Early Tuesday evening, a writer named Natalie Beach published an essay in New York Magazine’s The Cut titled “I Was Caroline Calloway.” The essay chronicles Beach’s former friendship with writer-Instagrammer Caroline Calloway and the misfortunes of being her ghostwriter.
Since it’s publication, the essay has left readers stunned.
Natalie Beach’s essay
In the essay, Beach recalls how she met Calloway while they were both students at New York University. As Calloway began to build her presence on social media, Beach would help her write the famous fantasy-like captions that Calloway would become known for.
“Bad guys are easy to spot in situations like what happened in the elevator that night,” one of Calloway’s Instagram’s are captioned from four years ago. “Hello, New Readers! And welcome to my blog!”
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Bad guys are easy to spot in situations like what happened in the elevator that night. They do not, for example, respond to rejection by saying, “Ladies first,” and pointing to the exit. And although I had never once thought that Oscar was anything less than a Downton-Abbey-grade gentleman, there’s something to be said for Freud’s theory that all women subconsciously fear rape. Just as there’s something to be said for Patricia Lockwood’s theory that rape jokes are empowering, provocative, the feminist nouveau. In other words, Hello, New Readers! And welcome to my blog! All I can say for certain though is the way Oscar responded was a turning point for me. As he seamlessly picked up the conversation about library books where it’d left off and suggested we watch a VICE documentary on North Korea, I realized I now had answers to questions I wasn’t even aware I’d been asking myself. Does this older, blonder, superlatively handsome polo-player enjoy my personality, for example? Or, if he knows that hooking up isn’t an option, will my only friend at Cambridge vanish from my life as cinematically as he strolled into it? It thrilled me that Oscar planned to stick around. However when he knocked on my door five minutes holding his laptop, charger and a full bottle of Absinth I worried I might have judged his intentions too soon. I pointed to the bottle, which had a skull and crossbones next to the words “99% ALCOHOL.” Also like actual poison, it was green. “I’m not drinking that,” I said flatly. “Who said I would share?” Oscar smirked cockily and I relaxed again. In fact, I not only suggested we watch the documentary in my bed, but flat out asked him to put his arm around me—albeit for the unsexiest reason possible. I missed Josh. What I said to Oscar, though, was this: “If you try and kiss me again, I will literally start sobbing.” That night I fell asleep learning fun facts about North Korea (Kim Jong Un fangirls HARD for 90s basketball stars, etc.) with my head on Oscar’s shoulder and when I woke up in the morning, like a rapist, he was gone. See, New Readers? More rape jokes! Isn’t this blog edgy and unpredictable and fun? To Be Continued @din_fru #adventuregrams
Calloway eventually left NYU to attended Cambridge University, where she began to post about her seemingly charming life as an American on the other side of the pond. She would attend social parties, travel the world, and date cute boys.
“The phrase ‘long story short’—much like super powers and kazoos—is difficult to use responsibly,” one of Calloway’s Instagram’s are captioned from five years ago. “But apparently taking photos at formal dinners is ‘against Cambridge rules’ and the waiter had already asked me to stop ‘four times.’”
However, in the article, Beach alleges that Caroline’s fantasy life couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, Beach states, she was the one who helped build and write the whole fantasy of Caroline’s life, and when she went to visit Calloway at Cambridge, she discovered the Instagrammer didn’t have many friends and rarely showed up to her classes.
“She rarely went to class, didn’t hang out with friends, and hadn’t started the dissertation she needed to graduate,” Beach wrote in the article. “She asked me to read the angry-professor emails she couldn’t bear to and just give her the gist.”
Yet, that didn’t stop Beach from helping her. And when Calloway was finally offered a book deal based on her life on Instagram, Beach helped her write the 103-paged book proposal, despite the fact that she knew all the credit would go to Calloway.
“The talent you show in this proposal, both in the writing and the photos from the entire story is this rare, remarkable thing,” literary agent Byrd Leavell apparently emailed Calloway, after reading the book proposal she and Beach wrote.
