GoFundMe Successfully Raises Over $130K For the Restaurant Owner in the Fyre Documentary
The recent Fyre Festival documentaries — Hulu's Fyre Fraud and Netflix's Fyre — present us with plenty of reasons to roll our eyes at and mock the wealthy victims of the disastrous music festival that wasn't. From social media influencers who found themselves racing, Hunger Games-style, for a hurricane relief tent instead of the villas they were promised, to the company's now-imprisoned founder and fraudster, Billy McFarland, not much about the catastrophe inspires sympathy for those who were duped by the elaborate scam. Except for, that is, Maryann Rolle, a restaurant owner on Exuma island.
Fyre Fest was originally billed as a "cultural moment created from a blend of music, art, and food." McFarland and co-founder Ja Rule convinced festival-goers that they'd get to enjoy a luxury experience like no other on an island formerly owned by Pablo Escobar in the Bahamas, where they'd get to see musicians like Blink-182, Major Lazer, Migos, and more. Obviously none of that came to be, and organizers of the festival have since been hit with multiple lawsuits. (McFarland was also sentenced to prison for six years.)
It's important to remember, though, that Fyre's victims weren't just the teenagers and 20-somethings who purchased $25,000 luxury packages that ended up amounting to soggy air mattresses sliding around in a mud pit and those infamous cheese sandwiches. Most of the Bahamian workforce who helped McFarland build out the festival site for weeks around the clock remain unpaid for their labor.
In Netflix's documentary, Maryann Rolle, who owns Exuma Point Bar and Grill with her husband Elvis, is able to testify about her experience with the fiasco. She claims that in the weeks leading up to Fyre, she was coerced into catering for more than 200 workers who were desperately trying to construct housing and stages for Fyre at all hours of the night, meaning she and her staff of 10 were also stuck working 24/7 to provide enough food for everyone. According to Tribune 242, a Bahamian newspaper, Fyre organizers hired the Rolles for "catering support and lodging" during the event. When the article was published in May 2017, the Rolles claimed they were still owed $136,000.
Rolle's testimony at the end of Netflix's Fyre is nothing short of heartbreaking, as she tearfully recounts how she was forced to wipe out her own savings — $50,000, to be exact — to pay her staff overtime. "Personally, I don't even like to talk about the Fyre Festival," she tells the camera, choked up with emotion. "Just take it away and just let me start a new beginning."
Fortunately it seems Rolle and her husband now have a chance to start fresh. In a GoFundMe that was launched at the same time as the documentary, Rolle wrote about her experience in hopes of raising $123,000 because her "life was changed forever" and her "credit was ruined by Fyre Fest."
"I was left in a big hole!" she said. "My only resource today is to appeal for help . . . There is an old saying that goes 'bad publicity is better than no publicity' and I pray that whoever reads this plea is able to assist."
At the time of this article's publication, Rolle's GoFundMe page — the authenticity of which was confirmed by Netflix and GoFundMe to BuzzFeed — had raised almost $137,000, far surpassing her $123,000 goal thanks to all the people who watched the documentary and were moved by her act of selflessness. Fyre co-founder Ja Rule also expressed his regret over the situation, and apologized to Rolle on Instagram.
You can donate to Rolle's GoFundMe here, and see Ja Rule's Instagram apology, as well as more reactions to Rolle's appearance in Fyre, ahead.