Netflix Chronicles Byron Bay’s ‘Hot Instagrammers.’ Will Paradise Survive?
BYRON BAY, Australia — The moral quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer in the famously idyllic town of Byron Bay are not lost on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles more than vegan moisturizers, probiotic powders and conflict-free diamonds to her 228,000 followers. She is also selling an enviable lifestyle set against the backdrop of her Australian hometown’s crystalline coves and umbrellaed poolsides.It’s part of the image-making that has helped transform Byron Bay — for better or worse — from a sleepy beach town drawing surfers and hippies into a globally renowned destination for the affluent and digitally savvy.“I do kind of have moments where I’m like, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews said recently as she sat at The Farm, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the town’s wellness ethos. “But at the same time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”
The tensions between leveraging and protecting Byron Bay’s reputation, always simmering in this age of entrepreneurial social media, exploded last month when Netflix announced plans for a reality show, “Byron Baes,” that will follow “hot Instagrammers living their best lives.”Local residents said the show would be a tawdry misrepresentation of the town and demanded that Netflix cancel the project. One woman started a petition drive that has gathered more than 9,000 signatures and organized a “paddle out” — a surfer’s memorial usually reserved for commemorating deaths — in revolt.
ImageByron Bay is the most expensive place to live in Australia, with a median house price of $1.8 million.