Caroline Calloway: Instagram Influencer or University Con Artist?

Caroline Calloway had a lot going for her; an education from New York University and Cambridge University, a great studio in the West Village, and a friend who would do anything for her.

Natalie Beach thought she stumbled upon the friend of a lifetime when she met Caroline. Little did she know that not all people are as flawless and wonderful as they appear. Was Caroline scamming people? Or was it something else entirely? Keep reading to see what happened to their friendship.

It All Started In A Creative Writing Class

It All Started In A Creative Writing Class
STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)
STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

Looking back, Natalie Beach isn’t sure how she didn’t know; it was all right in front of her. She was taking a creative non-fiction writing class at NYU when she met the girl who embodied everything she wanted to be.

Then, instead of learning how to tell her own story, which was the point of taking the class, Natalie began telling the girl’s story. Carolina Calloway would end up dominating Natalie’s life. She just didn’t know it yet.

An Influencer With A Deal

An Influencer With A Deal
Noam Galai/Getty Images
Noam Galai/Getty Images

It’s 2019, and Caroline is a 27-year-old Instagram influencer with a following just shy of 800,000 people. Her bio describes her as a “writer, art historian, and teacher,” making a name for herself posting photos during her study abroad at Cambridge University. Of course, the photos were accompanied by lengthy, inspirational captions.

Little did she know, she was about to be offered a six-figure book deal. It must have been too much for the influencer because she vanished.

Was She Scamming Everyone?

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

The summer of 2018 is now known as the “Summer of Scam,” as multiple people were caught cheating the system. One such person was Billy McFarland for the infamous Fyre Festival.

Caroline’s infamy came in the winter of 2019 when she decided to run a creativity workshop and charge people $165 to attend. The workshops were vastly underprepared, and Caroline went as far as to cancel planned dates. Was this a scam?

Never One To Miss Out On Self-Promotion

Never One To Miss Out On Self-Promotion
David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Journalist Kayleigh Donaldson followed the failed creativity workshops, writing an article about Caroline and social media influencer culture. The article was titled “The Empty Mason Jar of the Influencer Economy,” after Caroline had 1,200 mason jars delivered to her apartment as gifts for those who attend her workshop.

Caroline’s response to the article was putting on a customized t-shirt that read “Stop Hate Following Me, Kayleigh.” Natalie advised her to let it go, but Caroline continuously posted about the article.

It’s All About Her

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Nat Beach / Twitter
Nat Beach / Twitter

According to Natalie, Caroline was the most confident girl she had ever met. They were both 20-year-old college students at New York University when they met in their non-fiction creative class. Shocker, Caroline arrived late to class, wearing a designer dress and talking about her favorite topic — herself.

Though they were the same age, the two girls could not have been more different. To say they were worlds apart would be an understatement.

Who Keeps A Box Of Momentos From A School You Didn’t Go To?

Who Keeps A Box Of Momentos From A School You Didn't Go To?
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Caroline first noticed Natalie because of a personal essay she wrote about her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut — home of Yale University. This is the same university that had rejected Caroline’s application, something she was still hurt over.

Natalie’s “ties” with Yale was enough to get invited over to Caroline’s apartment. Once they were there, Caroline showed Natalie her “Yale box.” It was full of memorabilia and signaled the start of their beautiful friendship.

Let The Storytelling Begin

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

The two became inseparable, partying their way through New York. Natalie couldn’t afford the lifestyle but didn’t really care. She was part of Caroline’s inner circle. Caroline even opened up to her, revealing to Natalie that she had a crush on their professor.

What was just a simple comment turned into Natalie ad-libbing a two-hour long “movie” about Caroline’s life, and all because Caroline asked her to. “You’re a genius,” Caroline praised. Natalia believed her.

Who Knew A Present Would Be The First Crack

Who Knew A Present Would Be The First Crack
Caroline Calloway/Instagram
Caroline Calloway/Instagram

For Caroline’s 21st birthday, Natalie gave her three plates with the Yale crest painted on them and an added swearword on the backs. She burst into tears after receiving the gift, making Natalie wonder if anyone had ever given her a silly personal gift before.

Later that winter, Caroline casually told Natalie that the dishes had been stolen from her place. Natalie found that hard to believe, even when Caroline said that her ring was stolen, too. Caroline was wearing the ring a few weeks later.

Have You Heard Of This New Thing Called Instagram?

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

A year after the two met, they planned a trip to Sicily. This trip should have been the trip of a lifetime and full of memories, instead, Caroline only seemed interested in posting pictures to a new social media platform.

Caroline had posted a colorful rainbow of macaroon cookies to a new platform called Instagram, and it landed on the app’s favorites page. The picture resulted in Caroline getting 50,000 followers and a new obsession.

