Supermodels, yachts and lounging on a private island in the Bahamas once owned by drug dealer Pablo Escobar. Fyre Festival was billed as something straight out of a rap video. But the fantasy—featuring performances by Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music, Migos and Blink-182—turned catastrophe as festivalgoers shared horrifying experiences over the weekend on social media. Fyre Festival seemed to lack basic provisions. Paltry sandwiches, accomodations resembling disaster relief tents; the vibes on the Exuma Islands appeared more like The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies than baller. Festival organizer, rapper Ja Rule, apologized profusely and Fyre Festival has since promised refunds— while giving ticketholders VIP access for next year.
That may not be enough.
Lawyer Mark Geragos filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Fyre Festival organizers Ja Rule and Billy McFarlane. According to Variety, the suit was filed on Sunday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Geragos, a celebrity lawyer known for representing artists like Michael Jackson and Kesha, filed suit on behalf of Daniel Jung for $5 million for damages for alleged fraud, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and negligent misrepresentation. Geragos wants the suit to have class action status. As NPR shares, the suit estimates more than 1,000 people purchased tickets and/or attended the festival. He is seeking a minimum of $100 million in damages for the guests.
Fyre Festival was billed as a luxe experience with tickets running anywhere from $1,000 to a whopping $125,000 for group packages. The festival's fantasy element was heavily promoted by supermodels like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Kendall Jenner on social media. Since then, these influencers have faced major backlash as to their responsibility to their fans.
Using Insta-famous people to promote Fyre Festival is organic with the event's narrative of living like the rich and famous. Journalist and author Kathy Iandoli points out how this tapped into regular people's desire to be among selfie royalty. "Using models and actors like Kendall, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski seemed like a half-baked attempt to lure common people into some festival full of luxury under the guise that they could pay to be a part of a higher society," she tells Oxygen. "It definitely spoke to this sad obsession with fame. Look where it got them." Sachin Bhola, a fashion editor and writer who has covered festivals including Coachella, Ultra and Montreal Jazz Festival, says that leveraging such stars helped create buzz but was it really credible? "It helped create publicity, but it raised a lot of questions. Why are these influencers endorsing a music festival that didn't exist prior to this year?" Bhola and Iandoli both point out that Jenner's recent Pepsi faux pas added suspicion to her endorsements. "After Kendall's egregious Pepsi ad, you have to question how credible these influencers are," Bhola said to Oxygen. "It was all very suspect."
Interestingly, NPR shares excerpts from the plaintiff that claims that Ja Rule and McFarland told celebrities in advance not to come: "Mr. McFarland and Mr. Atkins began personally reaching out to performers and celebrities in advance of the festival and warned them not to attend — acknowledging the fact that the festival was outrageously underequipped and potentially dangerous for anyone in attendance."
ABC News reports that the site of Fyre Festival is on "lockdown" by the Bahamas government. McFarland seems undeterred. "We were a little naïve in thinking for the first time we could do this ourselves. Next year, we will definitely start earlier," he told Rolling Stone. "The reality is, we weren't experienced enough to keep up." The official Fyre Festival website sounds optimistic and claims that the event will be back next year at a U.S. location.
Despite the social media fall-out, the adage, "all publicity is good publicity" may ring true. Iandoli predicts that the controversy could encourage more attendance next year for Fyre Fest. "We watch shows where people are 'adventure eating' dangerous blowfish and climbing on the sides of mountains blindfolded. So, what's a disaster weekend in the Bahamas with Ja Rule and models?" In fact, the aforementioned promo video featuring the supermodels has skyrocketed to over 2 million views. Bhola is not so sure he's willing to take that risk. "Would I come out alive?"
[Photo: Getty Images]