This Influencer's $165 'Creativity' Seminar Was Compared To Fyre Festival, But She's Decided Not To Cancel It After All

On Instagram Influencer Caroline Calloway's profile, she refers to her account as a “first-of-its-kind” platform — citing herself as the first to use lengthy "story" captions as she chronicled her time at University of Cambridge and her budding relationship with a fellow student there. Now other parts of her brand are being scrutinized after her U.S. tour —which cost $165 to attend and featured workshops on "creativity" that were criticized heavily online as a "scam" — was cancelled and un-cancelled again within a three day window, as Insider reports.

"I canceled my tour because I was frightened and feeling worthless because if you read enough bad things about yourself on the internet you will start to believe they're true," Calloway wrote on Instagram announcing plans to bring back the tour. "You can't let the people who despise you run your f---ing life."

Though Calloway held two tour events — one in D.C. and another in Brooklyn — the reported problems with the tour were seemingly endless. Calloway reportedly failed to book venues for her seminars, came under fire for initially deciding not to pay photographers and had trouble financing her ambitious plans. As buzz around the tour began to grow online, it garnered comparisons to other viral failed events like "fyre festival."

After acknowledging that her attempted tour had failed, Calloway announced earlier this week that everyone who bought tickets would be refunded. The refunds were confirmed by Eventbrite, according to Insider.

 

This isn’t the first time Calloway’s business endeavors have gone south. Business Insider reports that she was under contract with Flatiron Books to publish a memoir about falling in love abroad, but that fell through after Calloway decided she wasn’t interested in writing the book, despite already spending $165,000 of her $500,000 advance. Even fellow students at Cambridge questioned the authenticity of the experience she wrote about on Instagram.

An article on Pajiba, journalist Kayleigh Donaldson cited the Tumblr page Ask A Cambridge Student, where one person wrote that Calloway ‘perpetuates the myth that Oxbridge is like this fantasyland, whereas in reality, it’s quirky, but is much more normal than people think.’ Donaldson also had some harsh words for Calloway, writing “Caroline Calloway’s scam may not be the biggest on the Internet or the most upsetting but it certainly best represents the truth that lies beneath the well-filtered veil.”

Donaldson isn’t alone in seeing the connection between Calloway’s seminar and other high-profile scams. A New York Magazine article about Calloway ended with the lines “And just like that, the Creativity Workshop by Caroline Calloway ascended into failed influencer-event heaven. I imagine the ghost of Fyre Festival met it at the gates.”

These words ought to remind us that Calloway’s grift is not all that unique. As Donaldson writes, it is connected to a much larger problem that comes with the lucrativeness of running a successful Instagram and the idealized portrayal of life that is often required to achieve that success. While some Influencers certainly may have more to offer than Calloway (and there's no harm in investing in your personal development), it’s always healthy to maintain a degree of skepticism.

As Calloway plans to revive her tour, she has taken to Instagram to assert that she doesn't plan to take online criticism to heart: "I am not going to quit a project that I love with my whole heart and brings me — and others — purpose and joy because of the opinions of other people who, quite frankly, didn't attend the workshop and were never going to buy a ticket in the first place," she wrote. "I'm not doing this to make myself rich. It's standard for creators to have ticketed meet and greets. And this is much more than that."