Yelp sucks. As much as it wants to be a platform for bright-eyed foodies in search of new local flavors, the review site is mostly just an outlet for dedicated whiners. It offers a very particular kind of lonely person the golden opportunity to turn a necessary, everyday experience into an event that demands exhaustive critical reflection. Every meal is a writing prompt if you're bored enough.
There is, however, a light in the darkness. Meet Fox E: a singularly good Yelp reviewer, who has risen above the managerial-class banality of your average foodie to become a true legend.
Fox E reviews everything. He's written over 10,000 posts on Yelp in the last five years (that's more than five per day on average) from over 1,000 unique cities in America across forty-six states.
And his reviews are not normal. They typically blow past 500 words; often take the form of poem, limerick, or rap song; and, without fail, manage to be seethingly horny. Take, for example, the intro to his recent review of Boba Guys, a bi-coastal bubble tea chain:
I've seen the lowest lows and I've lived the highest HIGHS
I've yelped the bad, I've yelped the good, I've yelped my PENIS SIZE
I've yelped about my morning glory, with the sun I RISE
But now it's time to Yelp about the legend: BOBA GUYS
Every time I sip these drinks a small part of me DIES
Les Petits Morts, like group sex where everybody CRIES
It goes right up my nostrils, on my shirt, and in my EYES
And I don't care, I keep on slurping cuz it's BOBA GUYS
It makes the boys whip out their junk, I'm like Dudes, Zip your FLIES
It makes the girls pull down their skirts, I'm like, Girls, that's not WISE
It makes the tourists to NY sever all family TIES
And move to NYC so they can frequent BOBA GUYS
The review continues for more than 600 words, in which Fox E gives recommendations, compares prices with those of other tea parlors in the area, and provides twenty-four more bars of perverted boba rap. He manages to be manically sex-crazed, entirely self-obsessed, and still the best that a Yelper can be, giving an informed review of an establishment from a refreshingly assertive place of narcissism.
But it's Fox E's business photography that really elevates him from chaotically good Yelp pervert and establishes him as a truly iconic internet person. Check out Boba Guys' Yelp profile:
That's right. His football biceps are the face of the business.
Why? Since Yelp is Fox E's social network of choice, he rakes in plenty of "usefuls," "funnys," and "cools." Yelp relies on these review ratings to choose which business photos are the best, so Fox E and his lubed-up muscles typically end up adorning the profiles of establishments he visits—not only on Yelp, but on multiple navigation apps. Since Yelp integration (sometimes contentiously) is frequently a go-to source for local business pics, and because Fox E has posted over 37,000 pictures to the site, he's become a recurring character for the mobile navigator. Guess whose photos you see when you search for Boba Guys in Apple Maps?
His reviews are not limited to his daily bubble tea purchase (and yes, he drinks bubble tea every day). Fox E writes about every last highway he drives down, every strip mall and rest stop he pulls through, every city and state he travels. He's made Yelp his home, finding roundabout ways to review everything from his cats and his favorite movies to sunsets and racism.
Fox E has unquestionably altered America's digital landscape through a half-decade-long career of non-stop posting while horny. Seriously, search Yelp for your local bubble tea parlor, and the odds are you will see his face (or his wet body, or his girlfriend's feet, etc). He's written millions of words on the least-liked food site on the web for seemingly no reason beyond the libidinal. Why?
"I can't really imagine another way to post," Fox E told me over the phone. "I'm competitive and weird so I wanted to have the most reviews, and the best reviews, and the most scandalous." His voice is gentle, and he speaks with a subtle posh British accent. He tells me he's from Oxford, England, and that his legal name is indeed "Fox E," although a Yelp review he left for a YMCA in Long Island reveals that he only came up with the name "Fox Everett Barbieri Ferrari" while exercising a few months ago.
Before the dawn of his Yelp days, Fox E worked as a traveling musician and "peace activist," as his own bio will tell you. "I was really touring constantly," he told me. "I mean, nine or ten months a year. And if you can imagine, I did promotion for my shows on the same insane level that I do for my Yelp reviews."
