Thrifty Business | An Internet Curiosity Gone Viral
Imagine this; you are the owner of a thrift store in Mortsel, Belgium, that gives jobs to refugees and helps the local community. The community returns the love by donating items of boxes for you to fund your social workplace. Life is pleasant, fulfilling and with few major surprises.
One day, you are scouring through the many dusty donations and find a dog-eared photo album. Little did you know – this will kick off a series of events that will make your shop an internet sensation and at the center of a hunt for a mystery woman.
This is what happened to the owners of Opnieuw & Co when they uncovered a forgotten photo book filled with pictures of an unknown woman posing with hundreds of the biggest names in Hollywood. The mystery woman was smiley, middle-aged, impeccably dressed and clearly friendly with the stars… they all look comfortable and casual standing with her, but who was she?
Filled with curiosity, the thrift shop posted some of the pictures of this woman being hugged by Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis, Robert Downey Jr., online and called on the sleuthing powers of the internet to find her.
Months passed and no concrete leads emerged – until one day, someone noted a press badge in the corner of one of her photos that read ‘Maria Snoeys-Lagle, member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)’.
Finally, the mystery was solved! As part of the HFPA, Mrs Snoey-Lagle was one of the 90 members from 55 countries that wield great influence in the film world, including awarding the Golden Globe Award every January in Los Angeles.
According to local Belgian television reports about the online enigma, Maria retired from the HFPA at the age of 87 and passed away in 2016, leaving a considerable mark on her industry and being missed by colleagues and stars alike. In a final feel-good moment for this story, her daughter has since been located in California and the album has been returned to her.
To this day, no one knows how the book ended up in the thrift shop in Mortsel.