This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of a blue sports car as an engine revs in the background, Lil Tay counts a healthy stack of American cash while licking her lips. Suddenly, she hops out, slams the door, and exclaims while pointing off camera, “Bitch, I just bought a Lamborghini! Y’all bitches can’t afford this shit, OK? I’m only nine years old, but I’m the youngest flexer of the century!”
The apparent nine-year-old girl with partially bleached shoulder-length hair continues her monologue as YouTuber Jake Paul and her throw a purported $500,000 on the floor of a garage. “Y’all be hating on me because y’all broke and jealous!” Tay says before turning away from the camera and kicking the cash on the floor with her clean white sneakers.
The Instagram video described above has more than 4 million views.
Over the past month, Lil Tay’s profile has grown exponentially online. She and her supposed mother were the subject of a recent Babe.net investigation that revealed a detail we at VICE Canada continuously get too excited about: Despite her posts often being tagged in Hollywood and her affinity for blue hundreds, Lil Tay may be secretly Canadian.
And her mother? Babe.net claims to have identified her in one of Lil Tay’s videos: In quintessential Vancouverite style, she’s reportedly a real estate agent.
Lil Tay, whose tagline is “youngest flexer of the century,” exhaustively claims over and over to be nine years old, to have luxury vehicles, and to wear designer clothing. She’s been seen in Instagram posts with rappers Chief Keef and Lil Pump; her IG bio claims she is getting a “GUCCI GANG FACE TATT @ 10 MILL.” She talks about “moving bricks,” swears often, and, we regret to inform you, has used the N word. (Side note: Lil Tay said in a December 2017 YouTube video “Bitch, I’m partially black. Y’all, like, you don’t even know anything about me, so why you just making assumptions?”)
Tay’s existence online and her followers—1.6 million on Instagram, more than 143,000 on YouTube—may just be a harbinger of the new reality of child stardom. Though child stars are nothing new, this particular new-era brand of them brings up uncomfortable questions.
Lil Tay’s appeal lies in juxtaposition: A child doing and saying outrageous things that society would not expect said child to say and do. But her appeal also lies, in part, in hatred.
I’m still haunted from the “interview” I had with another child star, Danielle Bregoli, a.k.a. "Cash Me Ousside” Girl. Memes of Bregoli, who was 13 at the time, were eagerly shared at the onset of her fame following a Dr. Phil episode. But once the collective internet sober thought kicked in, questions about cultural appropriation were unavoidable. Amidst all of this, Bregoli rebranded to “Bhad Bhabie” and started her career as a rapper. In Fader, an interviewer asked Bregoli about why she thinks people hate on her so much: “People are going to hit that dislike button, but there are more people who are going to hit that like button—that’s all that matters to me,” she said.
As it happens, Lil Tay appears to have beef with Bregoli. The two, along with another Instagram-famous youth, Woah Vicky, can be seen getting into an altercation in an April 18 video posted to Tay’s Instagram. The caption reads: “Really be talkin all that but paid and brought 2 body guards to fight 😂😂 Big L You double my age but the same height 😂😂"
If Tay’s Instagram comments are any indication, she has already been facing the wrath of online hatred as well.
“This is why parents these days need to abort,” one commenter says on the video of Tay and Bregoli. In a video of Tay standing on a balcony in Beverly Hills, the comments section is flooded with people suggesting she should fall off the balcony or be pushed off of it. Some simply say “jump.”
In her most recent Instagram video, Tay seems to egg the haters on, insulting them for being “grown-ass men” hating on her. The caption in part, says, “Like this if you hate Lil Tay.”
“Stop giving her attention, this is why she gets so much clout. If you hate her so much just ignore her,” one commenter suggests.
Hate undoubtedly can be part of the equation for fame, though here it seems integral to the appeal rather than being background noise. And when the subject of said hatred is a supposed elementary-aged child, are we really OK with accepting this as a form of entertainment?
Unlike Bregoli, who rose to fame after a meme-able appearance on Dr. Phil, Lil Tay appears, at least on the surface, more homegrown. That said, mingling on camera with other influencers like Jake Paul and Woah Vicky, as well as supposed “fights” with Bregoli and YouTuber RiceGum, have served to propel Tay’s fame.
Lil Tay delivered a teary-eyed message to her haters while admitting to the RiceGum "beef" being fake, a response apparently brought on by people reporting her videos. “I’m trying to accomplish my dreams—if you don’t like that, just block me,” she says in the video.
Like Bregoli, Lil Tay also apparently has ambitions in the music industry. In an interview with Jezebel, Alex Goller Gelbard (a.k.a. Loyalty G.), who is described as working with Lil Tay (but, apparently, not as her manager), discloses “music plans” for the girl:
“Tay currently does have music plans in development… We are not yet ready to comment publicly on any deals or offers that have been received or confirmed,” he told Jezebel. “There are records Tay has put together that have not yet been released, however, full projects are in planning and developmental stages.”
You can listen to a song of Lil Tay’s below, “Money Way.” (For what it’s worth, Bhad Bhabie’s “Gucci Flip Flops” autoplayed right after I watched this.)
It’s possible these young shit-starters are simply testing out a new formula for music industry stardom. But if this is in fact now the reality of how some children get famous, should we consider the ethics of continuing to support this, hatred included? How can we possibly know what impact this will have as these kids become adults?
Considering Lil Tay apparently won’t even start high school for another half-decade, we won’t have satisfying answers to these questions anytime soon.
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