The woman who became the instant darling of the internet after sweetly failing to recognise Jay-Z as he chatted with her on the New York subway has spoken of how she was left "energised" by her encounter with the music mogul.
Ellen Grossman, 67, sprung to fame on Tuesday after Jay-Z published a short documentary about his concerts that opened the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. At one point in the 25-minute film the rapper is shown taking the subway to his final performance, which is where he encounters Grossman.
"Are you famous?" Grossman asks Jay-Z as he takes a seat next to her on the crowded R train, security personnel close at hand.
"Yes," the rapper replies sheepishly, before conceding: "Not very famous, you don't know me."
Grossman said on Wednesday that despite her initial bewilderment as Jay-Z, his entourage, and a horde of cameraphone-wielding fans piled onto the subway, she had enjoyed their chat.
"My first thought was oh my God there's been a disaster upstairs," she said. After noticing that people were "laughing and smiling", Grossman's second thought was that she was about to be subjected to a flash mob.
"They were all taking pictures of a man I did not recognise."
Grossman, who was travelling from Manhattan to Brooklyn to visit a friend, said she had scooted over to allow others to sit down. Jay-Z duly took a seat.
In the video on his YouTube channel the rapper is seen introducing himself as Jay and explaining that he is a musician on his way to perform at the Brooklyn arena.
"We had such a nice conversation and then it became obvious during the conversation that he was very famous," Grossman said.
She said she "did have name recognition" later in their encounter, when Jay-Z gave his full (stage) name: "I don't think you can live in this world and not recognise Jay-Z's name."
Like Jay-Z, Grossman was born in Brooklyn, and now lives in Manhattan. An artist producing both drawings and sculpture, she said she had noticed more people visiting her website since she was identified as the woman in the video, although since the encounter she has been more interested in looking at Jay-Z's own lifeandtimes.com.
"He did write down on the back of an envelope his website," Grossman said. "When I went and looked at his website I found — of course he highlights his own work — but he just gave tremendous amount of space on it to other artists, collaborations with other people, to just highlighting other people and I appreciated that about him and had that feeling that he was giving me attention in the same way. It was a very positive experience."
Grossman said she was left "energised" by their chat, which lasted around 15-20 minutes while Jay Z travelled from Canal Street to Atlantic Avenue.
"It was just a wonderful conversation. He's very real. He didn't seem disturbed that I didn't understand who he was, he's not full of himself."
As for her own moment in the spotlight, Grossman said she did not expect it to last forever.
"It'll pass in a week or two. I'm an artist so I obviously want a certain kind of attention but it's more for my work as opposed to presenting myself as a public person," she said. "I suspect it's my 15 minutes of fame."
Guardian News & Media