We're obsessed with female friendships – especially when they go awry. The power dynamics, the hurt, (s)he said/she said, the urge to pit two women against each other – this is what has become of the Caroline Calloway saga that has been the talk of the internet over the past 48 hours.
But who is Caroline Calloway?
In layman's terms, she is an influencer. She gained notoriety back in 2013 for her long-form Instagram captions detailing life, love and more magical moments while at Cambridge. Things turned when she had a book deal (and then didn't) but planned to go on a live tour to meet fans and do a series of workshops.
Suffice to say, it didn't go to plan; there were mix-ups and mason jars galore, but comparisons to Fyre Fest are unfair; Calloway isn't a scammer who conned people out of millions, it was a live Instagram story case of the cart before the horse. The word "cancelled" got mixed into the furore, there were Twitter threads and inexcusable t-shirt slogans that were allegedly used as a tool for harassment on Calloway's part.
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Alright, guys. I just got out of therapy. I just read Natalie’s article. I feel stronger than I’ve ever been. And I’m ready to get to fucking WORK. 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 motherfucking ground—post by post. And build something better in their place. Something true. First order of business: Getting very fucking 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. 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. Ok! Let’s get to it! This is going to be a tedious amount of posts back-to-back, but it needs to be done.
So why all the fuss?
It's all to do with an essay published by New York Magazine’s The Cut. Its author is a freelance writer named Natalie Beach, and it describes Beach’s friendship with Calloway and how it came to be no more. Essentially, Natalie explains that she was a ghostwriter for Calloway. She edited and often wrote the bulk of the captions that put Calloway on the influencer radar – it was, according to Calloway always a joint effort – and helped her put together her book proposal. It was she who helped Calloway build her brand.
And to be fair, Calloway acknowledges this. In a frantic series of Instagram tiles, she admits she wasn't the friend she could have been to Beach.
There was much hype about Calloway's book, but September of 2017, Calloway announced that the book proposal she had sold was too sexist and she was no longer interested in writing it. “Starting now this love story I’ve been telling you on Instagram will also be a true story, in all of the ways, not just the ways I think publishers will buy,” she wrote. “It’s a love story about a girl and her creativity.”She then explained via her Instagram Stories, she owed her publisher the $100,000 of her advance that she’d already been paid — but she had spent it all already. Her publishers were kind about it, she said.
Two sides to the story
Fast forward to 2019 and Beach told her side of the story, with mixed results. There were controversial statements – including that Calloway bought the bulk of her following in the early days – but at the heart of it was a friendship. Beach was in awe of Calloway's rich and exciting life, she was struggling with self-image and odd jobs. She had none of Calloway's confidence and seemed to both admire and resent her in equal measure. Calloway loved her ability to tell a story.
The pairing worked – until it didn't. The floundered book deal and Calloway's spiral into her Adderall addiction meant Beach – who was promised 35 per cent of the book's profits – eventually recognised that the book was never going to happen.
Related: 'When a female friendship ends, it doesn't have to be viewed as failure'
In truth, there are two sides to this: Beach sees a friend who seems to effortlessly have it all, who gets the fame and attention, while she slaves away in the background, uncredited for her work. It may have been fine in the beginning but towards the end, it was clear she resented the ghostwriting. Men look at Calloway differently to Beach, as is written in the essay's climax, showcasing that in reality, they are worlds apart.
In contrast, Calloway has her own struggles and from the outset, seems to covet creativity, seemingly without actually wanting to do much of the graft that comes with it. And ultimately, they each fail the other in their own way: Calloway for abandoning Beach as she walked the streets of Amsterdam alone, and Beach for writing her side of the story (as she is allowed to do) though detailing her friend's darkest moments in a very public manner.
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Going to keep working on the giant infographic I’m making on my grid tomorrow. I just have four more posts for it planned. I came so close to finishing it all in one day, but excellent progress was made here. You may not like it or think that it’s important or say that I’m manic or spiraling or melting-down. And that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion although I ask kindly that you go express your concern somewhere else. I know what I am making and I have a creative vision that I will execute. Anyone long-time readers who have seen me cranking out 6-9 long captions A DAY since JUNE know that during this chapter of my life (so just this summer) it is very standard for me to be making up for the years I didn’t post and spending six hours a day on Instagram. Building a body of work on here that satisfies and thrills me is a top priority. If people can appreciate what I am doing that is only a bonus on top of feeling creatively engaged. Thank you, NBC need for this weird turquoise collage. I actually really don’t mind the cringey photo of me twirling in that dress when it’s integrated with photos of me now. No matter what I do, I will always have been that cringey person. It’s just nice to see her integrated into the cringey person I am now. OH DID YOU THINK I DIDNT KNOW THAT IT’S FUCKING WEIRD TO REPOST YOUR WHOLE INSTAGRAM WITHIN THE MEDIUM OF YOUR INSTAGRAM? I don’t care. I mean—obviously I do care. I am a cringey person who cares a whole lot and hat is just my truth. But one of my greatest super powers is that I never let my strobing desire to be liked get in the way of being true to who I am. I think this grid-wide infographic re-cap is fascinating and significant for my readers and cool. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to writing my response for @thecut . Working title: “I Am Caroline Calloway.”
The rift in the dynamic of the friendship is obvious and people are either for Beach or against Calloway, but one thing is clear: both women are portrayed in a negative manner. Both have been wronged, are wronged, have made mistakes – and are taken to task by the media for it.
It was never about an Instagram caption, it's the dissolution of friendship in a public showdown on social media – and it's just very sad to witness.
Main photograph: @Micha_Frazer