An Insta Influencer Is Being Shredded Over A $230-A-Head Scam Speaking Tour

Twenty-seven-year-old Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway – an American girl who once tried to write her autobiography on the platform WITH PICS!!!, billed by Man Repeller last year as the “first Instagram influencer – has been dunked online for trying and failing to set up a very shonky speaking tour at the cost of $230 per ticket.

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Calloway, 830K Insta followers and counting, became kinda infamous when she was offered $695K on a book deal, writing about boys! And then backed out of the deal because she wasn’t feelin’ it anymore, but not until after she spent literally all her advance.

She also attempted to sell off copies of her book proposal on Etsy for $70. $70 FOLKS. Extremely reasonable price point that, yep, yep.

As The Cut writes, Calloway’s tour across the US and Europe, announced in December last year, promised a four-hour creative workshop on how to be your most creative self and build an Insta brand, all the while understanding  “the emotional and spiritual dimensions of making art“.

NB: Calloway uses Instagram now only for posting Stories. Her last post is from November last year, and before that April 2016, because she archived all her posts from the two intervening years for some garbled reason related to a boy. She half explains it HERE.

As for the tour, she didn’t intend on turning up for the first hour, billed as a meet’n’greet for her students. Here’s what she wrote on the event page:

I will not be here for this. I don’t want to steal focus. I want you guys to get to know each other and, most importantly: get caffeinated together. Wouldn’t it be so great if you left this workshop with a new friend and small caffeine buzz?

As covered by the ticket cost, Calloway promised to supply orchid crowns, notebooks, stickers, totes, crystals, a homemade salad lunch and personalised letters at a series of venues some of which she had not yet booked. And she’d take pics with you at the end!

But she later reneged on that promise, cutting the event down to three hours, dumping the letter concept and requesting attendees BYO lunch. She even suggested that people in Boston and Philadelphia come on down to the NY show instead, so she could ditch those dates. Despite fans’ requests to stick to the OG plan, she ultimately did drop those dates, as well as Portland and Denver, promising refunds.

This was all exposed in a lengthy Twitter thread by writer Kayleigh Donaldson, who accused Calloway of deliberately running a scam.

Donaldson diligently shared Calloway’s Instagram Stories, including our favourite part: she bought 1200 mason jars to make attendees portable DIY wildflower gardens (???), and was surprised to discover that’s actually a lot of jars. So many jars that she announced she intended to raise the price of any future speaking tours.

As documented by Donaldson, Calloway also attempted to get a videographer and photographer to apply to work for free at her Washington DC event, before backflipping and offering some kind of payment.

Here’s a full essay on the situation from Donaldson that is well worth the read if you’re keen for a real deep dive.

Calloway has responded to the criticism on Twitter by totally owning her failure and promising to refund absolutely all tickets, but in a long-winded way that suggests she is agreeing with the internet so everyone will leave her alone.

Here’s Calloway’s full statement:

Yesterday I found out about a twitter thread criticising my tour. I think that criticism is really valid and I apologise to anyone who felt cheated by the price point of $165 [USD]- whether you attended the tour or not. I take full responsibility for letting my total inexperience with event planning and GREED create a situation where the details of the tour were ever-changing, preparation was inadequate, and the event did not match the description by the time it was on. I also agree that $165 was too much to charge for tickets. You’re RIGHT. I was overconfident in believing that I had something to offer people that was worth $165 dollars and this experience has been incredibly humbling.

I’m cancelling the rest of the tour.

Everyone will be refunded today.

Including those who attended the first two events.

To anyone I’ve disappointed or outraged – I have so much empathy for how you must be feeling right now. It’s so valid and I’m so sorry. I really believe in the power of sharing vulnerable stories – both online and in person – but if I ever do a live event again someday, the lessons I’ve learned from this experience will be at hte core of its planning and organisation. For those of you who have been there for me in the past. Thank you for growing up with me. It’s everything.


Speaking to Buzzfeed after the fact, Calloway said:

I take full responsibility with what I did wrong and am humbled by the criticism of me. I know how meaningful the event was because I was there. My fans know how meaningful it was. It would be insane not to learn from this criticism, just like it would be insane for people who don’t follow my account and weren’t at the event decide the rest of my life. And for what it’s worth, I wish all those people who criticised me the best. Being a human is hard. I wish no ill will to them.

If her fans are not convinced by Donaldson’s thread/or just by the sheer ineptitude required to cock up a speaking tour so badly, then perhaps we will see Calloway trying to shill a book/something/ANYTHING again in no time. There’s a stack of them, in both Buzzfeed and Donaldson’s, features who don’t suspect foul play at all, just a person who had no idea what she was doing.

It’s probably that.