Long before he was the butt of a viral joke from climate activist Greta Thunberg or accused of human trafficking, Andrew Tate claimed he was bored growing up.
As a child, his boredom was occupied by chess in the hope of following his dad’s footsteps as a great player because, he once said, “that's the only thing I want to do most”
When he got bored with defeating adults, he turned to kickboxing, laying to waste opponents throughout Europe.
And when he got bored with physical combat, he turned to verbal assault, becoming a men's rights influencer known for his extreme misogynistic, violent remarks against women. He went on to build online followings in the millions from the darkest corners of the web, making him one of the most watched personalities on social media by his mid-30s.
The US-born Tate, who, along with his brother Tristan, was arrested in Romania a few weeks ago and charged with human trafficking and forming an organised-crime group, is a self-described misogynist and sexist who has been dubbed “the scariest man on the internet” by critics and “the king of toxic masculinity” by fans.
The former kickboxing champion is known for his attacks against women – whether it's saying women who are sexually assaulted need to shoulder “some responsibility”, claiming that women are “given to the man and belong to the man”, or noting in online videos that he dates women who are 18 and 19 because he can “make an imprint” on them.
“I'm not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want,” he once said in one of his videos about why he moved from England to Romania, according to Sky News, adding that “probably 40% of the reason” he moved to the country was because it might be easier to evade rape charges.
“I like being free,” he said.
In another video, he described how he would react if a woman accused him of cheating, saying, “It's bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck.”
Tate, 36, who has portrayed himself as a self-help expert for men and was regularly photographed smoking cigars in front of fast cars and guns, has seen his profile rise after chats with far-right figures such as Alex Jones and Mike Cernovich.
He largely gained attention on TikTok – one of the many platforms that have now banned him for his repeated misogynistic remarks – where videos tagged #AndrewTate were reportedly viewed roughly 13 billion times as at August.
In July, Tate's name was a bigger search term on Google than some of the search engine's most significant queries, including former president Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and Covid-19, “Forbes” reported.
Days after Tate's back-and-forth with Thunberg dominated Twitter, he now finds himself detained by a Romanian anti-organised-crime unit that is seeking authorisation from a judge to hold Tate, his brother and two Romanian suspects for up to 30 days, a spokesperson for the Romanian prosecutor's office said.
One person was also charged with rape, but the spokesperson would not identify that person, citing local laws.
Romanian prosecutors said they had identified six people whom they alleged were recruited and then sexually abused in Ilfov county, which surrounds the capital, Bucharest.
Authorities say that the victims were coerced into participating in pornography for distribution on social media and that one of the suspects twice raped a victim in March.
The statement, which did not name the Tate brothers, alleges that the victims faced “acts of physical violence and mental coercion”.
While many have been aware of Tate and his social media rise, millions are coming to his story for the first time.
Born in December 1986 in Washington state, according to a video he posted in July, Emory Andrew Tate III is the son of a chess master father and a catering assistant mother.
After the family moved to Chicago and Goshen, Indiana, his parents divorced, and Tate and his brother moved with their mother to Luton, her home town in England.
Tate stayed connected to his father through chess, a game he learnt to play when he was five, competing against adults.
“I know that I'm in the position to turn Andrew into a Bobby Fischer, but it's a common-sense dilemma,” his father, Emory Tate, the top-ranked chess player in Indiana at the time, told the “South Bend Tribune” in 1993, noting the lack of financial stability offered by the profession.
While his father told the “Tribune” that he wished his son would pursue other interests, Tate said that he played so much because he was “bored all the time and that's the only thing I want to do most”.
He later got into the world of kickboxing, where he became one of the most decorated light-heavyweight fighters in the world.
Videos of his fights are listed under titles such as “Prime Andrew Tate Was An Absolute Beast!” After a brief run in mixed martial arts, he retired from combat sports.
He was bored again.
His next chapter amplified his notoriety and the criticism of his treatment of women. In 2016, Tate appeared as a housemate on the 17th season of “Big Brother” in the UK.
He was kicked off the reality television show after a video surfaced that appeared to show him hitting a woman with a belt. (Tate and the woman in the video said what occurred was consensual sex, according to the BBC.)
From there, fans of the show discovered past tweets in which Tate directed homophobic and racial slurs at users. The string of controversial behaviour continued in 2017, when he asserted that depression “isn't real”.
Tate was denounced by critics and advocacy groups who said his mere presence on social media, and the following he was developing for his “extremely misogynistic” remarks, could present a “dangerous slip road into the far right”.
At the same time, he was promoting an online marketing programme for a monthly membership of $49.99 (about R850) that claimed he could give people “high-income skill development”. (“Hustler's University”, which one marketing professor likened to a social media pyramid scheme, shut down this year, despite having about 127 000 members, according to “The Guardian”.)
As backlash mounted, platforms took action against Tate this year. He was banned from Facebook and Instagram after violating Meta's policy on “dangerous organisations and individuals”.
TikTok, the platform where he grew his audience the most, also kicked him off for promoting content, the company said, “that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanises an individual or a group”.
YouTube suspended him for hate speech and Covid misinformation after he amassed millions of dollars in ad revenue.
But on Twitter, his ban was lifted last month as part of new owner Elon Musk's changes that reinstated far-right firebrands.
Tate's return to the platform set up the online confrontation with Thunberg, in which Tate tweeted that he wanted to send the climate activist “a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions”.
When Thunberg trolled him in a tweet that's been viewed more than 259 million times since it was posted last week, the attention was again on Tate.
The next day, he was arrested in Romania.
Despite the online speculation that Romanian authorities were able to locate Tate after he posted a video in response to Thunberg containing a pizza box from a local spot that gave away his location, authorities denied that the video played any role.
The investigation into Tate and his brother began in April after the US Embassy called Romanian authorities with information that a US citizen was being held involuntarily at a house in Ilfov.
But that didn't stop Thunberg from having some fun at the expense of “the most toxic man on the internet”.
“This is what happens when you don't recycle your pizza boxes,” she observed.
The Washington Post's Kelsey Ables, Taylor Lorenz, Amir Nadhir and Sara Sorcher contributed to this report.