Before the disastrous Fyre Festival scam (opens in new tab), Maryann Rolle was a Bahamian woman who owned a local restaurant and sought to provide good food for locals and tourists. But as The Hunger Games-like debacle of the festival played out (opens in new tab), Rolle took the time, cost, and effort to continue to feed those who had been stranded during the event-that-wasn't, according to Netflix's new documentary—even though Rolle wasn't sure she'd get reimbursed. Rolle spent $50,000 of her savings to do so, reportedly ruining her credit in the process.
Like the rest of the world, you probably watched it play out over social media, but here's a recap: The event lost investors money, ruined the reputation of Fyre Media, left thousands of local workers unpaid with no food, and put partygoers stranded in the middle of nowhere. It's now been made into two documentaries (opens in new tab), and the organizer, Billy McFarland, has been sentenced to six years in prison (opens in new tab). But there was a hero among the catastrophe: Rolle.
Rolle and her husband Elvis own and operate family restaurant Exuma Point Bar and Grille (opens in new tab). Located at the northern part of the island, it has a reputation for serving fresh, delicious food like ribs and fish.
According to travel writer Tim Controneo (opens in new tab), Rolle is also a singer and Elvis a dancer as live entertainment. The two also own villas in the surrounding area by the bar, called Exuma Point Resort.
Rolle accepted a contract on good faith for catering and lodging, according to Tribune 242 (opens in new tab), which is a daily newspaper in The Bahamas. “I wasn’t working for this one, I was working on our future goals with Fyre,” she said. "That was my purpose."
Interviewed in The Guardian after the event was over (opens in new tab), Rolle said she was devastated when the reality of the festival became clear. Apparently near tears, she explained, "Just take it away and let me start a new beginning...It really pains me when I have to talk about it."
Rolle had spent $50,000 to draft in extra staff and, despite the fact that the festival was clearly not happening, continued to uphold her catering commitment. She says the total she spent is in fact much higher, in the six figures.
Rolle made over 1,000 meals a day just for the workers.
On her GoFundMe (opens in new tab), Rolle explains, "Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all prepared and delivered by Exuma Point to Coco Plum Beach, and Roker’s Point where the main events were scheduled to take place." She also says that patrons also came to the restaurant to get meals, so the total meal count is probably higher. Organizers were also apparently checked into rooms at the Exuma Point villas.
She also helped Fyre festival-goers.
She said she was also called upon to house guests as well—hundreds of them. “They said the grounds aren’t ready, we would like to bring the guests to your place for a few hours until the site is ready," she told local media (opens in new tab). "But we didn’t prepare the grounds to receive 500 or 600 persons."
Still, Rolle managed to take care of them despite the short notice and being short-staffed. "During the day they were happy here as long as I kept cooking, breakfast turned into lunch and the girls just cooked and cooked and cooked. We had a lot of food, it’s just that we weren’t prepared.”
She's been badly impacted by the festival.
Rolle was never paid for her services to the organizers. On Twitter, the executive producer on Netflix's Fyre (opens in new tab), Gabrielle Bluestone, drew attention to Rolle, both her heroic efforts to feed workers and the financial consequences.
For those of you asking how to help Maryann Rolle, the Bahamian woman who spent $50,000 of her savings to feed the local laborers who worked on the Fyre Festival, she has an official gofundme page here: https://t.co/eLawHgE92EJanuary 18, 2019
She did, however, start a GoFundMe, which as of this writing (opens in new tab) has so far raised over $184,000. Her story has resonated with hundreds of other people, who have donated to support. You can check out her page here (opens in new tab).
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Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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