Lakers Podcaster Accused of Catfishing Her Co-host in Wild Scheme: ‘I Was a Pawn’
On Sunday, Vivian Flores’ podcast co-host claimed she had gone missing. Then it turned out she might not exist at all.
On Monday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers were being hammered by the Utah Jazz, a bizarre claim broke out among fans. Overshadowing discussion of the disappointing loss, it posited that a popular Lakers Twitter fan account and podcast host, who was battling cancer and had gone missing over the weekend, was actually a catfish and had possibly been deceiving people about their identity for more than a decade.
Confused? Hang in there.
It all kicked off on Sunday when Lakers fan Josh Toussaint claimed Vivian Flores, his The Laker Point podcast co-host, had gone missing. “May or may not be wearing a wig bc she’s going through leukemia treatment,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “DM me if you have a lead or may see her - Love you all and stay safe.”
Due to Flores’ sizable Twitter following, around 16,000 before she deleted her account on Tuesday morning and then reactivated it hours later, the word quickly spread. Actor O'Shea Jackson Jr reshared the post and Toussaint posted a screenshot allegedly from the official Lakers’ Twitter account that said its head of security would be in touch to help in the search.
The next morning, Toussaint announced that Flores had been found. He tweeted, “VIVIAN HAS BEEN FOUND ALIVE AND SAFE!!! THANK YOU, EVERYONE!!!”
From there, things took a turn over on Clubhouse. Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant was involved in a discussion about “Elite Catfishes” when user Big Kings piped up to claim he had been talking to Flores for a few months after first becoming acquainted over Twitter. But whenever he tried to FaceTime her, he said, she always had an excuse, once claiming she didn’t want to get on camera because she had “scars.”
Big Kings did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
The Clubhouse conversation made its way back to Twitter and people began looking at Flores’ account with fresh eyes, some pointing out that her pictures looked heavily edited. Most of the photos appeared to be edited in Snapchat, with stickers and her Bitmoji placed over the image, which were often weirdly cropped and angled.
It’s not uncommon for catfish to alter images through apps such as Snapchat to conceal the photo’s data and make it harder to trace the image back to the original poster.
According to Flores’ Twitter bio, she also tweeted for LakersFanatics. When The Daily Beast reached out to the account for further comment, an administrator said they were handling the situation privately. However, they admitted they were also confused and “hurt by it all.”
“I’m sorry, I know people want to know,” they said over an Instagram message. “I’m just as shocked and hurt. LakerFanatics was created to give a platform for women to show their passion for sports and basketball. I would go in[to] detail but that [sic] just for me and the rest of my team.”
The administrator said they had deleted all photos of Flores from its page and clarified Flores wasn’t paid to tweet for the account. But they stopped responding when The Daily Beast pressed for more answers. “I can’t go into any more detail,” they wrote.
People quickly began to suspect Toussaint could be involved. Listening to their podcast, Flores appears to sound older than she looks and has a slight accent. Some also pointed out that the audio of their conversation was choppily edited.
Toussaint then came forward with his own wild tale about Flores and how he learned she went missing. He went live with a friend on Twitter, explaining that he was also “duped.”
“I’m just in the same boat as you guys, maybe even worse because I thought we were close,” he said. “I thought we were really cool, and we’ve been for over a year. I thought I was helping her while she was dealing with cancer. She opened up to me about her past.”
“I just feel completely betrayed right now,” he later added. “She’s always struggled to tell the truth or talk about herself.”
Toussaint then delivered the receipts, screen recording a private Twitter message sent from Flores’ account. “Vivian has been missing for the last few hours, we finally were able to get into her Twitter,” the message read. “Do you know anything could be of help?”
When Toussaint asked who was sending the message, he was told it was Flores’ sister Aly. “We are going to file a missing person’s report for her,” she wrote back. “I may need your help to spread the word on social media to ask for will [sic] if necessary.”
She then discouraged Toussaint from reaching out to one of Flores’ brothers, saying he had a lot to deal with and didn’t want to cause him any stress.
Aly then proceeded to tell Toussaint that Flores was last seen near Laurel Park in West Hollywood and police were looking for her. She also claimed Flores drove a 2020 Bentley Continental, which normally costs $200,000.
The Daily Beast confirmed with the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department of West Hollywood there was not a search conducted nor a missing person’s report filed for anyone by the name of Vivian Flores.
Suddenly Aly brings up Big Kings, telling Toussaint, “There have been people saying that a guy by the name of Kinglsey maybe [sic] involved” and shared a photo of their Twitter DMs.
But by the next morning, Aly informs Toussaint that Flores had been found safe, thanking him for helping out.
Toussaint later clarified that he never FaceTimed with Flores because she blamed it on her low self-esteem, despite posting several selfies on social media. But he said he had talked on the phone with her several times and recorded their podcasts using the Anchor app.
