Josh Ostrovsky, B.A.’06

Social Butterfly

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A.’93

Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg and 9 million other people follow him on Instagram under the username @TheFatJewish. He’s been a guest at a White House event where a joke about his hair earned a hearty laugh from President Obama. He co-launched a line of affordable wines called White Girl Rosé, which has sold more than 30,000 cases. He has officiated weddings and been hired to attend bar mitzvahs. And last February, he was paid handsomely to sit inside a giant vat of chili to promote Craftsman tools during the Super Bowl.

Grace Claxton competes at the Olympics in Rio
Ostrovsky introduces his new book.
Grace Claxton competes at the Olympics in Rio
At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, he hobnobs with the Obamas.

To say that Josh “The Fat Jew” Ostrovsky has taken a non-traditional life path is something of an understatement. Nonetheless, the former journalism major has carved out an impressive niche for himself. Whether you refer to him as a social-media icon, writer, actor, “plus-sized model” (his description) or marketing strategist, Ostrovsky is a savvy entrepreneur with a charmingly twisted sense of humor ... and clearly in the right place at the right time. “I always knew I would do something different,” said Ostrovsky when describing his career aspirations from his UAlbany days.

He transferred to the University after previous stints at Skidmore College and NYU. Craving what he termed “a real college experience,” Ostrovsky was drawn to UAlbany’s sense of community. He built strong friendships here, including with a group of “Italian guys who brought their own deli meats from home – because they couldn’t get good capicola upstate.”

Ostrovsky credits University faculty with encouraging his creative instincts. In fact, his penchant for making outrageous videos and quirky social commentary dates back to his time in college. “I was doing all the same stuff in college that I do now, but only my friends saw it,” noted Ostrovsky. “Now I get to share my ideas with millions of people.”

Ostrovsky and Katie Couric get pedicures
Ostrovsky gets a pedicure – and an interview – with Katie Couric.
Ostrovsky's dog Toast
Ostrovsky’s dog, Toast, has her own social-media fame.

Ostrovsky has also learned how to monetize his quirky appeal. One of his primary sources of income is marketing himself and his large social-media following to some of the world’s best-known brands. From Bud Light to Burger King, advertisers pay him to integrate their products into his Instagram and Snapchat feeds.

“They always start by saying, ‘Do something really crazy,’” said Ostrovsky with a laugh. “Then I make a few suggestions, and they usually want something less crazy.”

While social media has clearly played a major role in Ostrovsky’s success, and though he loves the Internet “more than my own family,” the multi-talented star believes that there is an increasing sense of “social-media burnout.”

“Real life is making a comeback,” predicted Ostrovsky. “People – especially millennials – are hungry for real-life experiences.”

That’s one of the reasons why Ostrovsky continues to pursue new creative and business interests, from winemaking to food and travel writing to developing ideas for a TV show. “Every day is unexpected,” said Ostrovsky. “I never know where I’m going to end up.”