Surprised by Tony P’s NATO video? So was he.

Anthony Polcari, who goes by Tony P online, gives a high five to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) during a party at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington following the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 27. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)

A curious question hung in Washington this week as some of the world’s most powerful leaders gathered for NATO’s 75th anniversary.

Why on earth was Tony P. the face of the security organization’s official welcome video?

The soft-spoken 25-year-old influencer from Washington, DC, whose Instagram account promises “cooking, fashion, and adulting tips,” probably wasn’t on anyone’s short list — or long, long list — to post a one-minute video explaining how Washington is the birthplace of NATO and that its 32 member states are working “to address the most important security challenges facing our world today, and continue to advance NATO’s ability to keep our 1 billion people safe.”

One Reddit user was unimpressed. “What was the point of this?” they wrote. “Is this the only spokesperson DC could find? With all these unemployed international policy people, this is who we use to do this work?”

A poster on X was also surprised, saying: “career diplomats are being fired from media jobs by a 25 year old bachelor in Washington DC What the hell?”

To be honest, even Tony P, aka Anthony Polcari, was surprised.

“They want to collaborate with me? An influencer? I couldn’t believe it,” Polcari said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Really, just — I’m just blown away. And you know, any way I can help was just really cool to me.”

Polcari, who said he was not paid for the video, is one of dozens of social media influencers invited by NATO, the Defense Department and the State Department to participate in the high-level summit. As the alliance faces increasing questions about its future, it is seeking to better explain its mission and strengthen its image among young people who may have only a vague understanding of why it was founded.

Polcari said NATO contacted his agent a few weeks ago. After getting over the shock of the request, he read the short script and jumped on board. The video was filmed on a scorching June day in front of several Washington landmarks, with Polcari, sweltering in a dark blue suit, delivering his lines without anyone seeing him break a sweat.

He believes he was asked because he’s become a more visible face in the District, as his following on Instagram — where he documents his single life in aggressively innocent videos — has grown from about 2,000 people a year or so ago to more than 200,000.

“They wanted someone who could represent DC, who was an influencer, you know, in the DC space,” Polcari said. As if on cue, a woman could be heard in the background yelling, “Tony P!”

But not all of his Instagram followers were happy with his new ties to NATO.

“I hate this so much,” one person wrote. Another posted a puke emoji.

On X there were more punches:

“God, this is embarrassing. You must be crazy…”

“Congratulations! This is the worst thing I have ever seen!”

“DC really needs better local celebrities.”

Polcari waves away the opponents.

“There are people who say I’m one of those hated influencers in DC. That’s just not true,” Polcari said. “It’s funny, the fact that people are taking time out of their day to bash me for doing a NATO video made me laugh a little bit. Because I use the old line from the show ‘Mad Men,’ which is, ‘I don’t think about you, you think about me.'”

Negativity has no place in Tony P’s world.

“I want to create a space for fun and positivity where people can come together,” he texted after the interview.

Just like NATO.

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