Calloway shared with her followers who Leavell was and that she had “finished a book,” with, of course, no mention of Beach.
“I know I’ve been off the Insta for a while, but I have an excuse as unglamorous as it is valid: I finished a book,” one of Calloway’s Instagram’s is captioned from four years ago. “Byrd is the Ari Gold of New York literary agents. He wears a blue tooth headset, edits ruthlessly well, and when he likes something he slaps his desk in excitement, grinning, ‘This is fucking money.’”
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Hi, beautiful friends. I know I’ve been off the Insta for a while, but I have an excuse as unglamorous as it is valid: I finished a book. Ok, I didn’t finish it. And it’s not a book. But it is the first step in a series of random steps towards doing precisely that. You see, publishing houses don’t buy manuscripts; they buy “proposals,” pitches that should be snappy, absorbing, and persuasive—think Hemingway and Don Draper collaborating on some copy. What you don’t want to do is write 103 pages of graphic narrative LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. I’ll give you one guess what kind of proposal mine is. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” my agent Byrd said over the phone, and I could almost hear him shake his head. Byrd is the Ari Gold of New York literary agents. He wears a blue tooth headset, edits ruthlessly well, and when he likes something he slaps his desk in excitement, grinning, “This is fucking money.” I decided I wanted him to be my agent when I was 18, reading Tucker Max. Three years later I worked up the courage to call his secretary and ask her for a ten minute meeting with Byrd. She said, “We’ll call you!” They did not. The next week I called back and eventually she said fine. But when I walked into Byrd’s office a month later he had no idea why I was there. As he sat at his desk Googling me, I stood awkwardly in the corner. “Come back when you have a proposal,” he said finally. “I want pages.” Eighteen months later—on this past Thursday—I finished the 103-page 20,000-word tsunami that is my proposal. “If this were even a fraction less good, I wouldn’t submit.” Byrd continued. “The file is too big and, frankly, editors don’t want to read something so long… But this… This is fucking amazing. Nice work.” But my proposal came at a price. Namely: my grades, friendships, and whatever it costs to cure carpal tunnel syndrome, which I now have. But do you know what’s so special about us, Instagram? You and I? Much like me and my carpal tunnel syndrome, we’ll always have each other. Writing for Byrd and NYC editors has been fun, but writing for you guys is what this has always been about. I AM SO EXCITED TO WRITE THIS BOOK FOR YOU. Are you excited to read it?
And though Beach alleges Calloway agreed to give her a percentage of the book deal, Beach ended up not seeing a dime, as Calloway backed out completely from the deal.
“Caroline claimed her failure to write the manuscript was an intentional stand against the patriarchy and a publishing industry that insisted her life story be defined by the men she dated,” Beach’s essay reads. “She could have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, gone on the tour she always wanted, and recorded the audiobook in that beguiling voice of hers. But she had to be the one to tell her own life story, even if she couldn’t.”
Caroline Calloway anticipated the essay
Calloway, who was expecting Beach’s essay in The Cut to be published, warned her followers days in advance that a former friend would be writing an exposé about her.
“This afternoon I found out that one of the two people I have hurt the most in this world will be publishing an essay about our friendship for The Cut,” Calloway wrote. “Everything in Natalie’s article will be brilliant and beautifully expressed and true. I know this not because I have read her essay but because Natalie is the best writer I know.”
