The Woman Who Became the Hero of Fyre Festival

As The Hunger Games-like debacle of Fyre Festival played out, Maryann 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.

Sea, Coast, Shore, Ocean, Coastal and oceanic landforms, Beach, Sky, Bay, Wave, Tourism,
(Image credit: Netflix)

Before the disastrous Fyre Festival scam, 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, 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, and the organizer, Billy McFarland, has been sentenced to six years in prison. But there was a hero among the catastrophe: Rolle.

Rolle and her husband Elvis own and operate family restaurant Exuma Point Bar and Grille. 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, 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, 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, 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."

Sky, Fun, Leisure, Tourism, Travel, Vacation, Cloud, Landscape, Mountain,

(Image credit: Netflix)

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, 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. "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, Gabrielle Bluestone, drew attention to Rolle, both her heroic efforts to feed workers and the financial consequences.

She did, however, start a GoFundMe, which as of this writing 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.

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Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.