Netflix Chronicles Byron Bay’s ‘Hot Instagrammers.’ Will Paradise Survive?


BYRON BAY, Australia — The epigram quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer in the famously idyllic town of Byron Bay are not vanished on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.

Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles more than vegan moisturizers, probiotic besprinkles 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 divide of the image-making that has helped transform Byron Bay — for better or worse — from a knocked out beach town drawing surfers and hippies into a globally celebrated destination for the affluent and digitally savvy.

“I do kind of have moments where I’m get a kick out of, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews said recently as she sat at The Let out, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the town’s wellness ethos. “But at the yet time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”

The tensions between leveraging and screening Byron Bay’s reputation, always simmering in this age of entrepreneurial social route, exploded last month when Netflix announced plans for a truth show, “Byron Baes,” that will follow “hot Instagrammers vigorous their best lives.”

Local residents said the show would be a gaudy misrepresentation of the town and demanded that Netflix cancel the project. One strife started a petition drive that has gathered more than 9,000 signatures and established a “paddle out” — a surfer’s memorial usually reserved for commemorating passings — in revolt.

Several store owners, many of whom have landed Instagram presences, have refused permits that would budget Netflix to record on their premises. A number of influencers who were nearly equaled by the show also said they had decided not to take part.

Extent them was Ms. Mathews, who went through the initial filming and interview alter but later bowed out. “Byron isn’t a joke,” Ms. Matthews said, wearing the stonewashed jeans and chunky ice-blue join that she had advertised on Instagram that morning. “They’re basically labeling our town.”

The backlash has raised questions about who is entitled to control and capitalize on the cult of Byron Bay, a situate now known for its slow and escapist lifestyle, where the bohemian has been sheened into a unified jungalow aesthetic of tasseled umbrellas, woven lanterns, linen dressing and exotic plants.

Some argued that the reality show discretion focus on a sliver of influencers whose picture-perfect presences on Instagram don’t state the “real” Byron Bay. In doing so, they said, the show would exhibit the town to unwelcome outsiders.

“What right do they have to make capital out of grand Byron?” said Tess Hall, a filmmaker who moved to Byron Bay in 2015 and catalogued the petition and paddle out. She added that she feared the show would unsheathe “the wrong type of person” to the region and share the town’s secret strand spots with the rest of the world.

“We’re not Venice Beach,” she said. “It’s a many vibe.”

Others said they worried that a mere portrayal of Byron Bay as a bank party town would make it come true.

“Personally, I obtain nothing against influencers,” said Ben Gordon, who runs The Byron Bay Accepted Store, a “mostly plant-based” and oft-Instagrammed brunch spot, which was at involved in the show before he withdrew it.

“It’s about a town being espied in a completely false way,” added Mr. Gordon, who has more than 80,000 Instagram protges between his personal and store feeds. “My biggest fear is that the certify will become self-fulfilling.”

To some, though, the pushback against the authenticity series smacks of elitism and hypocrisy, and is ultimately futile and even counterproductive, as the take exceptions and resulting media coverage have given it free publicity.

“It’s foolish and ridiculous to think people can control how Byron is, or isn’t, represented,” said Michael Murray, a client’s agent who has spent more than three decades in the region. “It no longer associates to a certain clique.”

Netflix has brushed off the criticism, saying it is going vanguard with production of a show that it said would be “authentic and straight.”

Que Minh Luu, the director of content for Netflix Australia and New Zealand, said in an emailed averral that “our goal is to lift the curtain on influencer culture to understand the motivation, the longing and the pain behind this very human need to be loved.”

Ahead the town was ever graced with its first string of heart emojis, beforehand the boom of the 1970s and ’80s or the earlier influx of surfers and those aspiring an alternative lifestyle, Byron Bay was a quiet whaling town on Australia’s east slide, 100 miles south of Brisbane.

Wategos Beach — where houses can sell for more than $17 million — was a steep hill with solely a few families, including the Wategos, a South Sea Islander family who farmed bananas and, later, ran a shore kiosk selling thick shakes and hamburgers.

“It was heaven,” said Susie Beckers, 60, a grandchild of the family, sitting on the waterfront as she watched a local surf competition, her grandson give in the sand. “No one really wanted to live here,” she added of the beachfront legitimate estate, “because it was so far out.”

The kiosk has since been transformed into a indulgence restaurant and hotel, Raes on Wategos, where a night in a penthouse set can cost more than $2,500.

The median house price in Byron Bay is $1.8 million, mutating it the most expensive place in Australia and almost as expensive as the Hollywood Hills in California. Chris Hemsworth and Zac Efron cause moved to town.

Byron Bay’s rapid growth is a threat to the values it carries dear, some residents say.

The town, said Mandy Nolan, a local paragrapher, has become a case study in what happens when a culture of localism is marketed on a far-reaching scale. “Our values of sustainability have powered a market of unsustainability,” she intended. “Byron has become a victim of its own brand.”

The inequality in the town is stark. Courtesy workers, teachers and nurses have been pushed out of town or, worse, into homelessness. The community, with a permanent population of under 10,000 people, has the country’s ripest rate of homelessness after Sydney, according to a recent government road count.

Along the coast, some people sleep in tent shantytowns in the sand dunes and bushes, while others — profuse of them in stable employment — move between short-term accommodations, supporters’ couches and their cars.

John Stephenson, a 67-year-old massage psychologist, has spent several years living out of his station wagon. “It’s embarrassing,” he affirmed as he gathered belongings from a storage unit before moving into transitory accommodation. “I don’t look like a bum, but I feel like one.”

In other parts of municipality, though, the illusion remains intact.

One balmy evening at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, a man dressed in a feathered fedora, a bolo tie and neck-to-ankle denim was photographing two of his lassies picking flowers. He was so consumed with capturing the moment that he did not perception that his third child, sitting behind him, was at risk of falling down the hill.

A broad with a yoga mat slung over her shoulder shouted to him. The woman, Lucia Wang, had condign moved to Byron Bay the previous evening. She had come, she said, for the town’s stunner and healing properties.

“The first thing you need to do is just go to the ocean and give birth to a swim,” she said. “Everything will be OK.”

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