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The Explosion of the “Gig Economy” and Online Celebrity Complicates New York Divorces

New York Divorce Attorneys Detail How Social Media Stardom Impacts Divorces

Work and career have been evolving concepts in America for generations, with a rising professional class amended decades ago to include women in higher education and then the workforce.

Those changes have shifted how families live, and in turn, how divorce is conducted.

It’s clear that in the early decades of the 21st century, we’re living through a new transition, where the “gig economy” and online stardom are creating tangled income streams and difficult-to-value properties.

For many people today, “work” is less clearly defined than it ever has been, and wealth can be accumulated in ways that couldn’t have been imagined even ten or fifteen years ago.

Take Instagram, the social media photo sharing platform.

For most users, it’s a convenient place to show off events or experiences to friends, with searchable hashtags allowing a broader conversation with like-minded strangers.

For Josh Ostrovsky, 34, and his soon-to-be ex-wife Katie Sturino, Instagram is a core driver of revenue and the source of a very modern kind of celebrity.

Ostrovsky and Sturino have been a couple for a decade, and married two years ago. They are clearly devoted to the new economy and are building careers that explore many different approaches to earning a living from cyberspace creativity.

How Social Media Affected Divorce of Josh Ostrovsky, also known as “The Fat Jew”, Instagram Personality

Ostrovsky’s Instagram account, “The Fat Jew,” provides commentary on pop culture through heavily viral memes.

Not all of them are Ostrovsky’s creation, and he’s faced criticism in the past for using other people’s creative work without attribution.

Online and off, this is considered a form of stealing, though in the online world it’s something that few have the resources to pursue through legal means.

In 2015, comedians and internet creatives went public with their criticism of The Fat Jew’s use of their work, complaining that by removing watermarks and denying attribution, he was depriving them of traffic to their own websites and profiles, and cratering their potential revenue.

Ostrovsky denied wrongdoing, but the controversy took on a life of its own and resulted in a number of articles at well-read venues like Huffington Post and Vulture Magazine.

Online, drama pays huge dividends, and The Fat Jew’s follower base doubled in the aftermath of the flurry.

He also hired someone to help ensure that his posts, which sometimes feature product placements and brand mentions that he receives thousands of dollars a piece for, contain clearer attribution to their creators.

It seems clear that the value of Ostrovsky’s Instagram brand rose because of the controversy.

He’s parlayed his internet fame into pitchman work for Burger King, Bud Light, Beats Electronics, and Virgin Mobile.

He hosts an online radio show called “Money, Pizza, Respect,” and published a book by the same name. He even makes his own brand of wine, called White Girl Rose.

The profile is profitable because with a following as large as his, he’s essentially done the work that marketers would spend vast sums of money to do less well.

Ostrovsky’s following is a self-selected audience that broadly shares demographic and cultural similarity, and for the right brands, his boosts lend authenticity to a highly desirable group of consumers.

It’s not a new business model, but it is a new twist on the approach that’s been used in other media for decades.

Sturino, similarly, is an online creative who blogs about fashion, bills herself as a public relations professional, and also happens to be “mom” to an Instagram-famous dog named Toast.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was rescued from a puppy mill in North Carolina when she was six or seven.

Sturino adopted the dog and then did what anyone who’d been in a long relationship with The Fat Jew would do – she opened an Instagram account for Toast.

Soon, she was dressing the pup up in cute outfits, photographing her, and posting the pictures to the dog’s Toast Meets World Instagram account. It didn’t take long to catch on.

Celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon were early followers, and in no time, Toast’s photographs were displaying to an audience of hundreds of thousands.

Designer Karen Walker reached out to hire Toast to participate in her 2015 campaign for fashion eyewear, and ended up with front-row seating at the Karen Walker fashion show that year.

Toast started headlining fundraisers for national dog rescues, and even had a star-studded wedding to another Instagram-famous pooch, Finn.

Clad in a custom designed Marchesa gown and $175,000 in diamonds, Toast raised a huge amount of money for charities that deal with animal welfare.

Sturino has transitioned the dog’s online fame into a strange sort of lifestyle brand, launching the book ToastHampton: How to Summer in Style in 2016.

The book features shots of Toast in and out of her outfits at various chic locations in the Hamptons.

As with Instagram, the pictures feature one-line captions that carry over Toast’s online persona.

Sturino says that she isn’t yet making a living from Toast’s adventures, but given her estranged husband’s success, it’s easy to believe that soon enough, Toast Meets World will be her full time occupation.

Marriage can be difficult for entrepreneurs, and it appears that Ostrovsky ended up in a relationship with another woman, with whom he is now a dad.

Sturino filed for divorce last year in Binghamton, New York, though the couple have lived in a Tribeca apartment for years.

They are reportedly sharing custody of their pets – Toast and their other two dogs, Muppet and Underpants.

The big question for divorce lawyers on the case will be how to value each spouse’s brand.

The Financial Times believes that Ostrovsky earns several hundred thousand dollars a year from his various endeavors, but both have likely played a starring role in the other’s success.

Putting a price tag on a fair settlement in this divorce will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge that divorce attorneys should expect to see more and more as “work” continues to evolve in the culture.

When your marriage in Brooklyn is ending, work with attorneys who know the lay of the land and can handle even complex financial situations.

Call the experienced Brooklyn divorce lawyers at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino today at 718-725-9601 for a free consultation.

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