The former best friend and ghostwriter of an Instagram influencer famous for her memoir-esque photo captions has alleged the social media star bought followers to create a fan base for herself to get a book deal.
Natalie Beach, a 27-year-old writer from New Haven, Connecticut, opened up about her tumultuous seven-year relationship with Caroline Calloway in an explosive tell-all published by The Cut.
Caroline, 27, found fame by sharing photos of herself with lengthy captions about her life using the hashtag #adventuregrams. In Natalie’s essay, she detailed how she helped her friend write the witty Instagram posts as well as half of her book proposal.
Drama: Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway (pictured) has been accused of buying followers to create a fan base for herself to sell her unwritten memoir
Looking back: Natalie Beach (right) opened about her seven-year relationship with her former friend Caroline in a tell-all essay
Most shockingly, she alleged Caroline’s claim that she became Instagram famous from a snapshot of macarons is a massive lie and revealed she was once suicidal.
‘The real story, she told me, is she took a series of meetings with literary professionals who informed her that no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base,’ Natalie wrote.
‘And so Caroline made one online, taking out ads designed to look like posts to promote her account and buying tens of thousands of followers.’
The writer noted that Caroline, who now has more than 788,000 Instagram followers, said this was before the Federal Trade Commission published guidelines for influencers.
Caroline’s social media fame led to her signing with a literary agent, Byrd Leavell, in 2015, but Natalie said she was the one who did the majority of the writing of the influencer’s 103-page book proposal, with her friend promising her 35 per cent of the profits.
‘I’d wake up at 6 a.m. in Sunset Park and write for 90 minutes, usually working off raw notes Caroline sent over for the chapter we were on,’ Natalie recalled.
‘I’d craft it into a legible narrative and then rush to my landscaping job where, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., I’d install tasteful fences and patios for the gentrifiers of Bed-Stuy and Prospect Heights, while Caroline filled in the details. On nights and weekends, we’d meet, always at Caroline’s (my apartment made her too sad, she told me).’
Claims: In Natalie’s essay, she detailed how she co-wrote the witty Instagram posts that helped her amass nearly 800,000 followers
Drama: Most shockingly, she alleged Caroline’s claim she had gotten Instagram famous from a snapshot of macarons is a massive lie
The proposal scored Caroline a $375,000 book deal to write a memoir about her life as an influencer in New York, though reports at the time said the advance was $500,000.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BUY INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS?
Instagram users can inexpensively purchase ‘followers’ from third-party services to boost their numbers.
People can get 1,000 followers for as little as $10, but many of them are either bots or inactive accounts that will never like or comment on posts.
Users can also pay services to strategically follow other Instagram accounts on their behalf in the hopes of those accounts following them back.
However, while the followers would be real people, there is no guarantee that they would voluntarily start following an account just because it started following them.
Instagram now considers the act of buying followers a violation of its community guidelines.
Instagram auditing tools such as IG Audit, Social Audit Pro, and FakeCheck.co can scan public Instagram accounts to detect face followers.
Source: HubSpot Blog
‘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,’ Natalie explained.
‘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?’
Natalie said when she learned Caroline had bought her fan base, she feared there would be consequences for selling a book proposal ‘based off a false number’ of followers.
‘But to Caroline the ploy was a statement of intent: She was a self-made woman exploiting a new form of media. “Women spend too much time apologizing for promoting their work,” she told me,”‘ the writer recalled.
Natalie said by the fall of 2016, they were trying to write the book together via Skype, but Caroline struggled to get the words out.
‘I bought us time with the publishers by writing a quarter of the manuscript by myself, but Caroline hated it so much that she threatened suicide if I wrote anymore,’ she said.
Caroline missed her deadline and Natalie eventually stopped working with her. The influencer later backed out of her book deal, claiming she was no longer interested in writing it.
She reportedly owes her publisher $100,000, a resolution which she says she continues to work on.
Natalie, who met Caroline at a creative-nonfiction workshop at New York University, said she was initially enamored by the ‘most confident girl [she’d] ever known.’
Was it all a lie? The writer said Caroline took out ‘ads designed to look like posts to promote her account’ and ‘bought tens of thousands of followers’ to build a fan base
Toxic relationship: Natalie admitted she was initially enamored by the ‘most confident girl [she’d] ever known’ but was made to feel like an ‘unpaid intern’
Starting out: ‘Me: Come on! Let’s jump this fence! What’s the worst that could happen? Natalie: Um? You could lose your ability to bear children…?’ Caroline captioned this image in 2013
‘Caroline first took an interest in me after I wrote an essay about growing up in New Haven,’ she recalled. ‘Yale was an obsession of hers; she’d been rejected and never got over it.
