Back in January, the site announced a "Belly Branding" contest: "One lucky pregnant couple may win $5000 in exchange for letting the entire world decide their baby's name."
And in mid-February it declared a winner, LA-based art teacher Natasha Hill. It posted some photos of Natasha as well as a screenshot of her facebook page. Belly Ballot told the Huffington Post that Hill was chosen from a pool of nearly 80 applicants because of "her honesty and enthusiasm."
The unusual contest received a fair amount of media attention, much of which focused on the controversial aspect of a mother allowing strangers on the internet to name her child. Hill reportedly said she wasn't worried about this because, "I think people will do the right thing and vote for something unique and nice."
However, the story took an entirely different turn on March 3 when LAist.com revealed that Natasha Hill bore a striking resemblance to LA-based actress Natasha Lloyd. In fact, Hill and Lloyd were quite obviously the same person.
Natasha Lloyd (via imdb.com)
The next day, Belly Button admitted that the results of their baby-naming contest were a hoax. No one had entered the contest, so they had hired Lloyd to pose as the winner. In reality, Lloyd wasn't even pregnant.
Belly Ballot founder Lacey Moler explained to today.com that she and her staff decided to perpetrate the hoax because, "we're a start-up and we wanted to control the situation."
The mystery in all this is how LAist managed to notice the resemblance between Hill and Lloyd. They don't explain. Did someone at LAist already know Lloyd and recognized her picture? Or were they tipped off?
The second option would be the more interesting one, because it raises the question of who gave them the tip. Perhaps Belly Ballot surreptitiously exposed its own hoax, knowing that the news of a hoax would generate even more publicity for its site than the original baby-naming contest had. Secretly exposing his own hoaxes was one of P.T. Barnum's favorite tricks.
Or perhaps Lloyd was the informant. After all, the hoax is good publicity for her as well.