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Do you guys have any friendships that have ended that still bring you pain? This afternoon I found out that one of the two people I have hurt the most in this world will be publishing an essay about our friendship for The Cut. I don’t know when this essay will go live. But it will be different than the articles that called me a scammer for clickbait. Everything in Natalie’s article will be brilliant and beautifully expressed and true. I know this not because I have read her essay but because Natalie is the best writer I know. I still love her. Our friendship ended 2 years ago, but I still walk around New York sometimes, listening to music, running errands, thinking about her. Amsterdam. I’ll let her tell you about that trip because it put her in danger—not me—so maybe it is hers to tell. Maybe she has custody of that story. Sometimes I all but gag with guilt. Sometimes I write emails to her in my head. Sometimes I imagine a future where we’re friends again! Natalie suffered all the consequences of being loved by an addict and none of the benefits of being loved by the woman that recovery made me into. In early August Natalie liked one of my Instagram photos by accident. I knew it was by accident because I know Natalie. But still! I thought: Maybe she is checking in on me because she still wants to be friends! Maybe she still loves me, too. I realize now that she must have been working on the article about us that will be published soon by New York Magazine. My team asked two things of me: To ignore this essay in my posts so I don’t drive traffic to it and to give them Natalie’s email so they could reach out. This is the first time I’ve disobeyed them. You should read Natalie’s article when it comes out. I’ll post a link when it does. Go leave a comment on nymag.com even if it’s insulting me. Every digital impression will be another reason for The Cut to hire Natalie again and to pay her even more next time. And The Cut doesn’t have access to the audience most interested in hating and loving Caroline Calloway. I do. So start anticipating this article. Get excited. Read it. I hope I can support Natalie now in ways I never did during my addiction.
“For five years I saved these papers because Natalie was my best friend and for two years I saved them because she wasn’t,” Calloway shared on Instagram. “These are from the writing class where we met—the first time she edited me. I became a writer because of Natalie.”
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For five years I saved these papers because Natalie was my best friend and for two years I saved them because she wasn’t. These are from the writing class where we met—the first time she edited me. I became a writer because of Natalie. I’ve said before that I taught myself how to write, but that’s not wholly true. Natalie taught me how to write and I kept learning because she gave me the confidence to continue and the emotional support to prevent me from quitting. Watching her care so deeply about sentences granted me permission to do the same. Watching her take apart a story and “strip it for parts” (a Natalie phrase) and rebuild it made my head spin with love. She was the first artist I admired who took my Instagram captions seriously as exciting prose. She taught me the rule of threes. She’s in every sentence I write not just because she is the reason I kept going, but her writing style is in my voice’s DNA. Excellent brain; even better soul. I have no suggestions for how she could have been a better friend. All she did was try to keep me from harm’s way and all I did was harm her. I love a lot of things about who I am, but I hate myself for how my addiction affected Natalie. How do you love someone who no longer wants you in their life? For me it meant not contacting Natalie for two years. I knew I’d finally be capable of being a good friend to her if only I could show her. But I didn’t want to prioritize my own redemption over Natalie’s boundaries. So I wrote emails in my head and made lists in my Notes App of things she would like. I kept her contact in my phone and a candle burning in the lantern of my heart. Maybe Natalie would have cut that line because it’s too flowery. She once sassily wrote “OK JOAN [Didion]” next to the pretentious line: “Loneliness has an inertia that is hard to stop.” Running my hands over the ball point indentations of that comment was a way of loving her that did not disrupt her new life in LA. Just like I have no edits for her as a friend, I don’t know how to improve her writing. I saved her essays, too, but they are unmarked. I only have one in New York. I took the other two to England along with my favorite books.
“Natalie told me on Wednesday the article was going to published. Today is Saturday,” Calloway wrote a few days ago. “People are already buzzing about this essay. New Magazine loves a scam. Haters and Trolls, don’t you want to hear about the time six years just before this photo was taken when I visited Natalie’s apartment in Gowan’s and said, ‘How can you live like this?’ because I was a spoiled brat.”
