Caroline Calloway tinha 27 anos, quase um milhão de seguidores e o Instagram invadido por fotografias paradisíacas em viagens pelo mundo inteiro. Essa era a vida que mostrava enquanto influenciadora nas redes sociais. Fora do mundo virtual, no entanto, a realidade daquela norte-americana era outra: estava cheia de dívidas, era viciada em álcool, abusava das drogas e, afinal, quase todos os seguidores no Instagram tinham sido comprados.

A história de Caroline Calloway foi contada por uma amiga, Natalie Beach, que acompanhava a influenciadora na esperança de se inspirar nela e lançar na escrita. Numa publicação feita na semana passada no The Cut, Natalie Beach conta que as duas raparigas se conheceram na escola em 2012: “Caroline fez ensaios pessoais sobre o fim de relacionamentos, tinha pestanas de seda e usava camisolas de caxemira sem soutien. Parecia uma adulta, alguém que ia longe e havia construído uma vida independente”, recorda a jovem.

Um ano depois, Natalie Beach passou de amiga de Caroline Calloway a assistente pessoal da influencer. Caroline pagava as viagens de ambas e, em troca, Natalie tirava as fotografias com que a primeira alimentava as redes sociais. A popularidade da jovem aumentou em 2015, quando entrou na Universidade de Cambridge para estudar História da Arte. Pouco depois, Caroline Calloway recebeu uma proposta milionária para escrever um livro de memórias. Mas Natalie Beach estava em Nova Iorque.

View this post on Instagram

Much like Ring Pops and disposable razors, memories deteriorate with use. It’s science. According to a study by Northwestern University, every time we access a memory we tamper with it, editing the past with our feelings in the present. Or to put it like this: the only way to preserve our most precious memories is to forget them. Sometimes I worry that I’ve revisited my first weeks at Cambridge so often that the real story is too damaged to tell with accuracy—that something about the star-struck, devastated, bewildered way I felt when I arrived has been permanently paved over. I know now, for example, that Oscar and I will end up dating. We will spend Valentine’s Day in Paris and weekends at castles and untold hours of our lives watching movies on laptops. Cambridge will not always be a beautiful but hellish maze. I will, eventually, learn the street names; the college names; where to buy falafel at 3 AM (Gardies). I will even become friends with Josh after many upbeat and infrequent lunches in Manhattan. Once—and only once—Josh will say the name Oscar by mistake. “George,” I will correct him quickly. “The royal baby’s name is George.” But in the moment that this photo happened I couldn’t have imagined what was to come. And in fact, at this moment now, it’s hard for me to imagine how this photo felt. During the past week I’ve asked so many friends (spoiler alert: I make friends) what Cambridge was like at first and they all say it was a whirlwind. They cite Bambi-like awe. And sure, I get it. But when I look at this photo I see a staged kind of fun. Where is my jacket? Did I throw it out of frame, but keep the champagne? Why am I looking off into the distance? I had definitely asked for this photo to be taken. What I’m trying to say is that wonder can often run parallel to loneliness. And while the emotional sum of my first weeks at Cambridge would eventually add up to happiness, this photo was probably not the extraordinary moment it looks like. Sneaking past the porters wasn’t actually that hard. Conversation that afternoon with Oscar lulled. Things were real. And they would only get surreal-er. To Be Continued… #adventuregrams

A post shared by Caroline Calloway (@carolinecalloway) on

Quando Caroline Calloway recebeu a proposta da editora, chamou Natalie Beach para a ajudar na redação do livro. Mas de nada lhe valeu: “A minha participação não foi reconhecida, pois todo o gancho comercial se baseava no facto de Caroline ser uma miúda ingénua, das que não têm colaboradores explorados nas profundezas do Brookly e que só têm tempo para dormir. Eu sabia que meu trabalho era estar presente mas invisível, mas ainda assim doía ouvir sobre as páginas que eu havia escrito”, admitiu Natalie Beach.

As duas desentenderam-se e Caroline Calloway, incapaz de terminar o livro, contraiu uma dívida com a editora com quem havia assinado contrato. Passaram-se anos até a influencer voltar a partilhar conteúdos nas redes sociais. Só regressou à tona em janeiro de 2019, quando partilhou conselhos sobre como criar uma personagem no Instagram e pedia o equivalente a 160 euros por um kit para iniciantes. Mas era mais uma fraude.

Mas o que mais captou a atenção dos internautas foi a publicação que Caroline Calloway escreveu pouco tempo antes de Natalie Beach partilhar a história da amizade entre as duas no The Cut: “Tudo no artigo de Natalie será brilhante, lindamente expresso e verdadeiro. Sei disso não porque li o ensaio, mas porque Natalie é a melhor escritora que conheço. Ela sofreu todas as consequências de ser amada por uma pessoa viciada e nenhum dos benefícios de ser amada pela mulher em que a reabilitação me transformou”, confessa.

View this post on Instagram

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.

A post shared by Caroline Calloway (@carolinecalloway) on