Women sound alarm about 'pickup artist' on YouTube site
'Feels like there's nothing you can do,' says woman who believes she was secretly filmed
Several Ottawa women are warning others to be on the lookout for a self-proclaimed "pickup artist" who talks up women on the street and tries to get their phone numbers — all while wearing a hidden camera to record videos he later posts online.
"I was walking down the street, and this man approached me and started asking these personal, sort of strange questions," said Samantha DeLenardo, one of the women filmed by a man she now believes to be Luke Howard, who runs a YouTube channel called "Lukeutopia."
"By the third question, I was like, I have to go back to work," DeLenardo said. "I was really disturbed by it all day."
After women came forward with their stories, Howard made the videos private, accessible only to him. He told CBC Ottawa he wanted an opportunity to edit the videos to "protect people's anonymity going forward."
"Once I've edited it and had a few days to think about it, it's a decision I'll make," he said of whether he will make his channel public again.
The conversations are recorded with a hidden camera in Howard's glasses.
DeLenardo said she was approached by a man July 16 on Bank Street. She said she had an inkling she was being filmed because the man kept "panning" his head from left to right.
After the brief conversation she "did a little digging" and uncovered the YouTube channel.
Although it isn't illegal to make a video of a candid conversation, DeLenardo said she felt violated by what she discovered.
"It's almost harassment the way he's doing it," she said. "It makes me uncomfortable, [it] makes me angry because it feels like there's nothing you can do."
'99.9 per cent of women love this,' 'pickup artist' says
Howard says the overwhelming majority of women he approaches don't feel it is harassment.
"Ninety nine point nine per cent of women love this, they enjoy it, they realize there's a beauty in this," Howard told CBC News, adding he doesn't believe his actions are unethical.
"My goal was always to show guys that it's not scary to talk to women in the daytime — they're not going to bite your head off," Howard said.
"Beauty and love...that's all I've ever really tried to preach."
Howard has described himself as a hypnotist and has appeared on local television stations, giving self-improvement lectures on how to get in shape and how to quit smoking.
Videos are 'predatory'
Howard said he sees his videos as social art and a social experiment that "spreads the message that you can talk to people … you can be connected if we just get over our fears, our anxieties and social pressure."
Rosella Chibambo, who works for the Nobel Women's Initiative in Ottawa, said a number of her female friends have told her they've found their secretly recorded conversations on the YouTube channel late last week.
Chibambo said she felt it was time to go public.
"The behaviour that I saw in those videos is predatory. There's no other word to describe it," Chibambo said.