Zoë Roth, the girl in the ‘disaster girl’ meme, has just made half a million dollars after selling the original photo as an NFT.
The notorious image was taken by Roth’s father in 2005 when she was just four years old, and depicts her smirking at the camera as a house fire blazes in the background. According to The New York Times, firefighters intentionally set the fire – though it doesn’t say why – and allowed neighbouring children to hold the hose, explaining Roth’s calm demeanour.
After being submitted to a photo contest in 2007, the photo went viral, being edited into various disasters throughout history. Now in her final year of university, 21-year-old Roth has taken back control of her face by selling it as a nonfungible token. The meme sold for 180 Ether (a form of cryptocurrency), which equates to around $500k, to a user called @3FMusic. As she retained the copyright, Roth will receive 10 per cent of all future sales.
“People who are in memes didn’t really have a choice in it,” Roth told NYT. “The internet is big. Whether you’re having a good experience or a bad experience, you kind of just have to make the most of it.”
She added that over the years, she’s seen hundreds of memes using her face. “I love seeing them because I’d never make any of them myself, but I love seeing how creative people are. Once it’s out there, it’s out there and there’s nothing you can do about it. It always finds a way to stay relevant with whatever new kind of awful, terrible, bad thing is happening, so I’ve laughed at a lot of them.”