Fox E would create masses of Facebook accounts by hand in order to send friend requests to, then invite, ridiculous numbers of locals to each and every one of his tour stops. "It was way more time consuming than anything I've done on Yelp," he said. "It was around the clock crap." But it worked, and because of his now-obsolete guerrilla marketing tactics, he was able to successfully tour the US for years, singing John Lennon covers in bookstores and playing piano originals for small café crowds.
After shows, Fox E would try to establish himself among attendees by asking for food recommendations and dining with welcome fans, and so he fell in love with eating like a local while living out of his car and getting by on CD sales. But he only took this passion online at the behest of a very special someone.
After one fateful Texan tour stop circa 2011, Fox E was approached by one of the concert-goers he had lured in via mass Facebook message. Her name—as anyone familiar with Fox E's body of work can tell you—was Barbie. She asked Fox E out to dinner, and introduced him to Yelp as a tool for cataloguing his eating endeavors. "I was like, 'why is this amazing girl trying to take me out for dinner when I'm this musician sleeping in my car?'" Fox E told me. "A lot of people took me out for dinner, but I always thought she was a little too amazing for me. I don't how how I got so lucky."
Barbie is a figure shrouded in mystery, and the subject of intense speculation. You may recognize her from her breasts, or her feet. Anything but her face, really. Fox E declined to give me any personal information about his muse, but told me that she holds a degree from an Ivy League university, and that she wishes to remain faceless, as she "has a very conservative, well-established traditional family in south Texas."
Fox E describes Barbie as an "alpha" who left a high-paying job at a law firm in order to pursue more freeing work as a professional dominatrix. But after meeting Fox E, Barbie decided to take up a part-time gig as his promotions manager. "She was making really good money from the dominatrix stuff, and she was bored, so she took over my promo when I was on the road," Fox E told me. "She got her friends that she networked with to help her do it, and she got me a little team, and she ran the team, and she was awesome."
After three profitable American tours, Fox E decided to take his talents back across the pond, to far less success. "I lost at least half the money I made on my other tours going on my UK tour," he told me. "After that, I got a little depressed and discouraged from music." That's when Barbie really stepped in, and became his promotions manager in a much different sense. The two struck up a romance, and she began to use her professional intuition to whip Fox E back into shape.
"Barbie dresses very provocatively, and she always has," Fox E told me. "And one day, we were out somewhere, and I said, 'Hey, you always look like you're going out to a nightclub, and I always look like I just rolled out of bed.' And I thought she would say, 'Oh no honey, you look great.' But she didn't." Instead, Barbie instructed Fox E to start exercising, and to bulk up so that he could start to dress more provocatively in turn. "She said, 'Then you won't feel so insecure like that.' And I said, 'Well, I'm not insecure. But now that you said that, maybe I will go to the gym.'"
Many months and protein shakes later, Fox E had blossomed into Barbie's own Ken. She stocked his wardrobe full of new, skimpy outfits, instructed him to start shaving his body hair, and introduced him to boba tea and baby oil. "Suddenly, I'm like her designer male bimbo." Fox E told me. "But I really liked it! I make it sound like this terrible thing, but she knew it would work for me, and that I would love the show-off element. She figures out what I really want, and then encourages me to go do it."
What Fox E must have really wanted, then, was to become Yelp's foremost auteur.
He explained Barbie's original orders: "We were going for boba, and then she was like, 'Okay, now pose with your food, and pose with your boba, and flex for the camera. Now I want you to do this everywhere you go, because the people are going to like your reviews way more. You have no idea how much better your reviews look with a picture of you holding your food.'"
And just like that, a horny legend was born, and set off unknowingly down a path to change America's digital footprint as much as any one man ever could. A path that he's still on to this day, and probably will be forever after, with his girlfriend by his side. Unless she's working.
So, let it be known that our hero's journey is one deeply rooted in love. Rehabilitative love. Love for food and fellow man. For boba and for Barbie. For me, even: Fox E followed up our phone conversation in true "peace activist" fashion, by asking if we could be friends once this story went up. And I think we can. I think we all can.