How self-loathing and Photoshop can make you a very sad person

Shirley Hornstein used her expert Photoshop skills to pretend she knew many famous people and to ingratiate herself in the Valley. Now, it seems, she's decided to reveal why.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
The Hornstein Tumblr post. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Fame is an insidious little thing.

It seems like the only current currency. Get it and you're made. Keep it and you can get a maid, and a butler.

That appears to have been part of the thinking of Shirley Hornstein, who not so long ago made much of Silicon Valley believe she was an It Woman.

Sometime later, it transpired she was full of It.

Should the tale not be tattooed on your cranium, Hornstein was a dab hand at Photoshop. She dabbed her face into pictures of famous stars like Justin Timberlake, and Silicon Valley, known for its rigorous approach to research, believed her.

When TechCrunch initially exposed her last year, it explained that her claim to have "experience working with a number of Silicon Valley companies, including iMeem, Nitro PDF, Dropbox, and Founders Fund" may not have been entirely true. Or even at all.

As well as being accused of crimes such as knowing Justin Timberlake, she was also accused of credit card fraud.

Now it seems Hornstein has decided to explain herself.

I am miserably grateful to Business Insider for directing me to a Tumblr page apparently put together by Hornstein, where despair is laid bare.

It is headlined "An Honest Apology," as if there was any other kind.

"For as long as I can remember, I have been lying," it begins.

What follows is a description of self-loathing, Photoshop, insecurity, Photoshop, nonexistent friends, Photoshop, the severe pain of a non-Ivy League education, Photoshop, a life built on pretense, and Photoshop.

In other words, a very modern tale of a woman who wanted to be more than she thought she was and thought Photoshop -- and the gullibility of many -- could get her there.

It would have certainly made for a far better reality TV series than "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley."

It's hard not to feel some sympathy for Hornstein. We're all pretending to some degree. We're all presenting some fine aspect of ourselves and hoping that some of the uglier stuff will be passed by.

Life is like a date that never ends.

Yet some will be wishing that this heartfelt apology wasn't accompanied by the words next to the picture of her on the page.

They read: "Purely meant for entertainment. Never (ever) educational."

How TechCrunch initially exposed her. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET