UNC senior Zoe Roth, also known as ‘Disaster Girl’, gets $500K from viral meme

Local News

(WNCN/AP) — It’s an iconic smirk – 4-year-old Zoe Roth became the face of the “Disaster Girl” meme after an image of her in front of a burning building in Mebane went viral in 2005.

Now 21, and a senior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Roth has cashed in on her internet stardom thanks to a recent auction of the image as a non-fungible token (NFT), netting nearly $500,000 and royalties of any future sales of the meme.

Roth told UNC’s Media Hub that she was working April 17 at Italian restaurant Il Palio and checking the progress of the auction on her phone as the bids – made in the cryptocurrency Ether — kept getting higher.

Later, Roth and her dad, who had been helping her find buyers for the viral meme got what they’d been searching for.

The account @3fmusic had officially purchased the token for 180 Ether — worth about $430,000.

But as of Thursday, 180 Ether was valued at more than $495,000. Roth retained the copyright and will receive 10 percent of future sales, according to the New York Times.

Art such as Roth’s is stamped with a unique bit of digital code that marks their authenticity and stored on the blockchain, a distributed ledger system that underlies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.


In economics jargon, a fungible token is an asset that can be exchanged on a one-for-one basis. Think of dollars or bitcoins — each one has the exact same value and can be traded freely. A non-fungible object, by contrast, has its own distinct value, like an old house or a classic car.

Cross this notion with cryptocurrency technology known as the blockchain and you get NFTs. These are effectively digital certificates of authenticity that can be attached to digital art or, well, pretty much anything else that comes in digital form — audio files, video clips, animated stickers, this article you’re reading.

NFTs confirm an item’s ownership by recording the details on a digital ledger known as a blockchain, which is public and stored on computers across the internet, making it effectively impossible to lose or destroy.

At the moment, these tokens are white-hot in the collecting world, where they’re being used to solve a problem central to digital collectibles: how to claim ownership of something that can be easily and endlessly duplicated.

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