A Bahamian restaurant owner who sunk $50,000 of her savings into catering the disastrous 2017 Fyre Festival only to never receive compensation will finally be getting a paycheck thanks to thousands of strangers.
A GoFundMe campaign started by MaryAnn Rolle, 55, amassed more than $169,000 in just over a week after the debut of a pair of Hulu and Netflix documentaries on the doomed festival and its dubious co-founders, Billy McFarland and Ja Rule. Rolle surpassed her original goal of raising $123,000 to recoup her losses from the event. Many of the donations were less than $20.
She told The New York Times that McFarland owed her $134,000 for making and serving meals to staff preparing for the festival. In her GoFundMe page, Rolle said her credit took a hit.
Rolle emerged as one of the most memorable figures in Netflix’s “Fyre,” which premiered Friday. In an emotional interview with filmmakers, Rolle said she still had difficulty talking about her experience working for the festival.
“I don’t even like to talk about the Fyre Festival,” Rolle said. “Just take it away and just let me start a new beginning. Because they really, really, really hurt me.”
She added: “I just leave it alone because it really pains me when I have to talk about it, so I just wipe it away.”
Two years earlier, at the direction of McFarland and his team, supermodels and social media influencers were hyping the Fyre Festival as one of the most indulgent and opulent experiences ever, hosted on a so-called private island in the Bahamas allegedly once owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Instead, it turned out to be a dumpster fire failure, and guests arrived at a construction lot on a rainy island with a half-built tent city, limited food and water, and no way to get home.
Fooled ticket holders called their lawyers soon after arriving, triggering a $100 million class-action lawsuit that was filed against the organizers before the weekend was over.
In October, McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud linked to the infamous festival.
In her GoFundMe campaign, Rolle said she was pushed “to the limit” preparing and delivering 1,000 meals per day in the weeks before the festival. Like other Bahamian laborers and Fyre staffers who scrambled to put the event together, Rolle was never paid.
“As I make this plea it’s hard to believe and embarrassing to admit that I was not paid…I was left in a big hole,” Rolle wrote. “My life was changed forever, and my credit was ruined by Fyre Fest.”
In an interview with the Times on Tuesday, Rolle said she knew “lots of people” who weren’t paid after the festival, which was scheduled for two weekends starting in late April 2017.
“We couldn’t find the organizers. No one answered their phones,” she told the paper. “Nothing was done for us, not until now.”
Chris Smith, the director of Netflix’s documentary, told BuzzFeed News that there are plans to start a fundraising campaign for the other Bahamian workers and contractors who weren’t paid after working on the failed festival.
“I have been working with a local there [in the Bahamas], but it’s been hard to find the right person to administer the funds,” Smith said.
On Sunday, Rolle posted a thank you note on her Facebook page for the people who supported her GoFundMe campaign.
She told the Times that she appeared in Netflix’s documentary to shed light on what the scam did to her community.
“People have responded well,” she told the paper. “What a wonderful world we live in where people are so generous.”