Ja Rule Is Hawking an NFT of the Infamous Fyre Fest Cheese Sandwich—For a Good Cause
Photographer Trevor DeHaas is also selling photo copyright on the rapper’s platform, telling The Daily Beast he’s hoping to fetch at least $50K to pay for a kidney transplant.
The very mention of Fyre Festival, the nationally-mocked disaster dreamed up by Billy McFarland, will conjure up a few images. Of course, there are the key figures entangled in the scandal, including Ja Rule and Andy King, who seemed willing to do anything to secure water for the stranded festival-goers. But nothing sums up the shitshow quite like the viral image of a Styrofoam box with two slices of rancid cheese, two pieces of Wonder Bread, and a soggy side salad, meant to feed hungry attendees who were promised five-star catered meals.
Trevor DeHaas took the infamous snapshot of the so-called dinner on April 27, 2017—his first night in The Bahamas for what was meant to be a blowout music festival event boasting the likes of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid partying a mere few feet away from other guests.
The tweet spread across the internet like wildfire as the country was torn between mocking the rich twenty-somethings who shelled out thousands of dollars for this epic screw-up and being genuinely concerned for their well-being, as they were, in true Lord of the Flies fashion, left with little in the way of food or water and were forced to fight over FEMA tents.
Now, coming up on the four-year anniversary of the doomed Fyre Festival, DeHaas is auctioning off an NFT of the original tweet, as well as the copyright to the photo of the flimsy sandwich on, of all places, Flipkick, Ja Rule’s physical NFT platform.
The sale was launched on Tuesday and DeHaas hopes to bring home $80,000 from the sale of the pop-culture relic. He told The Daily Beast that while it might seem like a steep price, Ja Rule already sold an NFT of an oil painting of Fyre Festival’s logo for $122,000 last month.
Plus DeHaas, who works as a photographer on the side, said he’s never collected any money from the copyrighted photo, which was published numerous times, including in Netflix’s documentary about the festival, estimating there’s at least $20,000 the new owner could go after in licensing fees—a chance to make back at least 25 percent of the cost.
“It’s blown me away that for the last four years that picture has been the most valuable picture I’ve ever taken,” DeHaas said. “It’s ridiculous. But as ridiculous as it is, it’s kind of like pop culture now, it has kind of a symbolism, meme-maker to it.”
DeHaas said that while he had ample opportunities to make money off licensing the notorious photo, he’s never done so because he was embarrassed to have been associated with the festival due to the assumptions people made about attendees.
“Most people who went to the festival were labeled as spoiled, rich, millennial brats, clout-chasers, but that isn’t my story at all,” he said. “I actually went for free.”
DeHaas said he wrangled a free ticket from a friend who had snapped up eight group tickets for $4,000, for an all-inclusive trip filled with music from Blink-182, Migos, Skepta, and Lil Yachty, plus luxury accommodations and catered meals. Unable to sell off the last ticket, DeHaas was given it in exchange for shooting a music video for his friend’s band.
But everything fell apart when DeHaas and two members of his group were able to hop on an earlier flight to The Bahamas, only to be greeted by an assortment of FEMA tents and people scrounging for water (but copious amounts of booze). After securing a tent to crash in, DeHaas went to hunt for some grub.
“There was a line for this tent where the food was and we saw a few people open their box to the cheese sandwich,” he said. “We were like, ‘Oh fuck.’ This is hilarious because I didn’t know who this person was [handing out food] until after the festival... it was Andy King.”
DeHaas conceded that while some people might have received higher-quality meals, such as chicken, burgers, and pasta, that’s what he was given and that’s what he ate for dinner that night.
“Please don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against cheese sandwiches,” he laughed. “The promise was that we’re supposed to have five-star catered food, so I was really looking forward to that. When I got that cheese sandwich, I was clearly pissed and very upset. That’s when I sent out a tweet because it’s a dig at the Fyre Festival for what was really turning out as a scam. I figured I’d put it out on social media and hopefully Fyre or somebody will see it.”
The tweet ended up going viral and became an enduring symbol of the ill-fated event. Smartly, DeHaas said he recognized the picture’s value and copyrighted it, but because he felt slightly embarrassed of being associated with the whole snafu, he never cashed in on licensing it.
It wasn’t until earlier this year when NFTs began exploding on the cryptocurrency market and gaining national attention that DeHaas thought about selling the tweet.
“Kind of what inspired this was seeing Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter,” DeHaas explained. “I saw that his first tweet ever was being auctioned off, at the time it was like $2.25 million.” (Dorsey’s tweet later sold for $2.9 million.)
“I was like, ‘I have a really viral tweet and I could sell this as an NFT.’ So, I started looking into it more and more and it seemed like a great opportunity. There doesn’t appear to be any downside to it. Even if it doesn’t sell, I’ll be in no different position than I was before.”
DeHaas plans to use a good chunk of the money of the NFT sale to pay for medical expenses. Diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney failure, DeHaas is on daily dialysis for seven hours a day and needs a kidney transplant due to his kidney only functioning at eight percent. But DeHaas is adamant that he doesn’t want people to think of the sale as a GoFundMe.
“One of my goals was to get at least $50,000 and that would pretty much pay for my kidney transplant,” he explained. “I don’t want to use that to make people feel bad and pay for it. But it’s just kind of, I guess, a side effect of what I want for the price. So if it does sell, at least I’ll be able to start paying for medical expenses.”
“Maybe the cheese sandwich will pay off for all the grief I’ve been getting over the years,” he added. “If it gets more than $80,000, I would be so gracious, I would be just blown away. But we’ll see. I really think it could with how NFTs have been selling, someone out there might actually want to own the rights to the sandwich.”
When asked if he thinks McFarland, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for fraud, would throw out a bid, DeHaas laughed. “That would be hilarious.”