10 Oct 2006

Aleksey Vayner’s 15 Minutes of Fame

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Ballroom dancing

Four days ago, IvyGate (an Ivy League miscellaneous news and humor blog) linked a 6:46 minute YouTube video produced by Yale senior Aleksey Vayner to accompany the cover letter, resume, and research paper he was using to apply for investment banking jobs.

Mr. Vayner’s video (which showed the youthful job applicant lifting astoundingly large weights, skiing, playing tennis, ballroom dancing, and karate-chopping a tall stack of bricks) produced very much the opposite of what he had intended. No one called him for an interview, but amused NY bankers quickly began sharing his credentializing video’s link by email as the humor item of the week. That video soon went viral. Aleksey did not become any company’s newest AVP, but he did become the next Star Wars kid.

Dow Jones/AP:

Vayner, a self-described “CEO and professional athlete,” submitted a cover letter and resume to UBS AG, describing his “insatiable appetite for peak performance.” By Friday afternoon, both the cover letter and resume — which includes a link to the video, titled “Impossible is Nothing” — had circulated among employees at Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse Group and Wachovia Corp., to name a few.

UBS spokesman Kris Kagel said the firm is looking into the forwarding of the e-mail. “We’re looking at whether it did come from UBS and if so, we’ll take action,” he said. “As a firm we obviously don’t circulate (job applications) to the public.”

And it gets worse and worse.

One thing led to another. Curious viewers looked closely at Aleksey’s investment firm, charity, and book listed on his resume, finding major problems (like non-existence, misrepresentation, and plagiarism) with each.

The Yale Daily News joined the pack now barking at Aleksey’s heels, with other students supplying more stories.

Daniella Berman ’07, who knows Vayner through the Yale Ballroom Dance Team, said she has heard “outlandish” stories about Vayner both from him and from other students. Among the claims she said she has heard is one that Vayner is one of four people in the state of Connecticut qualified to handle nuclear waste.

Berman said that while she thinks that kind of claim is fairly harmless, she thinks Vayner crossed a line by misrepresenting himself to a potential employer…

Vayner was profiled (as Aleksey Garber) in the Yale Rumpus in May of 2002 after visiting Yale as a prefrosh. The profile outlined Vayner’s many fabrications, including his claims that he was employed by both the Mafia and the CIA during his childhood and that he gave tennis lessons to Harrison Ford and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Today, IvyGate returned for a final coup de grace.

A member of the Yale tennis team wrote in to dispute Aleksey’s claim that he competed on the Satellite tour: “I played for Yale tennis, and he tried to walk on the team. He got cut the second day. I had one conversation with him, and he claimed to have KILLED 24 people in the caves of Tibet.”

(Other great comments: “I too played for Yale tennis, and Vayner/Garber claimed that he has trouble flying on planes because he has to register his hands as lethal weapons each time he goes to an airport.” And: “The giveaway on the investment firm was that he said his firm specialized in “risk-aDverse” strategies. The other giveaway was that he’s fucking crazy.”)

We decided to not be too scared of the cease and desist letter Aleksey emailed us, given that he copied and pasted it from the first Google hit for “cease and desist letter,” right down to the “very truly yours” signoff. Attorney Ron706@aol.com, Esq., really earned his fee there.

At Yale, Aleksey has offered to treat sports injuries using various “Eastern” therapy methods, including massage and acupuncture. Before “treating” a “patient,” he sent them this letter. You simply have to read it in full. Somewhere in there he claims that his brother is “head of pediatrics at Columbian Presbyterian hospital in NYC.” A search on the Columbia Presbyterian Physician Network turns up no one with the last name “Garber” or “Vayner.” But our favorite part is this line: “I am not certified in any Western sense of the word, neither in Chinese medicine, Tui-Na, Shaolin trauma medicine, nor in acupuncture, all of which I practice extensively never-the-less.”

And, um, not quite so humorously, the SEC and dean of Yale College have been notified of Aleksey’s transgressions.

God, what theater. You cannot make this shit up. Unless, y’know, you’re Aleksey.

You can bet that Yale will now review this lad’s admission application materials, looking for discrepancies. Ouch!

Hat tip to Andrew Olson.


Mr. Vayner has (not unwisely) gotten YouTube to pull the video, by claiming copyright infringement.

The vindictive IvyGate is defying him, and has placed the video in a new posting.

UPDATE 10/16

He now has a Wikipedia entry.

Aleksey is being ridiculed by Gawker.

And poor Aleksey’s story, and some comments on this posting by classmates on my Yale College Class email list made the New Yorker.
UPDATE 10/18

There is now an Aleksey Vayner Repository web-site, where readers post suggested new claims and accomplishments for Aleksey. The order of precedence of new alleged Aleksey accomplishments is determined by reader votes.

And, we missed this earlier posting in which Bess Levin communes with Aleksey’s brain.

9 Feedbacks on "Aleksey Vayner’s 15 Minutes of Fame"

Dominique R. Poirier

On the basis of all I have seen on this man, and on the basis of the DSM IV, my point of view is that he is possibly victim of histrionic personality disorder. Mythomania, as psychological trouble, is perhaps less likely to apply in the case of Aleksey Vayner, since it is a condition involving compulsive lying by a person with no obvious source of motivation. Aleksey Vayner is looking for a position and so he has a motivation for lying or exaggerating. I don’t think so he can be considered as a con artist of a sort since his behavior, as seen on his video sequence, expresses much more a drive to impress upon other than to shrewdly seduce for the sole sake of vested interest. Instead, he wants to demonstrate he is a “superman”, and his attitude shows clearly, and chiefly, an attention-seeking pattern.