That Moment You’re Put To Work During Vacation

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Instagram/carolinecalloway
Instagram/carolinecalloway

During the trip, the division of labor became clear — Caroline would candidly pose for pictures and Natalie would take the photos. She wanted it so “teens in Nebraska” felt like they were in Italy, too. The problem was, someone was there with her, Natalie.

While Caroline was packing multiple outfits so she could pose for days’ worth of photos in an afternoon, Natalie was worried about keeping her shadow out of the frame.

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

Natalie and Caroline would spend their nights at the hotel thinking up creative captions for the day’s pictures and watching the comments roll in. Well, Caroline watched the comments, getting lost in her phone and forgetting about her friend.

A year later Natalie found her diary from the vacation. “There has to be a price for getting everything you want,” Natalie scribbled. “For never being embarrassed.” It seems as though she was a bit bitter towards Caroline.

A Pseudo Writing Job

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

After missing three non-refundable flights, Natalie found herself once again broke in New York. Of course, Caroline stepped in and made it all go away, paying for their flight home. Having no idea about where she was going to get $800, Natalie offered to spend the summer editing Caroline’s social media posts as repayment.

Watching the “like” count grow had Natalie believing that coming up with these posts would help further her writing career.

Homeless With One Place To Go

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

The arrangement lasted three months, up until Natalie went back to NYU and Caroline jetted off to England to study at Cambridge for the semester. While Caroline was away, her apartment stood vacant, all while Natalie lost hers.

Natalie had an idea. She asked Caroline to sublet her the apartment in exchange for writing more captions. Instead, Caroline said she’d pay $200 a week if Natalie would be the super of the place. She was low on cash and wanted to rent it out on Airbnb.

No Longer Homeless But Needing To Move Out

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

One day after picking up Caroline’s trash, Natalie decided she had enough. She didn’t want to be a maid. She called Caroline on Skype and told her just that, all while Caroline protested saying that none of her other friends “needed the money badly enough to take the job.”

Natalie didn’t care, she cut ties and moved back in with her parents. It wasn’t until the spring of 2015 that people began to ask her about Caroline. “Is your Instagram friend actually famous now?”

Taking Advantage Of A Good Friend

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

The British Daily Mail wrote a feature on Caroline, and she was set to go on a press tour. She even had an agent and a book deal. Natalie felt as though she was being left behind, and so she reached out. Only to be greeted with silence.

Months later, Caroline reached out. She was back in New York and naturally, needed Natalie’s help — she had a book proposal that was due in a few days.

And We Were Like, That’s A Lot Of Money

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

During an all-nighter, Natalie agreed to help with the book for a 35-percent cut. She would juggle it between her landscaping job, no big deal! They finally finished the proposal after a hard two-month stint.

It was originally entitled, School Girls, but Caroline found it to be too kitschy, so they went with her idea of And We Were Like. The title is meant to reflect the way young girls tell stories. The book got a $375,000 advance from the publisher.

Let’s Circle Back Around To The Colorful Cookie Picture

Let's Circle Back Around To The Colorful Cookie Picture
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Back in Cambridge, Caroline voiced doubts about her ability to finish the book. Natalie sprang into action, again, and flew to England. She arrived, finding Caroline in a depressing state.

She wasn’t going to class or socializing with her peers, and she hadn’t started on the dissertation she needed in order to graduate. It was then that Caroline finally opened up about her true origin story. Remember the macaroons? You won’t believe what they symbolize.

The Whole Truth Is Revealed

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Noam Galai/Getty Images for Shorty Awards
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Shorty Awards

It was all a sham. Caroline had met with multiple literary professionals who told her no one would buy a memoir written by someone that no one had heard of. And so, her scheme to become known began, starting with outright paying for tens of thousands of followers.

The truth made Natalie panic. All of their writing was based around a lie. Caroline was much calmer because, in her mind, she was a self-made woman.

Pushing through The Lies

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Instagram/@carolinecalloway
Instagram/@carolinecalloway

Even though she didn’t like the lies, Natalie could not remove herself from Caroline’s world. The two continued to write, but mostly failing. Natalie ended up writing about a quarter of the manuscript, but Caroline hated it.

Caroline even went as far as saying she was going to take her own life if they continued writing. Finally, Natalie had enough, and she watched from afar as Caroline counted down the days to her final deadline on social media.

Scammer or Genius?

Scammer or Genius?
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Shorty Awards
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Shorty Awards

Caroline seemed to be doing something right because she was getting more followers and was able to start those disastrous aforementioned workshops. But was it all a scam?

Natalie doesn’t believe so, saying that the only real tragedy of Caroline was that she was caught between who she was and who she wanted to be. After everything is said and done, that one trait is probably the only relatable thing about her.