“I thought I trusted someone and learned my lesson,” he tweeted. “Tried to help a friend I thought was in peril. I was duped like y'all and feel bad I was a pawn. Such garbage. Logging off for awhile. Stay safe out there. You never know.”
The Daily Beast spoke with Toussaint, who said he was up until 4 a.m. Tuesday morning battling the rumors. A recent college grad who ran the podcast as a hobby, he said he’s devastated by the accusations and learning that Flores might not be real.
He claims he hasn’t heard from Flores since Monday night, saying she effectively ghosted him and left him to take the heat, forcing him to speak out to clear his name.
“If she just reached out to me and explained everything… but the fact that she's leaving me out to dry, I'm not going to take this. I just can’t,” he said. “I was so hurt and so fractured. At this point, there's only so much I can do. I just hope the truth comes to light.”
Toussaint said he followed Flores on Twitter in fall of 2019. “We had a bunch of mutuals, so I was like, why not? A few months passed and Kobe Bryant passed away and that was a big part of the Lakers community.”
Toussaint said Flores was posting a lot on Twitter about Bryant’s death, claiming she went to the memorial service at the Staples Center. “Everything she posted on the timeline was very emotional, so I gave her a DM that basically said, ‘How are you? Hope you’re okay.’ We just started talking, we hit it off. We ended up getting really, really close.”
Toussaint said they weren’t really together but felt they both liked each other. However, he describes their relationship as constantly in flux, up and down like the stock market.
Nothing really raised alarm bells for Toussaint because Flores had an explanation for almost everything. For her South African accent, she claimed she spent a lot of her childhood there because her father was in the military. Plus, she said English was her third language, despite that she was born in the United States, because she grew up speaking Portuguese and Spanish due to her immigrant grandparents.
When she wouldn’t hop on video calls, Flores told Toussaint that she felt insecure about her appearance because she was battling cancer and stressed she had trust issues due to a past abusive relationship.
As for her connection to user Big Kings, she claimed that she kept being targeted by trolls and that one of her dogs had gone missing, so to get to the bottom of who was harassing her, she needed to fake a relationship with him.
The only time that Toussaint clearly knew Flores was using fake pictures was when she sent him nudes which were actually a porn star’s photos.
“I completely called her out on it,” he said. “I was obviously, justifiably mad. I’m like, ‘I thought we trust each other.’ She said that because of her past, she was told she was never good enough. And she’s like, ‘I didn’t know if I could trust you.’”
“It just seems like she always has an excuse for everything,” he added.
Toussaint is adamant he doesn’t want to be known for this saga. “I really don't want clout from this,” he said. “I don't want to be famous for this. I just want to brush this aside. But at the same time, people are making crazy accusations against me. So, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”
Toussaint said he and Flores actually had a date scheduled for next week. “I don’t think that’s going to happen now,” he said flatly.
Twitter user Chum Zilla was roped into the saga when he was informed that he had interacted with Flores’ account back in 2009. When reached by The Daily Beast on Tuesday, he said he distinctly remembered uncovering the account as a catfish way back then.
At the time, the account was going by the name of Joanne Peters, claiming to be from Los Angeles. What first raised Chum Zilla’s suspicions was that the profile image was of South African model Roberta Little; he coincidentally had a copy of a Sports Illustrated issue with the same exact photo as the profile.
“I was like, let me see how long this can go on for,” he said. “I called [them] out on bullshit pretty often.” Eventually, he received two emails from the account, which he claims he traced back to a man in India, confirming his theory that it was a catfish account.
“I stopped contacting that profile,” he added. “After that, every once in a while, I would get a message and I'd ignore it or delete it. I blocked the profile at some point, but when I blocked it, it was a different profile picture of someone completely different. But I do remember them being a big fan of the Lakers.”
The Daily Beast obtained records that show Flores’ Twitter account was registered under “male.”
Flores finally addressed the speculation on Twitter on Monday night, coming out guns blazing, claiming that she isn’t a catfish and that she had gone missing after she “passed out from my treatment.”
“Y'all be on here, hearing the side of the story of one guy and then automatically assume he is right about everything,” she wrote. “I have people on here that can verify who I am. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.”
She then directly called out Big Kings, saying “let’s talk about it all… since u aired all your side of it??”
Yet, as many prompted her to offer proof that she wasn’t a catfish, Flores’ account went silent. That is, until she posted a two-second video clip of a woman flashing a piece of paper that said “Vivien,” spelling her own name wrong. She wrote, “For those that still believe in me. Thank u.”
Although it’s hard to tell from the quick clip, the woman in the video doesn’t appear to have the same accent that Flores had while on Toussaint’s podcast.
When people pointed out that she spelled her own name wrong, Flores then changed her Twitter name to just ‘V’ instead of Vivian. Minutes later, she deactivated her account.