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What THE FUCK is taking so long? Natalie told me on Wednesday the article was going to published. Today is Saturday. I keep running through the options of why @thecut still hasn’t dropped it. One possibility is that Natalie wasn’t done writing it when she told me the piece was going forward. But I don’t think that’s likely. Knowing Natalie, I don’t think she would have reached out before she even finished it—she would have saved emailing me for last so she could be measured and exhaustive in how she prepared me for it. Another possibility is that they are still editing it. Taking stuff out. Putting more stuff in. But I don’t think that’s likely only because I know for a fact no one can turn around a piece with edits with more efficiency and grace than Natalie. Even if her editor at @nymag gutted her piece and did an overhaul Natalie could flip it and have it ready to publish in one night. It’s been three. A crazy possibility is that they’re moving it from The Cut to the print principality of NY Mag proper. Maybe I don’t understand what The Cut is, but it is my belief that is a digital vertical. So: Online only. Moving it to the magazine would mean it wouldn’t be published until September 16th since the magazine is published every two weeks and yes I googled that that morning because the not-knowing is driving me crazy. Of all the possibilities this seems the wildest, but it would mean a bump in pay and prestige for Natalie and I know better than anyone how much that would mean to her so this is the option I’m rooting for. Wouldn’t it be great for Natalie if they moved it to the magazine? People are already buzzing about this essay. New Magazine loves a scam. Haters and Trolls, don’t you want to hear about the time six years just before this photo was taken when I visited Natalie’s apartment in Gowan’s and said, “How can you live like this?” because I was a spoiled brat. I never visited her again and no amount of public support today will ever change that. I think the most likely answer is that it’ll drop at any moment. I’ve done everything in my limited power to set the volleyball of this essay at the net so Natalie can spike it down. Let’s just fucking go.
Reactions to the essay
When it came time for the article’s publication, Calloway told her followers that the fact-checkers at The Cut finally contacted her. Once the article was live, she officially linked it to her Instagram.
“It’s live,” Calloway wrote on Instagram. “I just have a lot going on right now and I’m not processing sharply.”
However, there was one part of the essay Calloway had problems with. In the essay, Beach recalls how she tried to write part of Calloway’s manuscript by herself, after it became apparent that Calloway was not going to meet the deadline with her publisher.
“Back in L.A., I bought us time with the publishers by writing a quarter of the manuscript by myself, but Caroline hated it so much that she threatened suicide if I wrote anymore.”
Calloway, who states she has not fully read the article yet, was made aware of this line by her management team. She posted a screenshot of her texting someone at The Cut to tell them how they failed to clarify that line, even after she told them to prior to the essay’s publication.
“I wasn’t suicidal because Natalie was a bad writer,” the text message reads. “Life no longer seemed worth living because I had a sold a memoir I couldn’t and didn’t want to write and I was living inside an addiction I didn’t know how to solve.”
“TW: Suicide. I’ve never talked about the chapters of my life when I struggled with suicide on the internet before today and I didn’t want you to find out like this. But now you know,” she wrote in her caption. “I don’t resent Natalie for revealing that I was suicidal in her essay. It’s not black or white. Both of these things are true: I wish people hadn’t found out like this AND Natalie’s stories deserve to be told.”
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TW: Suicide. I’ve never talked about the chapters of my life when I struggled with suicide on the internet before today and I didn’t want you to find out like this. But now you know. I’ve only read two lines of Natalie’s article so far—my plan is to read it for the first time tomorrow with my therapist. But my manager texted me this line of hers: “It’s been surreal watching this unfold from my desk job in Los Angeles, but I’m not surprised she’s taken an essay of mine that didn’t exist yet and turned it into a narrative for herself.” I wrote about Natalie’s upcoming article because I guessed that by using my access to the largest audience of people interested in Caroline Calloway—an audience only I have access to—I could ramp up anticipation. I hope impressions are through the fucking roof. Every boost helps. But ultimately I talked about what Natalie’s article meant to ME on this Instagram account because this is a space where I tell stories about ME. That’s the whole schtick here. I write about my life—and if I can make my art and express myself AND help my friends, I do. I don’t resent Natalie for revealing that I was suicidal in her essay. It’s not black or white. Both of these things are true: I wish people hadn’t found out like this AND Natalie’s stories deserve to be told. It must have been so hard for Natalie to have a friend who cared more about getting high than supporting her and didn’t really care about staying alive at all! I only found out about this line because @christinareaddd pointed it out to me. She’s sitting with me in my apartment right now with @p_izza220 . “So?” I said after she had finished reading it. “Yeah, um, the first thing that jumped out at me is that heard you on the phone with the fact-checking lady and this was the only thing you wanted clarified, but they didn’t fix it.” I knew she meant the suicide thing. She had been sitting next to me on the floor as I talked on the phone. Most of it had been: “If Natalie remembers it, it must be true." And then: “Hold on. The thing about suicide…” I looked away from Christina as I said it. The lady from The Cut was nice and said she understands and she’d pass my message along.
