Legal and Management

IMG Models, Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber & More to Return Fraction of $1.7M Fyre Fest Promo Fees

Hailey Bieber Bella Hadid
Monica Schipper/Teen Vogue/Getty Images

From left: Hailey Bieber and Bella Hadid

A dozen of the agency's models appeared in a video promoting the disastrous event that defrauded attendees and investors.

IMG Models and its clients Bella Hadid, Hailey Bieber, Alessandra Ambrosio, Chanel Iman, Elsa Hosk, Shanina Shaik, Nadine Leopold, Hannah Ferguson, Alyssah Ali, Rose Bertram, Daniela Lopez and Gizele Oliveira have reached a settlement over a combined $1.7 million fee they received for promoting the disastrous Fyre Festival in 2017. In total, they will have to repay $150,000 to a settlement account set up for the festival victims.

Baldwin, Bieber, Iman and the other IMG models appeared in bathing suits in a promotional video that announced the festival, promising two “transformative” weekends that “would exceed all expectations.” While the models, along with social media influencers, were recruited by organizers to promote a festival with lavish accommodations on a private Bahamian island, the event turned out to be a fraud of epic proportions. When guest arrived on the island they “were met with total disorganization and chaos” and learned that none of the musical acts promised -- Blink-182, Pusha T, Tyga, Major Lazer, Disclosure, Migos, and Kaytranada -- had showed up, according to Messner’s court filing. Their promised luxury accommodations turned out to be FEMA disaster relief tents and their so-called gourmet food was a cheese sandwich in a Styrofoam container. Multiple lawsuits ensued.

The agency and models were named in a lawsuit brought by attorney Gregory Messer, the trustee overseeing the Fyre Festival bankruptcy, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Messer has been attempting to reclaim the $14.4 million paid out by Fyre Media to a variety of influencers, models, performers, musical acts and a catering company and for transportation costs for an event that never took place. Billy McFarland, Fyre founder, is currently serving a six-year federal prison sentence for bilking investors out of $26 million to stage the over-the-top festival with rapper Ja Rule. The festival was billed as a “unique destination concert experience in the Caribbean aimed at young millennials and featuring a number of top musical acts,” according to court papers. “Ticket buyers were promised an exotic island adventure with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, the hottest musical acts and celebrity attendees.”

After the failed event, Hadid posted on social media that she had no involvement in the production process and had only agreed to do one promotion for the Bahamas event. Bieber disavowed the festival too, telling James Corden on his The Late Late Show in February 2019 that she gave all the money she received to charity.

Per the settlement, IMG and the models were ordered to pay back 9% of their fee, allowing them to keep more than $1.5 million they were paid to help promote the event.

In May, Kendall Jenner also settled for her involvement with the festival, agreeing to pay back $90,000 -- or about one-third -- of her reported $275,000 fee for posting about the festival. In the case against Jenner, Messer had claimed that in the since-deleted social media post she failed to disclose to her followers that she was being paid to promote the Fyre Festival, leading them to believe it would be "filled with famous models on an 'exotic private island with first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere.'"

IMG Models and their attorneys have not responded to Billboard’s request for comment.

Kendall Jenner Opens Up About Promoting Fyre Festival | Billboard News