Move over Chair Girl.
Toronto has a new aspiring Instagram influencer hungry for fame: Coronavirus ‘kid’.
James Potok, rap name Potok Philippe, has risen to infamy in the past two days after his publicity stunt on a WestJet flight, where he wore a mask and gloves and implied he had the coronavirus after falsely claiming he visited the infected region in China, resulted in a flight from Toronto heading to Jamiaca turning around and being cancelled after takeoff.
The hoax for fame resulted in two flights being cancelled.
Potok has been charged with mischief and breach of recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court on March 9.
Hailing from the rough streets of Vaughan, Ontario, in the GTA, the 28-year-old rapper says he “lives lavish” but appears to still live with his parents.
His Soundcloud biography states: “With Potok’s unique personality and the way he carries himself in the public eye as well on social media, he’s been gaining a lot of attention lately.”
The same day he pulled his publicity stunt that disrupted 243 passengers plans, he released “6ICKO”.
To understand the self-described artist, one must go back into his career. In an interview with Capital T Films, Potok kicks back, pretends to roll a blunt and talks all things life and hip hop. One quote stands out for foreshadiwing Potok’s antics from this week.
“Some people post a video and all of a sudden people are hating on them, you know what I mean. I’m not gonna name any names. Plenty of people out there, just clowning, koala shit all over Instagram. And it’s like, this is what you wanna be known for? Remember, that video is gonna be online forever. You know, it sticks with you. So If I’m gonna wake up one day and decide to do something goofy, I at least want people to be like, ‘Yo that’s creative.’”
When The Post Millennial reached out to Potok for an interview he responded by asking for $400. After being denied money, he eventually agreed to do it anyway.
TPM: How long did you plan the stunt for?
Potok: It wasn’t planned. The stunt was not planned, it was a spur of the moment thing.
TPM: So did you have the mask on you already?
Potok: No they provided me the mask after I made the statement that I had just arrived from Wuhan province. So I stood up on the airplane, about two, three hours into our flight, almost close to landing and I said, ‘Can I have the attention of the people of the airplane.’ I was in the back and I made the statement. ‘I just returned from Wuhan province’ and I kind of laughed and and said, ‘I don’t feel too well.’ and then laughed again and sat down. And within, ten to fifteen minutes I had the stewardist approach me. They already had masks on. They advised me that I needed to be moved to the back of the plane. I obliged. They put me in what they had as a quarantine, the last three seats at the back of the airplane. They put the surgical mask on me and they put the gloves on me.
TPM: When you first made the statement, what was the reaction of the other people on the plane? Did anyone laugh or were people more freaked out?
Potok: No. Nobody laughed. Most of the people sitting around me just said, ‘You joking, right?’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course I’m joking.’ My intent was never to harbour any fear. My intent certainly was not to try and scare anyone. I was simply doing this to create a video. Something that I could look back at after and in a sense, make light of a very dark thing that’s going on right now. The word coronavirus, it’s an epidemic right now.
TPM: When they first started turning the plane around, what were you thinking?
Potok: Knowing how long I was in the air for, knowing that we should have been arriving in Jamaica in thirty minutes, when I heard the plane turn around, that’s when I started to feel extremely guilty, extremely remorseful. I was upset with myself because I knew what was happening. We were about to ruin the plans and trips for all 200 and some people. So the guilt sank in right away. In hindsight it’s something that I’m not proud of and would never do again.
TPM: This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled a stunt on a WestJet flight…
Potok: Yeah, you can catch that on my Instagram. It’s still there, I did something similar. I stood up on the plane. I said can I have everybody’s attention and then I said, ‘Lil Wayne has just dropped his newest album, the Carter 5, everybody go get it.’ and then I gave a little hoot and a holler and then I sat back down and everybody ended up arriving at their destination with no problems.
TPM: So were just trying to up the ante of that a little bit?
Potok: Yeah and I did not think it would invoke such a reaction that would cause the plane to turn around, that’s for sure. I thought people would kind of say, ‘Kid shut up, stop talking, kid, don’t be stupid.’ but they took it a lot more serious than I anticipated.
