Influencer culture can be perplexing, and so much of it can be fueled by how a public figure makes their audience feel, rather than the figure themselves (see also: the film Jawline). Caroline Calloway—a woman who has built a dedicated following via highly stylized photos with lengthy, essay-like captions on Instagram—has laid claim to a few titles, including artist and teacher. But many have been quick to also call her a scammer, based on a fairly disastrous creative workshop tour that (kind of) took place earlier in the year. Journalist Kayleigh Donaldson outlined the chaotic turn of events (or no events, all things considered) in a researched breakdown for Pajiba, “The Empty Mason Jar Of The Influencer Economy: The Case Of Caroline Calloway And Her Creative Workshop Tour.” There, Donaldson gathered a litany of damning posts that paint the picture of a poorly planned event, which promised things like orchid crowns, handwritten notes, lunch, and lessons on how to “cultivate” creativity for $165 per ticket. Instead, guests purchased spots before Calloway had, by her own admission, secured venues. “Calloway cancelled the events scheduled for Boston, Denver and Philadelphia, although this proved unsurprising given that Calloway had already admitted in earlier Instagram Stories that she had never gotten around to booking a venue for the Boston date, which was scheduled for [that] Sunday,” Donaldson explained before supplying a collection of informative tweets capturing Calloway’s attempt to spin the issue.
After the information went viral, Calloway canceled the rest of the tour and refunded the remaining ticket holders. Eight months later, a fresh round of mind-boggling, pre-internet fame insight has surfaced from former best friend and ghost writer Natalie Beach in an essay for The Cut titled “I Was Caroline Calloway.” Beach, who was first introduced to Calloway in college, helped craft some of the early, famously verbose captions that furnished Calloway’s brand, which ultimately led to a failed, but once-lucrative book deal. Beach signed on to quietly assist in writing the book, a complicated experience that she details, in part, below:
“The proposal was originally called School Girl (my suggestion) but Caroline deemed that too pornographic, so went with her first choice — And We Were Like — as in the way girls begin to tell stories. The first week of November, Caroline and Byrd took the proposal out to publishing houses while I waited for updates. The good news rolled in — the executives loved the writing, loved Caroline. My involvement was uncredited, as the entire selling point of Caroline was that she was an ingénue, and ingénues don’t have sleep-deprived collaborators living in deep Brooklyn. I knew my job was to be present but invisible, but it still hurt to hear secondhand about the high-powered meetings, the gushing over pages I half-wrote. But how could I complain? In the end, Flatiron agreed to pay $375,000 for the book, a substantial percentage of which, according to a collaboration agreement Caroline had offered me, would be mine.”
Beach also details some fairly scary personal events, like being abandoned late at night in the streets of Amsterdam, which Calloway admits was true. So if you’ve harbored any curiosity as to who this Caroline Calloway character is and why she is suddenly gaining attention outside of the color-pop pages of Instagram, check out both pieces for some answers. Just don’t expect to find out what happened to the Yale plates Beach gifted Calloway in college, which became the unexpected breakout stars of Beach’s account. Their mysterious whereabouts apparently won’t be revealed until a later interview that Calloway has already scheduled with Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times.