Graduating soon from UNC, Zoe Roth, 21, on April 17 couldn’t stop checking her phone as her colleagues asked her the price of the photograph. As the time was nearing 6 PM, Zoe was shaking amidst the middle of the auction.
The auction was for the photograph of her 4-year self, which made her popular. The photo was a closeup of her snigger face with blazing house fires in the background. Her eyes were saying, “Yes, it was me. I did this. Wouldn’t you like to know how?”
A senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, Zoe satisfies her alter ego in the meme world with nearly 280-character messages as the disaster girl. The highest bid was at $25,000 just moments before time, and Zoe was still looking after the customers.
The viral meme was initially created in January 2005 when she lived with her parents and brother a few blocks ahead of Mebane’s fire station. Sirens, being the track throughout her childhood, were so close one day. The fire department was seen putting out a fire set nearby a building to clear the place.
For Zoe’s father Dave Roth, it was an excellent shot to try his new camera. He was an amateur photographer and entered different photography contests. He won the ‘Emotion Capture’ contest from JPG magazine three years after the incident. Zoe, unknown about her dad’s triumph turned the magazine’s pages and found her own face smirking at her.
Asking her dad if he knew about this, Zoe added, “Am I famous now?” Though they didn’t know, the photo was posted on the magazine’s website and was soon viral. The spread was unstoppable, and while the Internet was seeing the 4-year-old, Zoe grew up.
In February this year, Zoe received an email suggesting that she sell the meme as an NFT (non-fungible token). She thought about it and took suggestions from fellow celebrities Liana Morris (from Overly Attached Girlfriend) and Kyle Craven (from Bad Luck Brian). She and her father decided to go with it as the email wasn’t a scam, and sought a lawyer and manager to take care of the logistics.
However, it wasn’t just uploading the image and waiting for the bids. Their team needed access to any of the host websites which was possible only by invitation. Soon they received an invite from the creator of Nyan cat’s gif. The token was then listed on April 16 at 6 PM, and the auction was a 24-hour open one.
Zoe walked people to the table and delineated the drinking options while giving the menu before hurrying to her phone. The auction’s terms ruled that every additional bid would extend the time by another 15 minutes. The bids continued, almost a fresh one every three minutes. Her life was ready to change for another time.
The bid paused an hour later and Zoe’s eyes weren’t off her phone while Dave was stuck to his computer screen. The @3fmusic account made the official purchase for 180 Ether or $430,000. The photo made Zoe familiar in 2008 and now nearly a half-millionaire.
“Nobody who is a meme tried to do that, it just ended up that way — Is it luck? Is it fate? I have no idea. But I will take it,” she said.