A few weeks ago, a young woman named Natalie Beach wrote an exposé for The Cut about her friendship and working life with controversial influencer, Caroline Calloway. It caused a stir on social media, some extremely erratic behavior from Calloway on her Instagram, and a story in The Atlantic that sought to undo any damage.
In the Cut story, Beach gripes about trying to keep up with her richer, better dressed friend Calloway, as the two travel Europe producing Instagram content for which Beach is compensated and Calloway takes all the credit. The "big" reveals of the piece are that: Calloway didn't write a book that Beach would have financially benefitted from (it's worth noting that no contracts between the two were ever signed), and that Calloway left Beach locked out of a hotel room in Amsterdam one night because Beach didn't wind up hooking up with a bartender after all. Sure, Calloway sounds annoying. But, frankly, so does Beach.
Throughout the article, Beach tries to depict herself as a hapless victim who was too enthralled by a charismatic woman, too convinced of the validity of social media content creation. She talks repeatedly of being "broke," even as she describes traveling extensively, eating out frequently, and living in New York City. At one point, she talks about being paid $200 a week to prep Calloway's Airbnb for new guests, as if it's slave labor.
In critiquing the life of the famous influencer she used to work with though, Natalie Beach overnight became a writer-to-watch. Over the weekend, during an appearance on the Red Scare podcast, Calloway claimed Beach now has a $1 million movie deal with Ryan Murphy to tell the story of their friendship.
It isn't working with a social media influencer that has put Beach on the map, then—it's complaining about it after the fact. And it is becoming increasingly clear that what just happened for Beach isn't a fluke, it's a full-blown trend. What's more, some of the people critiquing online influencers are now also directly benefiting from the same system that supports them.