Byron Baes: Netflix’s first Australian reality TV show sets its sights on the influencer enclave

Kelly Burke and Alyx Gorman
·3-min read

The too-good-to-be-true lifestyles of Byron Bay’s glam residents are about to get the full reality TV treatment, with Netflix announcing its latest “docu-soap” will be filmed in the northern NSW beachside town.

While Byron counts its fair share of international celebrities as residents – such as Chris Hemsworth and wife Elsa Pataky, Matt Damon, Zac Efron and Olivia Newton-John – the show will turn its lens to those who have attained fame – or notoriety – through an alternative medium.

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Once considered a bohemian enclave, Byron Bay is now believed to have more social influencers per capita than any other town in Australia. It will be these “hot Instagrammers, living their best lives, being their best selves,” Netflix’s director of Australian and New Zealand content, Que Minh Luu, said in a statement, who will be the subjects in Byron Baes.

Australian Netflix Originals is spruiking Byron Baes as its “love letter to one of the world’s most perfect playgrounds”, promising “fights, flings and heartbreak” as the cast relentlessly pursues more likes than their competitors, all with a “guaranteed #nofilter” tag.

The show will be produced by Eureka Productions, with Emma Lamb (whose credits include Married at First Sight Australia and The Real Housewives of Sydney) as show runner. Julian Morgans, a senior editor at Vice, conceived of the show last year and will serve as executive producer alongside Rachel Tuffery.

“I was astounded when Que read my email, and replied, and liked it. It was three miraculous things in quick succession,” Morgans said.

The cast of “celebrity-adjacent-adjacent influencers” has yet to be announced.

Morgans told Guardian Australia casting is almost “buttoned up”. It will feature “all sorts of people … Some are your classic fashion influencers. We’ve got other people who’ve come from an Aquarian background – fire twirling and drum circles – and others who are more involved in the business of influencing.

“It’s a juicy crowd.”

He said the show has “some universally interesting things in it, a beautiful location with beautiful people. Lots of money and dating and nice clothing.”

Byron Bay’s top influencers have already captured attention well beyond their own audiences. Blogger Courtney Adamo (276k followers), and her fellow “murphers” – mums who surf – were the subject of a long-form Vanity Fair profile in 2019.

Model Ruby Tuesday (222k followers) was the subject of tabloid headlines in October 2020, after allegedly delaying a flight in order to eat oysters, in an incident that quickly became known as “oystergate”.

For others in the region, social media has become a shortcut to business success. Local fashion label Spell, beloved by the area’s Instagram set, boasts a following well beyond many of its famous fans, with an Instagram audience of 1m.

This combination of internet and conventional stars prompted magazine Who Weekly to brand Byron Bay the “celebrity capital” of Australia last year.

When asked about how Byron came to become such a centre for celebrity culture, Morgans said, “I implore anthropologists to study this. Someone could do a PHD on unpacking the cultural tipping point Byron has gone through.

“It was always beautiful. But there are lots of nice places that don’t have large communities of influencers.”

He hopes the show will have an element of documentary, as well as drama. “No one has really put a proper microscope on influencing as a business, what drives them, how they made their money … let’s unpack that.

“But what keeps people watching is the dating, best friends, fights, breakups, makeups, all the good stuff.”

The area is also famously anti-vaccination, and home to many proponents of spurious wellness techniques. Morgans said he does not expect that element of Byron culture to feature in the show, “and if we do it has to come from the characters, we won’t actively look for it.”