TPM: And how old are you?
Potok: I’m 28 years old. Not 29. Also I’m seeing a lot of journalists saying that ‘Man claims to have coronavirus.’ That is misleading and incorrect. At no point did I say I have coronavirus. I simply implied that I had recently travelled to Wuhan province which I have not travelled to China ever.
TPM: I’m assuming the police confiscated what would have been your Instagram video?
Potok: Right. When we landed they took me off first. They had a group of medical officers in quarantine suits. It was very quick how they determined whether or not I had coronavirus and that I was in fact safe and not infected. They put a thermostat in my ear, checked my body temperature and everything was normal. They packed up and left, it might have taken two minutes. After that I was placed under arrest by Peel Police.
TPM: Have they told you what you’re being charged with?
Potok: I am being charged with Mischief and I am charged with breach of my peace bond. I was on a peace bond for a year to keep the peace and be on good behaviour. Unfortunately, I thought this time had already passed, it turns out it wasn’t. I still had a month or two to keep the peace.
TPM: What is your peace bond for?
Potok: I’d rather not say, it doesn’t have anything to do with this issue at hand. I did some non-violent thing, I was discharged for it and I was given a peace bond.
TPM: In the Capital T interview you said you’d ‘Never want to come up off some stupid instagram video.’ That is sort of more or less how many people will know you now. How do you feel about that now?
Potok: Well I’ve never been a clout chaser. I chase bags of money. An idea comes into your mind and you want to execute it to the best of your ability and it not being premeditate I didn’t anticipate the reception that it received. I did not think for a second that this flight would be affected, and that all those travellers were going to be re-routed back to Canada. If I had known what would have happened I would have just stayed sat down in my seat. I work hard enough in the music industry that I can build my name up without having to chase clout. So if people call me a clout chaser, they don’t know me. I’m in the studio six to seven days a week. I am lucky enough to work with some of the best people in the industry to create content. It was just a quick outburst on an airplane, I filmed it and in retrospect I am extremely apologetic to all the people who’s plans were cancelled, I heard someone missed their wedding. I am extremely sympathetic beyond words. That was never my intent at all.
TPM: Do you know what will happen with the other passengers on the plane, will they receive any financial compensation?
Potok: We’ll have to see what happens when we get to court. I’m guessing the civil side of it will have to be WestJet and the criminal side will be with the law with the charges, but I’m still waiting to see.
TPM: Do you think you’ll be able to shake this with your rap career? Or do you think this will be something you’ll always be known for?
Potok: No. I believe it’ll die out eventually. I’m not comparing myself to Chair Girl. Because I don’t know what she does for her day job or what she does to pass the time. But I’m an artist and I’m focused on my craft. So I don’t want this to stop me from working and obtaining my goals. This is not even a setback for me. I look at it as it’s done now. Whatever has been said is done. I can’t go back in time. I now have to take advantage of all of the publicity in the best way possible. I do not want to come off as a cocky guy that’s happy that this video got done, that’s happ with the way this went. It’s the opposite. I’m very upset with my actions and I’ve got to govern myself accordingly.
TPM: Anything else you like to say for the record?
Potok: Yes. I never said I had coronavirus. That is a big miscommunication that the media has blown out of proportion. I believe they did cause, you know, anything to get their ratings up. The cops seized my phone so I don’t know if they’ve kept that video or not. That’s out of my hands now. I’ve had to get a new phone. I’ve had to get a new number. I don’t take no for an answer though I’m going to keep pushing. I’m going to keep building my career. I also want to reiterate that I’m apologetic beyond words to any of the staff at WestJet, any of the people who were flying out for a vacation. I myself was one of those people that was expecting to get to Jamaica and enjoy a week in the sun, so I lost my trip as well.
TPM: Okay, alright well thanks for talking to us Potok.
Potok: … If you could throw my tag in for Instagram and put up a little information of me as an artist that would be greatly appreciated.