Two social media influencers who managed to make the Hollywood sign read “Hollyboob” before being arrested on suspicion of trespassing Monday said they did so to challenge censorship on Instagram. One of them, they said, lost millions of followers — and part of her livelihood — when her accounts were shuttered for nudity.
That their stunt also raised awareness for breast cancer and brought smiles to faces around the world, they said, were bonuses.
“It’s awesome,” said Julia Rose, 27, of L.A., whose Shag Mag company brands itself as a modern rival to Playboy. “All of it combined together has been really, really great.”
In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Rose said she first conceptualized the prank last year after being warned about nudity on her personal and company Instagram accounts, which had about 6 million followers combined.
Rose said she knew she was “pushing the boundaries of censorship” on those accounts by featuring fellow influencers barely covering up, but she also felt Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, censored accounts unfairly, targeting influencers more than established brands such as Playboy.
Facebook and Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Rose knew she couldn’t get to the Hollywood sign and alter it alone, so she looked “for someone wild enough to help,” she said, and landed on friend and fellow influencer Jack Tenney, 26, whose “adventure”-focused channel on YouTube also touts millions of followers.
“Everybody loves a good prank,” Tenney said. “It’s always good to make people laugh and make people smile.”
The pair said they attempted to get to the sign multiple times late last year but failed, in part because the two big “B” tarps they had created — to cover the iconic sign’s “W” and “D” — were too heavy.
But after both Rose’s personal and business Instagram accounts were disabled beginning in late December, they said they decided to try again — and this time with a better plan.
Instead of two tarps, they would only bring one, for the “W.” They’d achieve the second “B” by pulling a much smaller piece of material through the middle of the existing “D.”
They then got a double stroller to wheel the one tarp up an established trail that takes hikers above the sign, “pretending to be husband and wife,” Tenney said with a laugh. “We just kind of went for it, knowing that we could get caught.”
Two of Tenney’s friends from Florida came along, as did two of Rose’s friends. At the top of the mountain, they skirted a fence and climbed down the hill. At the sign, five of them focused on getting the tarp over the “W,” using ropes to help lift it, and one got the material across the “D.”
Rose and Tenney estimated they were at the sign for 15 to 20 minutes, and no more than half an hour. They then hiked down the hill to Mulholland Highway, where they expected to be — and were — arrested, for misdemeanor trespassing. They were released Monday night.
Los Angeles Police Department officials said the group was not charged with vandalism because there was no damage to the sign but that they were breaking the law by trespassing — and on terrain that is dangerous.
Mark Panatier, chairperson of the Hollywood Sign Trust, which maintains the site in Griffith Park, said Monday that it was “unfortunate that such an important icon for the city of L.A. is not being appreciated.”
“This is an icon that’s there for visual reinforcement of the importance of Hollywood, not just for the city of L.A. but to the world,” Panatier said. “It needs to be upheld; it doesn’t need to be demeaned.”
Rose and Tenney took a different view. They said they hadn’t hurt anyone and had received positive comments from people around the world who thought their efforts were hilarious, or who welcomed the focus on breast cancer.
They said they each would have a court hearing on June 3. Tenney said he hoped the judge took the prank as many on the internet had: as a harmless bit of fun that did some good along the way.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.