‘Disaster Girl’ meme sells for nearly $500,000


The original copy of a photo that went viral in 2005 and became known as the “Disaster Girl” meme has been sold as a nonfungible token (NFT) for nearly $500,000.

Zoë Roth, the woman who as a child was captured in the photo smiling as a house burned in the background, sold the image at an online auction earlier this month.

Roth, who is now 21, sold the image to a user identified as @3FMusic for 180 Ether, a form of cryptocurrency. It was worth more than $430,000 at the time it was sold, MarketWatch reported, and as of Thursday it was worth the equivalent of more than $490,700.

As part of the sale, Roth and her father Dave Roth, who captured the image, maintain copyright of the photo and will also receive 10 percent of future sales, according to The New York Times

She plans to use the money she received from the sale to pay off her student loan debt and donate to charity, the Times reported.

Roth told the Times that the image was taken when she was age 4 and went with her family to watch as firefighters intentionally set a house ablaze in a controlled fire in her Mebane, N.C., neighborhood. She told the newspaper that her father asked her to smile, thus creating the image that the world knows as “Disaster Girl.” 

Roth’s father entered the photo into a 2007 contest and won, and the image has since gone on to be edited into various scenarios, including a meteor wiping out a dinosaur or the Titanic ship sinking after hitting an iceberg. 

Roth, who is now a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the Times that she decided to sell the original photo as a way for her to take control over an image that has spread widely over social media for years. 

She said in her interview with the Times that before deciding to auction her photo, she consulted with other people who have been captured in viral memes, including Kyle Craven, better known as “Bad Luck Brian,” a boy in a yearbook photo grimacing with braces, as well as the mother of “Success Kid,” a toddler on the beach with a clenched fist. 

Ben Lashes, who manages the Roths, “Success Kid” and the stars of other memes, said his clients in total have made more than $2 million in NFT sales, according to the Times. 

NFT sales have extended beyond memes to other mediums. Last month, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s first post on the social media platform was sold as an NFT for $2.9 million, which Dorsey at the time said he would convert into Bitcoin and donate to the charity GiveDirectly’s Africa Response.

Days later, a column by Times technology reporter Kevin Roose sold for more than half a million dollars in an online auction as an NFT, with the money planned to be donated to the Times’s Neediest Cases Fund.

Tags Bitcoin Cryptocurrency memes NFT nonfungible token North Carolina Social media The New York Times Twitter Viral photo

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