Standing in a sea of shirtless, leather harness-clad men towering over her, Amruta Godbole said she felt like a "fish out of water" while at a San Francisco street fair a few years ago. A friend decided to snap a photo from above of Godbole in the funny situation — and a meme was instantly born.
"In that moment people were looking at the photo and saying, 'You’re going to be famous,'" Godbole told BuzzFeed News about the picture, which was snapped in 2017 outside a bar at San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, a BDSM and leather event.
Though Godbole, 35, posted the picture to her own Instagram at the time, it didn't take off until a friend with a sizable following shared it on his own account as a throwback Thursday post the following year. She attended the event with close friends, several of whom are in the photo.
"One of my main groups of friends in San Francisco is a group of gay men, so I have often found myself in situations where I’m the one woman amid all of these gay men," Godbole said. "I'm also 5’1, and they’re all very tall and muscular, so I was just so clearly standing out."
Since it first went viral in 2018, Godbole estimates the photo resurfaces somewhere on the internet about once a month, most recently in a tongue-in-cheek tweet about how singer Olivia Rodrigo's debut album, Sour, has earned her a gay fanbase.
For the first time, Godbole identified herself as the lost-looking girl in the photo. She recently decided to start using her Twitter account more frequently and retweeted the joke tweet, adding, "I’m in this photo and I don’t like it. Jk. I mean that is actually me in the photo. But I like it every time."
Over the last few years, the photo has been used as a reaction shot for jokes about feeling out of place anywhere from a martial arts studio to a Pride event, or even within a fandom.
Godbole, who is a corporate lawyer, said she used to get DMs about the photo from friends, and recently she's been recognized in the meme by coworkers and people she hasn't spoken to since high school.
"People send it to me and say, 'Is this you? What is happening here?'" Godbole laughed.
"When I was previously working at a big corporate law firm, that was very stodgy and old school, a colleague sent me a text exchange between him and a colleague asking if it was me," she said, "so it's a funny thing for people who know me in the context of being a serious lawyer."