Entertainment

Unpaid Fyre Fest caterer in Bahamas gets over $90,000 in donations after doc profiles scam

A GoFundMe campaign to help an unpaid caterer in the Bahamas who says she fed thousands of unhappy people during the fizzled Fyre Fest music festival in 2017 has received thousands of dollars in donations.

Examination of shady tactics also highlights influencers' ability to easily sell to followers on social media

The disastrous 2017 Fyre Festival, promoted by Ja Rule, left, and Billy McFarland, right, is the subject of two new documentaries which have prompted a fundraising campaign for a Bahamian caterer who says she lost thousands in the scandal. (Netflix)

A GoFundMe campaign to help an unpaid restaurant owner in the Bahamas who says she fed thousands of unhappy people during the disastrous Fyre Fest music festival in 2017 has received over $90,000 US in donations.

The page, which has been verified as genuine, has a target of $123,000 to help Maryann Rolle, who appeared in a highly publicized Netflix documentary released last week about the infamous luxury music festival that turned into Hunger Games-like conditions for visitors.

Guests arrived expecting concerts by big-name stars in paradise, but found chaos, inadequate shelter and very little food, while most of the musical acts had cancelled. Rolle said her restaurant, Exuma Point, was forced to pick up the slack.

"I pushed myself to the limits catering no less than a 1,000 meals per day," Rolle wrote on the page. "Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all prepared and delivered by Exuma Point to Coco Plum Beach, and Roker's Point where the main events were scheduled to take place."

Maryann Rolle, left, says she lost $55,000 US after having to cover the cost of food and paying workers out of pocket during the festival on the island of Great Exuma when organizers didn't provide compensation. (Maryann Rolle/Facebook)

From aspirational promotion to jail time

Netflix's Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened chronicles the social media buildup of what was advertised as an extravagant weekend island getaway for millennials and eventually landed its main promoter, Billy McFarland, in jail for fraud.

Some of Instagram's biggest influencers, including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, had helped promote it along with rapper Ja Rule. When party-goers arrived on the island of Great Exuma — selected last minute after event organizers were kicked off another Bahamian island — they found limited drinking water, no electricity and emergency shelter tents sopping wet from a rain storm.

Guests arrived expecting concerts by big name stars in paradise, but found chaos, inadequate shelter and very little food. (Netflix)

Rolle's plea for help after suffering a financial loss she describes as "embarrassing to admit" has begun trending, raising tens of thousands of dollars in less than a week since the documentary's release.

Some commenters on the site questioned the target amount and whether it might be another scam (one user posted: "Billy?...Is that you?!"), but more than 3,000 people have contributed. GoFundMe identified the page as legitimate.

The Fyre Festival scheme was put further under a microscope by the release of another documentary last week on Hulu called Fyre Fraud, which further examines the aspirational traits that appealed to millennial culture and allowed the festival to sell out despite a high price tag.

McFarland sold an aspirational image to millennial party-goers of yachts, private jets, models and an exclusive island. (Netflix)

Red flags around similar tactics on Instagram

Some of the shady tactics used in the lead-up to the Fyre Festival are now raising alarm bells on a smaller scale around another Instagram personality, 27-year-old Caroline Calloway, who announced to her 830,000 followers she was arranging "creativity workshops" around the U.S. for $165 per ticket which would include a homemade lunch, craftwork and "teaching."

After facing increasing criticism for not being able to book venues or deliver on many promises, she cancelled the rest of the tour and apologized. Scottish journalist Kayleigh Donaldson's Twitter thread about the ongoing situation had a hand in forcing the influencer to admit the events were done out of "greed."

Two days later, on Jan. 16, Calloway said she would be resuming the seminars and started selling $20 T-shirts with the words: "Stop Hate-Following Me, Kayleigh."

'Never looked back'

Both Fyre Fest documentaries showed how few people seem to have sympathy for young people who got conned out of their money over promises of capturing ideal Instagram shots. One tweet following the fiasco showcased in the Netflix film read: "Every time a rich kid is scammed, an angel gets his wings." But the fallout also showed the collateral damage to local people who are still paying the price nearly two years later.

Rolle explained the debt ruined her credit and left her in a "big hole." She had to pay all her workers herself, who she said were preparing and serving food around the clock for the festival with no compensation from organizers.

"I had to literally pay all those people," she said in the Netflix documentary. "I went through about $50,000 of my savings that I could have had for a rainy day. And they just wiped it out. And never looked back."

"They really, really, really, really hurt me."

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