Recently, footage of a woman melting down on a New York City subway while trying to sell bugs went viral. There wasn’t much context until Friday, when the woman behind the stunt—who, not according to plan, peed during it—admitted it was a prank intended to bring awareness to homelessness and mental health.
The incident started at around 6 p.m. on Wednesday when a teenager slapped the belongings out of the hands of a woman trying to sell live crickets and worms on New York’s D train, according to the New York Post. That’s when someone reportedly pulled an emergency cord, stopping the train and leaving passengers and bugs stuck between two stations for about half an hour. Even worse, the air conditioning cut out on them.
An 18-minute video of the scene popped up on the Facebook page of Zaida Pugh on Friday, with the caption below and a “feeling disgusted” mood shared along with it:
#Homeless woman tries to sell crickets & worms for a quarter on NYC D-train. Boy smacks the bugs out her hand & bugs get everywhere on people, train gets stuck on the bridge.. Must watch full video she also gets arrested.#SHARE ASAP #TRENDING NEWS #ALERT #CRICKETS #WORMS #URINATION #Feces
Turns out, the post was purposely written in third person. Fusion reached out to the woman who posted the video, and Pugh admitted after some time to being an actress who planned it all out. From Fusion:
The entire episode, she said, was a performance art piece meant to highlight the way people with mental and emotional health issues are treated.
“I did this to show how people react to situations with homeless people and people with mental health,” Pugh explained. “How they’re more likely to pull out their phone than help.”
Pugh, who said she is 21, claims to have done over 50 similar “pranks.”
“I hate doing auditions, and I really like the reactions,” she explained. “I like it when it goes viral and people react and think.”
According to the Post, Pugh went to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation and stayed in character throughout the entire visit. That matches the story Pugh told Fusion, which included that police handcuffed her and the hospital released her to her camera crew.
Not everything matched between official accounts, Pugh’s version and original reports, though. Fusion reports that New York Police Department said Pugh is 26 instead of 21, that the emergency brake never enacted and the train never lost power.
Another “prank” pulled by Pugh in the past was “a bloody video that purported to show a woman stabbing her baby to death in an insane revenge plot on her boyfriend,” according to the Post. The video and the Snopes post debunking it all can be found here, should you be so inclined.
Pugh told the Post that not everyone will like her pranks, but she “will continue to do it until they wake up.” As for the peeing, here’s what she had to say:
“I did [urinate] but didn’t purposely mean to,” Pugh said. “It was very hot and I was holding my bladder. When I realized we weren’t going anywhere, I said, ‘I’m gonna just let it out.’”
Let it out, girl. Seems like you’re good at that.