The controversy surrounding Fyre Festival continues to heat up even after two years. The music festival was supposed to be held on Pablo Escobar’s private island in the Bahamas in 2017—but it turned out to be a scam.
Guests forked out at least US$1,500 ($2,020) for tickets and were promised an atas experience with accommodation, festival tickets and meals all covered. A celebrity chef was supposed to cook for them, and Blink 182 was supposed to headline. Keyword: supposed.
The band pulled out at the last minute, and it was later discovered that the celebrity chef, Stephen Starr, had already sold off his catering group two years prior, and the catering group that entered an agreement with Fyre Festival terminated their contract with the controversial event on April 2, 2017—weeks before the festival.
Instead of luxury accommodation, festivalgoers had to sleep in tents and were fed cheese sandwiches.
But it’s not surprising why people were willing to fork out money for the festival—the publicity surrounding it was impeccable. They hired social media influencers and models to promote the event—Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid were just a few of the big names who were posted about the event heavily on their social media accounts and were featured in the promotional video.
Kendall Jenner also posted an Instagram post about the festival and the artists from Kanye West’s label who were supposed to perform at the festival, and was allegedly paid US$250,000 ($336,764) for it. Although Bella apologised to her followers and deleted the post, Kendall never explicitly said she was associated with the festival nor that the post was an ad. The post has since been deleted.
Reports have it that IMG Models, which represents Hailey Bieber, Bella Hadid and Elsa Hosk, was paid US$1.2 million ($1.6 million), while DNA Model received $299,000 ($402,774) for Emily Ratjatowski’s involvement.
The festival organiser, Bill McFarland, reportedly spent US$5.2 million ($7 million) on paying models for the campaign. This was part of the US$26 million ($35 million) he received in funding.
Now those top models could face possible subpoenas over the missing funds—which essentially means, the judge could ask them to reveal the payment documents made by the organiser.
According to New York Post, the court-appointed liquidation trustee, Gregory Messer, demanded to know what happened to the $5.2 million($7 million). The court document wrote, “The Trustee believes that these transfers were made from funds that belong to the Debtor in connection with the Fyre Festival.”
In June 2017, Billy was charged with one count of wire fraud (financial fraud involving the use of telecommunications or information technology, according to Google dictionary). In March last year, he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and one count of defrauding a ticket vendor. In October, he was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to forfeit US$26 million ($35 million).
The whole fiasco has been documented in a Netflix original documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, as well as Hulu’s documentary, Fyre Fraud.