And though The Cut and Beach have yet to respond to Calloway, many on social media have.
“What’s fascinating to me about Caroline Calloway isn’t the novelty of her scam- it isn’t novel or unique at all! She is very boring!- it’s that despite being exposed MULTIPLE times as a mediocre grifter, she’s still earnestly convinced *herself* that she’s special and worthy,” wrote @RivkaGheist
What's fascinating to me about Caroline Calloway isn't the novelty of her scam- it isn't novel or unique at all! She is very boring!- it's that despite being exposed MULTIPLE times as a mediocre grifter, she's still earnestly convinced *herself* that she's special and worthy.
— Gheistdamme (@RivkaGheist) September 11, 2019
“OK I AM READING THIS NOW and hooooooooooooly shit there is so much to unpack here on self-esteem issues, sunk cost fallacy, toxic friendships (compounded by an obvious wealth gap), and just. So much. I’m going to finish and then tweet a bit about it,’ wrote @_ElizabethMay
OK I AM READING THIS NOW and hooooooooooooly shit there is so much to unpack here on self-esteem issues, sunk cost fallacy, toxic friendships (compounded by an obvious wealth gap), and just. So much. I'm going to finish and then tweet a bit about it. https://t.co/IlncIHFn0A
— Elizabeth May (@_ElizabethMay) September 11, 2019
“Some of you were never the Natalie in a #carolinecalloway friendship and it shows,” wrote @JoanYay.
Some of you were never the Natalie in a #carolinecalloway friendship and it shows
— obviously fancy (@joanYAY) September 11, 2019
“A lot has been written about how you never want a Caroline Calloway as a friend — someone reckless and manipulative — but I’d also read a thinkpiece on how you don’t want a Natalie either, basically an All About Eve-style stalker who uses control and condescension to manipulate,” said editor Heidi Moore.
A lot has been written about how you never want a Caroline Calloway as a friend — someone reckless and manipulative — but I'd also read a thinkpiece on how you don't want a Natalie either, basically an All About Eve-style stalker who uses control and condescension to manipulate
— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) September 11, 2019
Caroline Calloway’s other controversies
This certainly isn’t Calloway’s first time in the spotlight.
The Instagram influencer has found herself in controversy these last few years, involving everything from “scam” creative workshops, to selling paintings that never were shipped. She is known for calling out reporters on social media, and has been the subject of multiple think-pieces regarding fame and narcissism in the digital age.
And as for Calloway’s side of the story, she is apparently going to be interviewed by Taylor Lorenz, a reporter at the New York Times.
“Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m doing fine. I’m in a much better place than I was three years ago,” Caroline wrote on Instagram. “And I’m ready to make jokes about the Yale plates: I’ll only tell @taylorlorenz where they are in our interview.”
Calloway continued to respond to Beach’s essay on Wednesday. She made more than a dozen Instagram posts that were collages of the photos/captions that the pair worked on together. She captioned the posts, “By Natalie Beach and Caroline Calloway.”
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Incredibly, what’s left of my Instagram account begins with one post from the Met (my actual first post ever) and then! The trip to London that Natalie talked about in her essay. It’s a relief to give these captions they deserve. All of these are: By Natalie Beach and Caroline Calloway
The only question now is who’s going to play Calloway/Beach when this story finally gets made into a movie?