- Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway cancelled her planned tour of “creativity” workshops after she was called out in a viral Twitter thread for backing away from her promises.
- This isn’t the first time Calloway courted controversy – her publishers cancelled a reported $US500,000 memoir after she lost interest in writing it.
- Here’s what we know about her.
On Monday, Caroline Calloway – an Instagram influencer with nearly 1 million followers – cancelled her planned tour of “creativity workshops,” where for $US165 a ticket she’d teach aspiring influencers and creative types about how to find their voice.
Her plans blew up after Twitter thread chronicled how her promises shrunk from an expansive four-hour seminar where she’d bare her soul about the creative process and make a salad lunch for attendees, into a briefer lesson that included an hour-long meet-and-greet.
The thread isn’t the first time she courted controversy. Calloway rose to fame in 2013, blogging about her life at the University of Cambridge on Instagram. Her posts turned into a reported $US500,000 book deal that her publisher ultimately cancelled after she lost interest in finishing it.
Here’s what we know about Caroline Calloway.
Calloway first got widespread attention for her Instagram blogs about the University of Cambridge.
Calloway was born in Washington, D.C. and attended elite schools private schools, including Phillips Exeter Academy for high school and New York University for her first two years of college.
She transferred to the University of Cambridge in 2013, where she began blogging on Instagram in earnest. Her idealised descriptions of the Cambridge campus and her confessional posts about her romantic life started gathering a substantial following. By spring 2015, she had 300,000 followers, according to The Daily Mail. People made fan accounts that tracked her every move.
At Cambridge, she told Broadly, she gained a reputation as “the Instagram girl,” saying people were dismissive about her blog.
“I would never say people are hostile, but people are a little condescending about [the blog] sometimes,” she told Broadly.
She also said her art history professors at Cambridge were snobbish about her work as an Instagram blogger.
“I could say with pretty much one hundred per cent certainty that no one’s thrilled that I’ll be the first one to be a professional Instagram blogger with my degree,” Calloway told Broadly. “Like whenever they talk about Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro or the use of contrapposto marble sculpture, I’m sure they would hate to know [they’re] being used to filter Instagram pictures.”
To her fans online, though, Calloway represented something rare – a life of both authenticity and aspiration.
“I enjoyed her prose and her openness in the beginning. It felt authentic that she so willing to share the good AND the bad in more than just an image,” one fan, Abigail Hope, told INSIDER. “I appreciated her vulnerability in her heartbreak and was drawn to her in some weird way I couldn’t exactly explain.”
Calloway graduated with her art history degree in 2016 – with a book deal in hand.
She signed a reported $US500,000 book deal in 2015.
By November 2015, Calloway’s reputation as a literary voice on the Internet helped her nab a deal with Flatiron Books for a memoir called “And We Were Like.” The total price tag for the deal was $US500,000, with her receiving a third of the funds in advance, she told Man Repeller.
The book was supposed to be similar to her Instagram posts: A memoir about her life at Cambridge and the relationships she had with different men.
Calloway was represented by Byrd Leavell, the high-profile agent who also represented Tiffany Haddish, Drew Magary, “S— My Dad Says” author Justin Halpern, and blogger Cat Marnell.
Her publisher withdrew the deal after she lost interest in writing the book.
Before long, Calloway decided she couldn’t finish the book.
“I promised a memoir where the only thing that happened to me were boyfriends and where the climax of my entire life experience to date was boy-related,” she told Man Repeller in 2018. “It wasn’t long before I realised the boy-obsessed version of myself I planned to depict as my memoir’s protagonist was not one I could stand behind.”
Her publishers withdrew her contract, she said, and asked her to repay her advance. But by then, Calloway had already spent her entire book advance: roughly $US165,000, according to her own figures. She said she spent it on rent for a London apartment, and on meals, and gave much of it away to friends.
Flatiron Books didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Since graduating, Calloway has continued posting about her personal life.
Following college, Calloway moved to the posh West Village in New York City, and continued to post about her relationships, most notably, her three year relationship with a Swedish student named Oscar, which began in Cambridge and ended in mid-2016), hanging out with friends, and creative inspiration.
Calloway drew the ire of Oscar’s new girlfriend in the process, and the new girlfriend allegedly created an Instagram account to troll her. As Calloway recounts in her 2018 Man Repeller interview, she posted about the incident on her Instagram stories and it devolved “into this thing where people were saying she was crazy and evil and bad. I decided it was important for them to know that I have flaws, too, so I decided to tell them that at the very end of my relationship with Oscar, I kissed someone else. “
Another subject Calloway touched on was her use of Adderall. The blogger admitted that she’d used the drug for more than three years, both in and out of college, though she says she’s since stopped. In a March 2018 Facebook post she refers to having an “Adderall addiction.”
She’s followed a more traditional influencer career path.
Like many Instagram influencers, she’s made money mostly with sponsored content. In now-deleted Instagram posts, she said she began by charging brands up to $US1,000 for mentions in Instagram stories and $US5,000 for a regular post, and then more than doubled her rates after that.
In December, she expanded her ambition by planning a speaking tour.
Another source of revenue for many influencers is events. Calloway tried it out with “The Creativity Workshop,” a series of four-hour seminars where she promised to teach attendees about the creative process and finding a voice – along with a salad lunch she promised to make herself. Tickets were $US165 per person. She announced her plans for the series in December, and hosted the first event less than a month later, planning to hold similar workshops across the US and Europe.
The workshop series fell apart.
As journalist Kayleigh Donaldson described on Twitter, Calloway backpedaled her description for the event from a four-hour seminar with perks to a three-hour event with a meet-and-greet while asking attendees to bring their own food. People who attended the event said that while they had a good time meeting fellow fans, the experience was disorganized, and many things Calloway promised – including an orchid crown making workshop and “personalised” letters – never happened. The event series drew comparisons to Fyre Festival.
Calloway also failed to secure venues before announcing her tour dates and making tickets available for purchase. In one case, she promised to secure a venue and create an event in Atlanta on February 2, the same weekend as the Superbowl. After holding one event in New York, she began cancelling dates in Boston, Philadelphia, and Denver, assuring that the people who purchased tickets for those events would receive refunds.
The whole thing was cancelled.
After Donaldson’s Twitter thread about Calloway went viral on Sunday, the influencer cancelled her additional tour dates, admitting that “greed” got the better of her.
“I was overconfident in believing that I had something to offer people that was worth $US165 dollars and this experience has been incredibly humbling,” she in a message posted to Twitter and Instagram. “I take full responsibility for letting my total inexperience with event planning and GREED create a situation where the details of the tour were ever-changing, preparation was inadequate, and the event did not match the description by the time it went on.”
Calloway said she would refund everyone who purchased tickets. But it wasn’t before she lost the faith of some of her fans, as Abigail Hope – a fan who’s followed Calloway for around four years – told INSIDER.
“It was a very surreal feeling seeing the original Twitter thread and realising all at once just how misled I’d been,” Hope said. “Misled, but also guilty of idolizing someone who I’d had no reason to glorify.”
Calloway didn’t immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
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