‘The fact that I was a Yale townie won me an invitation to her West Village apartment, a studio painted Tiffany’s turquoise and filled with fresh orchids and hardcovers. “This is my Yale box,” she told me, sitting me on her white loveseat and showing me a shoe box of Handsome Dan and Beinecke-library memorabilia.’
Natalie admitted she ignored the signs that her enigmatic friend was a habitual liar and touched upon Caroline’s Adderall abuse while sharing details about their toxic friendship that left her feeling like an ‘unpaid intern.’
The dramatic ending to Caroline’s book deal was her first scandal, but it wouldn’t be her last. Earlier this year, she announced she was hosing a ‘Creativity Workshop,’ charging $165 per person for the seminar, which she admitted she wrote in one day.
However, it all fell apart when she failed to book venues before selling tickets and made promises she couldn’t keep. Journalist Kayleigh Donaldson documented the lead-up to Caroline’s disastrous first workshop and called it a scam.
Soon, the influencer was being dubbed a scammer, and she ended up canceling most of her tour and refunding her fans.
Natalie said people frequently ask her if her old friend could be compared to the likes of Fyre Festival scammer Billy McFarland and wannabe socialite Anna Delvey.
In the lead up to Natalie’s tell-all being published, Caroline shared numerous posts about it. In some, she begged The Cut to ax it; in others, she praised her former friend’s writing.
Looking back: Natalie said she wrote half of Caroline’s 103-page book proposal, which scored her a $375,000 book deal. Caroline never ended up writing her memoir
Infamous: Caroline was dubbed a scammer earlier this year when she charged fans $165 apiece for tickets to her ‘Creativity Workshop,’ which ended up being a disaster
‘It’s been surreal watching this unfold from my desk job in Los Angeles, but I’m not surprised she’s taken an essay of mine that didn’t exist yet and turned it into a narrative for herself,’ Natalie wrote in her essay.
Caroline shared on Instagram that she planned on reading Natalie’s essay in full with her therapist, later promising that she would be writing a response piece. She said she’d like it to be published by The Cut ‘to be bookends with Natalie’s.
She posted a screenshot of the text message she wrote to the publication’s fact-checker regarding her struggles with suicide.
Caroline said it wasn’t ‘fair’ that Natalie said she threatened suicide because she hated her writing.
‘I wasn’t suicidal because Natalie was a bad writer. She’s a wonderful writer,’ she wrote in the text. ‘Life no longer seemed worth living because I had sold a memoir I couldn’t and didn’t want to write and I was living inside an addition I didn’t know how to solve.’
In the caption of the post, she confirmed that she did struggle with thoughts of taking her own life, something she had never spoken about online before.
‘I don’t resent Natalie for revealing that I was suicidal in her essay. It’s not black or white. Both of these things are true: I wish people hadn’t found out like this AND Natalie’s stories deserve to be told,’ she wrote.
‘It must have been so hard for Natalie to have a friend who cared more about getting high than supporting her and didn’t really care about staying alive at all!’
Caroline also posted a snapshot of herself reading the essay on her computer on Wednesday followed by a picture of herself with Natalie when they were still friends.
Hitting back: Caroline posted a snapshot of herself reading the essay on her computer on Wednesday, promising that she would be writing a response piece
Her side: Caroline posted a screenshot of a text she sent The Cut’s fact-checker. She confirmed she had suicidal thought but insisted it had nothing to do with Natalie’s writing
Penance? Caroline went on to flood her feed with photo collages featuring all the images that Natalie helped her caption over the years
‘Seven years ago I used Instagram to build a world on Instagram and a story about who I am. Now I’m going to use this same app to raze those things to the motherf****g ground—post by post. And build something better in their place. Something true,’ she wrote.
‘First order of business: Getting very f****g clear about which captions I had help with and which captions I wrote myself.
‘It’s normal for writers to have editors and for artists to have friends who collaborate closely on projects and shape each other’s style. I refused to shamed for this,’ she continued.
‘And because here’s the thing: Natalie didn’t write my captions FOR me. Never. Not once. We wrote them TOGETHER. And my best captions—the captions about Cambridge—I wrote BY MYSELF after our friendship had shaped me and helped me find my voice.
‘Natalie is inextricable from my writing not because she is the mastermind behind my sentences but because my love for her and HER love of words shaped me into the writer that I am.’
Caroline went on to flood her feed with photo collages featuring all the images that Natalie helped her caption over the years.
‘It’s a relief to give these captions they deserve. All of these are: By Natalie Beach and Caroline Calloway,’ she wrote.
Followers admitted they were worried about her, with one commenting: ‘Please put your phone down- you’ve traded one addiction for another and this spiraling is scary to see.’
‘Girl. Just. Stop. Seriously. No one cares about the captions,’ someone else wrote. ‘If this is what you’re hung up on, it’s clear Natalie isn’t the one who’s lying and your actions are showing it. I can’t believe your therapist would sign off on this behavior. This is incredibly unhealthy.’