Fact check: Model in photograph with Lady Gaga is not Ryan Singleton

Update Dec. 15, 2020: Update includes statement from actor Phillip J. Lewis. Removes references to an “unidentified model”.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Users on social media are sharing a photo of Lady Gaga and Serbian artist Marina Abramovic with a model in body paint. Users have mistakenly claimed the model in the image is Ryan Singleton, who was found dead in Baker, California on September 21, 2013. The post has been flagged multiple times as part of Facebook’s efforts to curb misinformation.

Examples of the claim are visible here , here , here , here and here .

The post claims the photo was taken at a “satanic spirit cooking hunt and party”. In fact, the image shows Lady Gaga, Marina Abramovic and Watermill Center’s founder Robert Wilson (here) during the 20th Annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit ( here ) on July 27, 2013 in Water Mill, New York.

A similar angle of the photo in the claim is visible here and here .

The photograph actually shows actor Phillip J. Lewis ( ). In a statement sent to Reuters on Dec. 15, Lewis said: “I would like to go on record to say that I am the model in the photo and these accusations have zero merit.”

Calling these conspiracy theories an “embarrassment” to the victim and society, Lewis said, “Situations like these are a testament to what is wrong with our society. Instead of focusing on the undetermined death of a black man we somehow made it into a cult thriller spectacle.”

Lewis physical characteristics differ significantly from Ryan Singleton’s. Other photos of Lewis that day visible here , and show that his facial features vary significantly from Singleton’s (comparable photographs of Ryan Singleton are visible here , here , here )

According to the autopsy report visible here , Ryan Singleton’s body was found in the desert west of Baker, California on September 21, 2013. He was reported as a missing person on July 10, 2013, after he flew to Los Angeles on July 6. According to local news reports here and here , Singleton was last seen at a gas station at Baker California multiple days prior to the Watermill Benefit.

Body paint artist Trina Merry, the creator of this piece for the Watermill Benefit ( here ) has debunked the false claim on her social media accounts here , here and here .


False. This model in body paint is not deceased model Ryan Singleton.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts   here  .