You might think you’ve seen it all with “Catfish: The TV Show,” but as series two of the UK version hits our screens this week, it’s time to think again. “Catfishes are getting smarter,” Nella Rose, the brand-new presenter of the MTV series, tells POPSUGAR. “They’re using different tools to make themselves believable. They are going above and beyond.”
And so YouTube sensation Rose has been recruited alongside Oobah Butler, who fronted series one with Julie Adenuga, to tackle the sordid world of fake profiles and catfishing in the UK. Despite not knowing each other prior to the show, the dynamic duo have been gaining notoriety by going viral in their own capacity and have built such a rapport working together on the show that you can’t help but want to hang out with them. So that’s exactly what we did.
“We balance each other out perfectly because you get two ways of looking at it in every episode.”
The pair tell POPSUGAR they have learnt a lot from each other, most notably sharing dance moves and historical facts about the cities they visit. Their energy on the show is infectious — the two have formed a synergy that makes us all feel part of the action, and they slip seamlessly into their presenting stride in the first episode. “Oobah thinks very matter of factly. He’s like, ‘These are the facts and you were wrong,’ I think more like, ‘Aww, but he loves her,'” Rose says. “I tend to think with my emotions and he actually thinks with his head. We balance each other out perfectly because you get two ways of looking at it in every episode. It just works.”
Butler, 30, was catapulted into the spotlight after his 2017 prank made fictitious restaurant The Shed at Dulwich a top-rated venue in London on TripAdvisor, and so he’s no stranger to cunning tactics, while Rose, 24, has become a social media powerhouse with a successful YouTube channel and podcast, as well as those viral TikTok clips. But how would they describe themselves? “A Poundshop Ellen Degeneres,” Butler tells us. “The baddest b*tch you’ll ever meet. That’s all you need to know about me. Period,” says Rose. Well, that’s the intros sorted, then.
For those who have been living under a rock for the last decade, the TV show is a spinoff from the US version, currently hosted by Nev Schulman and Kamie Crawford, which investigates the truth and lies of online dating. What makes the UK version so special is that most of the online relationships occur in much closer proximity, meaning there are ample opportunities for those speaking to each other to meet, bringing an added layer of suspicion, tension, and confusion to the show.
Rose is a self-proclaimed “Catfish” superfan, having watched every episode when she was a teenager at school. “When ‘Catfish’ came about, particularly at that time, there was no other show like it. Everyone was just sitting on the internet thinking, ‘Oh yeah, this is a fun place. What could possibly go wrong?'” she says. “And then it was like, ‘Woah. People are actually using these profiles to speak to other people as not themselves.’ I was just blown away and have been hooked ever since.”
However, taking the reins isn’t a job for just anybody. The presenting pair become fully embroiled in the stories, having to be the shoulders to cry on when a Happily Ever After isn’t in the cards. “Nine times out of 10, they are literally in love with this person. You want the best for them because you’re close with them and you bond with them,” says Butler. “You spent so much time with this person over such a short amount of time, but the truth is the best thing for them.”
And this season is about to get even more emotional than we’ve seen before. “The tears, the tears, the tears! It’s crazy,” Rose reveals. “The amazing people we met this season were really, really emotionally invested. And I’m a Cancer, so . . .” Yep, we know what it’s like to feel all the feelings, too.
“Are we just becoming more comfortable with lying?”
Butler has also noticed a trend amongst the catfishes as he returns to front the show that sees fake profiles being used in a much more functional way, describing a scenario coming later in the season which involves a family member who catfishes “in order to get the person out of a relationship that they thought wasn’t good for them.” While deceit is never acceptable, there is a level of understanding. “Are we just becoming more comfortable with lying? But, equally, I kind of get why they’re doing it,” he says.
As a “Catfish UK” pro, Butler has also learned that those appearing on the show need a little bit of tough love. While he’s wisened up to some of the tricks this time around, there is a level of compassion that the presenters need when approaching each story. “We’re there for [the catfishes], too,” he says. “There is something within them that means they are so uncomfortable in their own skin that they can’t be themselves, and that is at the heart of all of it. Sometimes you’ve just got to get through to them, I mean there are just gobsmacking levels of lying. Sometimes it just gets you.”
While the presenters live a lot of their own life on social media, it’s a wonder they aren’t approaching platforms with caution after seeing firsthand how easy it is to manipulate others. Instead, it’s made them more wary for those around them. “If my friend says, ‘I met a guy on a dating app,’ I want to see his full name,” Rose laughs. “I’m searching all of his pictures and they’d better not come up, do you know what I mean? It’s taught me a lot of skills on how to protect my friends.”
“When you are open and honest, it’s amazing how people respond.”
While there’s a constant pressure to post the best parts of yourself online, Rose maintains a balance by using the various platforms for the different sides of her personality. “On my Instagram, I tend to post myself looking the cutest because, you know, that’s what every girl wants,” she explains. “But then on my YouTube, I tend to talk about more personal stuff that I go through so that people can relate to me. I feel like I’m a really relatable person and can help people through experiences. So it depends on the platform. But, excuse me, on Instagram I’m a bad b*tch, you’re not going to see me on Instagram looking like a rat. I’m not a rat.” Being savvy, honest, and hilarious is how Rose has gained over 570K followers on Instagram and kept herself grounded at the same time.
Butler sees the difficulty with online personas and the toxic environment the internet can be, but if fronting “Catfish” for two series has taught him anything, it’s that honesty really is the best policy. “In terms of being honest and being your true self on social media, I think it’s really f*cking difficult,” he admits. “I’m conscious of it and I think it is important. And when you are open and honest, it’s amazing how people respond.” Amen to that.
“Catfish UK” returns to MTV UK tonight at 9 p.m.