There are some memes that everyone knows. Crying Jordan. The Ermagerd girl. The “this is fine” dog. Every once in a while, someone in a meme will become known merely for being in a meme, and a news outlet will do a story on where that person is now. Usually, that person is just living a normal life that is occasionally interrupted by someone who recognizes them from the internet.
Sometimes people can find a way to capitalize, even if it takes over 15 years.
Like Disaster Girl, who became a meme when she was four and is only now reaping the benefits.
Zoe Roth was only 4 years old when a picture of her making an evil-looking face while her family’s North Carolina home burned behind her – as if she was the one who responsible – caught fire (sorry). Her father Dave, an amateur photographer, had taken the photo that soon spread like wildfire (sorry) across the internet, even before memes really became a thing. It even won JPG Magazine’s “emotion capture” contest. Now 21, Zoe and her dad have capitalized on her virality, converting the meme into an NFT – non-fungible token – and selling it for $450,000.
According to the Raleigh News & Observed, Roth received an email suggesting she convert her meme, and she sought advice from other meme celebrities, like “Overly Attached Girlfriend” and “Bad Luck Brian.” When they ultimately decided to do it and then put the NFT up for auction, they were stunned to watch the bids escalate far higher than they’d anticipated.
“I’m out there probably shouting expletives into the air,” Dave tole the Raleigh N&O. “Every time it would bump up, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Now, not only do Zoe and her family have a nice little bit of cash to spread between them, they have some control back over an image that the internet had claimed and was using at will, with no benefit to Zoe or her dad.
“Being able to sell it just shows us that we do have some sort of control, some sort of agency in the whole process,” Zoe said.