expanding his brand into other areas of business, and handling some personal matters.
When asked about the dead man in the photo, he responded, “That’s me!” He explained, that he had a few people make posts using the “death” image while asking questions concerning his whereabouts. “The rumors grew faster after a few bloggers and media contributors wrote about the topic.”
Some questioned the validity of this marketing tactic story, believing that it wasn’t him in the photo. The man’s face in the photograph was hidden because he was lying on his stomach, but his entire back was exposed. Rey Rey has his name tattooed on his upper back, which wasn’t seen in the image. The man also had some kind of hyperextended deformity to his right arm.
Rey Rey explained, “The shot was taken in the back of a work truck carrying palm tree braches. There were fewer branches under the left side of my body and head, which hunched me forward and elevated my right side. The photographer took the shot standing behind me. Afterward, I edited the colors to give it a colder feel.”
To further prove his statement, Rey Rey released the original, un-edited RAW version of the photo, and said, “The tattoo can slightly be seen just below my neck when zoomed into the RAW photo.” As for the strange social media posts, he explained that at the time, different staff members contributed to his social media accounts, with his only rule being, “Keep them active, don’t get them flagged, and don’t respond to anything serious.”
When asked why he wanted this morbid rumor to spread, he responded: “I needed to focus on my company and clients, and wasn’t sure how long I’d be away from my dark photoshoots. So, I released one dark photo into the world to be talked about. In the end, it’s all about marketing. Not everyone agrees with my methods, but in my experience, the stranger the artwork or story is, the more people want to see it and share it.”