Zoë Roth was 4 years old back in 2005 when she was captured in front of a burning house in a photo that has since become an Internet meme known as “Disaster Girl.” That photo has now sold for a whopping half-million dollars as an NFT.
The New York Times reports that the Roth family had gone to watch an intentional house fire set by firefighters in their neighborhood when Zoë’s father Dave asked his daughter to smile for a photo, and that’s how “Disaster Girl” was born.
A couple of years later, Dave won a photo contest with the photo, and the image has since taken on a life of its own, with people across the Internet editing Zoë’s smirking face into various humorous memes to share on websites and social media.
This week, after over a decade of seeing the photo spread virally across the Web completely out of her control, Zoë finally found a way to benefit financially in a big way from its notoriety. She sold the original copy of the photo as a nonfungible token (NFT) and pocketed roughly a cool half million dollars.
The photo sold in an auction on the Foundation platform on April 17th to a user named @3FMusic for 180 Ether (the second most popular cryptocurrency after Bitcoin). The Ether was worth roughly $475,000 at the time of the sale, but with recent Ethereum price gains, they’re not worth over $510,000.
As with many or most NFT sales of this sort, the Roths will continue to own the copyright to the photograph — the winner simply owns the only authenticated digital collectible based on the photo. What’s more, based on the contract of the NFT, the Roths will also earn 10% from all future sales of the NFT whenever it changes hands.
Zoë, who’s now a 21-year-old senior studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells the media she’s planning to use some of the proceeds to pay off her student loans as well as donate to charity.
Other memes to have been sold as NFTs in recent times include “Grumpy Cat” (~$100,000), “Nyan Cat” (~$600,000), and “Overly Attached Girlfriend” (~$500,000).
“People who are in memes and go viral is one thing, but just the way the internet has held on to my picture and kept it viral, kept it relevant, is so crazy to me,” Zoë tells the Times. “I’m super grateful for the entire experience.”
Image credits: “Disaster Girl” photo by Dave Roth.