Looks like becoming a meme is actually a pretty good business.
ZoÃ« Roth, of ‘Disaster Girl’ meme fame, sold the original photo for $473,000 as NFT, or a “nonfungible token.” NFT is a digital token, a form of cryptocurrency that allows digital files to be sold as if they were physical pieces of art.
The meme originated on a fateful day in 2005, when Roth, 4, and her father went to see a controlled burn in their neighborhood of Mebane, North Carolina. The fire was a training exercise for firefighters in the area.
After her father entered the image in a photo contest in 2007, the rest, as they say, was history. The Internet went wild with “disaster girl” memes and Roth’s face became one of the most recognizable memes in the history of memes.
Now a 21-year-old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior, Roth has said that she plans to use the earnings as payment for student loans, as well as donations to charity.
In an interview with the New York Times, she said, “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 also told the Raleigh News & Observer that those who become memes never intend to become so. “Is it luck? Is it fate? I have no ideal but I will take it.”
NFTs are a part of the newest craze in cryptocurrency. They’ve been used as a form of online “fine art collecting” where users can auction, purchase, and own original digital files from the Internet.
There’s been much money exchanged in the trade, with one buyer famously paying $6.6 million for a video by Beeple. While the business has still got its kinks, it’s been paying off pretty well to people like Roth, who didn’t expect the explosive popularity of her photo.
For her, the meme has brought something unique to her life. “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,” she explained to the New York Times. “I’m super grateful for the experience.