In psychiatry, histrionic personality disorder (HPD), or hysterical personality disorder, is a personality disorder which involves a pattern of excessive emotional expression and attention-seeking, including an excessive need for approval and inappropriate seductiveness, that usually begins in early adulthood.
The essential feature of the histrionic personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive pattern of emotionality and attention-seeking behavior. These individuals are lively, dramatic, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. They may be inappropriately sexually provocative, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and be easily influenced by others.

Histrionic personality disorder is only rarely found in men.
The symptoms include:

– Constant seeking of reassurance or approval
– Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions
– Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval
– Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior
– Excessive concern with physical appearance
– A need to be the center of attention (self-centeredness)
– Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification
– Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear shallow to others
– Opinions are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details.
– Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are.

According to the DSM IV, at least four of these patterns must be found on the patient to pronounce clear cut diagnosis. I immediately found two of these patterns. Finding more would claim at least an interview with this man and testimonies from people who know him.

Beyond that, it doesn’t surprise me that much to learn this man graduated from a reputed university. Like many other mental diseases, histrionic personality disorder doesn’t preclude someone from having a normal life, friends, family and marital life, and a good job.
Though not psychiatrist myself, I have been taught about this field for some time and then got interested in it. Since then I often attempt to spot minor mental disorders, such as neurosis, obsessional compulsive disorders, depression, or else in people expressing unusual behaviors. Let say I have had opportunities to meet people who are perfectly integrated in the social fabric, even though they unmistakably have mental troubles. Some of them have even been successful in professional life, are wealthy, and have authority upon normal people. Often, the success of those people owes especially an unusual behavior that fit the exigencies and requirements of some professional activities. As example, some histrionic persons made successful careers as movie actors or singers, psychopaths can be real “killers” in business, famous mathematician and Nobel Prize John Nash is schizophrenic, Hitler was psychopathic and Stalin was paranoid, etc.
Many people would be claimed to be simply insane shouldn’t they be protected by their wealth, fame, or power.
So, people living with mental disorders and being integrated in the social fabric are more common than one may a priori assume. They just are not insane enough to be sent to psychiatric asylum or to follow medical prescription, though the state of their mental health may steadily evolve toward the “borderline” along the course of their life. Actually, we just fail to get interested in psychiatry to be able for to spot people with minor mental troubles and to correctly assess their disorder category. Instead, we usually say they are “eccentric,” “boring,” “fusspot”, “crank,” “flying off the handle”, or simply “SOB;” and that’s all.

At the opposite side of those people, Lee Iacocca, former C.E.O. of Chrysler Corp., explains in his autobiography that his studies on psychiatry endowed him with the most helpful of his skills during his career; especially when he had to choose future collaborators and employees.

In some trades, such as law enforcement and intelligence, for example, postulants must submit to psychological (and even extensive psychiatric evaluation in some cases) prior their hiring. Then they are taught some fundamentals on psychology and psychiatry.
As testifies eloquently the case of Aleksey Vayner, this last rule does not apply to scholarship since student is not a professional activity likely to result in prejudice to others. Most probably, as we are noticing it in his case, people like him will encounter difficulties only after their graduation, and when they will attempt to get hired in some company or public administration.

To all those who would not find exciting to read the DSM IV, I recommend the DSM IV Casebook, which is a fascinating compilation of people’s interviews (including normal people who mistakenly believed they could have mental problems) followed by diagnostics.

For more information, see my sources available on the web.

Histrionic personality disorder on Wikipedia:

DSM-IV Codes (alphabetical, on Wikipedia):

Mark Zanger

What’s the matter with good, old Borderline Personality Disorder?

John Blake

Sounds like a Skull and Bones black-op to me. This wretched poseur is no doubt, even now, composing Purple Heart citations for wounds received in action during massed tank battles in Cambodia during 1969 – ’70.

Remember “Flashman”, everywhere and nowhere throughout the 19th Century, from the Opium Wars through Gettysburg to Omdurman? Yale can be proud that one of its brave sons so modestly admits to, er, embellishing his accomplishments. What’s next, a Hero Statue to him in Hanoi’s Museum of the Revolution? But what does Yale care– it’s all relative. Besides, this sterling exemplar of integrity and probity could well be, if not the next Bill Clinton, and least a Kerry stand-in.


I think he just seems like the type of person looking for acceptance in all people depending on the situation. I see some hysteria there, which is purely obvious. I think he has a personality disorder combined with plain old fashioned pathological lying. It’s all good if your four years old with an invisible friend, but at his age with his IQ, it all seems totally ridiculous. However, it does seem that this man DOES have some qualities that he could concentrate on that are real. I think distinguishing between fantasy and reality sometimes leaves people such as this young man in a situation to where he starts to believe his own stories. Maybe writing is his best bet. The imagination is certainly there and active!

jeff smith

Yale accepted this applicant ? That is what should be at issue here .


I met him once, Few years ago. It was stories about CIA, he was an agent undercover, and one of his colleague was killed. He was so serious, it was not time for me to laugh… and other stupid stories like this.
He truly believes what he says, and he tries to make it happen his own way. I hope that one day it won’t be dramatic.


I don’t think it’s Alexy lifting those heavier weights. Otherwise, why the cut to the crotch shot? No face for a man who just loves the camera?

arthur Hutchinson

Love the cracks on Vayner. What a tool. I hope he gets kicked out of Yale and has to join the Ultimate Fighting Tour.


This guy is unbelievable. Hasn’t he heard of doing research? With an 11 page resume, he must have thought that he get past the HR departments by boring them.

His film was hilarious, it’s obvious he could have a few film making courses if he really expected it to pass.

I agree that Yale should investigate how he got in.


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