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Lil Tay

The internet giveth and the internet taketh Tay away.

It wasn’t too long ago when “youngest flexer of the century” Lil Tay dominated the Explore section of my Instagram feed. Never did I think that a 9-year-old Canadian girl could make me feel as if my 20 years of existence has done nothing and that I had absolutely no clout. Throwing profanities left and right like the stacks of cash in her hands, Lil Tay made quite a splash on social media with her bombastic videos that taunted viewers for being “broke as hell.” Well, I mean, she isn’t wrong.

Her entire Instagram platform revolved around flexin. Case in point: One of her very first videos featured the elementary school child waving hundred dollar bills at a phone camera while informing her “jigglypuff lookin ass” viewers that “[I] F—– yo mama, cuz she a thot!”

As the explosive child garnered more media attention, the videos escalated from showing off designer clothing to luxury cars and expensive-looking houses, leaving some individuals like Jake Paul to crow over her antics and others to promote the use of condoms.

Her Motivation

Like many social media stars, Lil Tay aspires to become a motivational speaker of some sort by flexing. A somewhat skewed version of the American dream, the youngster claims that “when I was 6 years old, I lived in Atlanta, and I was broke as hell. But one day I woke up, I said to myself, I ain’t gonna be broke no more so I got up and started working hard moving bricks.” So beyond the whole flex agenda is supposedly a true story on how effort propels individuals like Lil Tay to a better socioeconomic status.

Although she claims to be 100 percent genuine, viewers can’t help but see the cracks in the facade Lil Tay flaunts. While there is evidence that she recently moved from Canada to California, Tay claims to be a self-made millionaire, working hard by “moving bricks” in Atlanta at the age of 6.

With 2 million followers on Instagram, the girl could earn up to $50K for making influencer posts, but considering that her videos consist of constant swearing it is unlikely that the designer brands she uses to flex actually sponsor her content. Neither her industrious alibi nor her massive following can actually account for the millions of dollars that she claims to make.

This young girl’s quasi-noble quest to motivate others by flexing her nonexistent wealth might have good intentions, but an inelegant and vulgar execution.

The Scandal

Following several controversial videos, and a full wiping of both her Instagram and YouTube accounts, some speculate that the social media fiend’s disappearance stems from family issues.

The many videos of Tay strutting her stuff in elegant homes and kicking luxury cars allegedly prompted her real estate agent mother’s boss to fire Tian. Other leaked videos include instances where Tay seems to be coached by her 16-year-old brother Jason on what to say for her videos. Jason’s voice could be heard instructing his little sister to “sound more ignorant” and even correcting the self-proclaimed Harvard dropout on her grammar. All of these leaked videos, alongside a clip of the child smoking out of a hookah sobered up viewers who believed the videos were made in the name of good entertainment and naive fun.

Juxtaposed against this bold internet persona is a tearful video in which the girl begs for people to stop reporting her videos and having them taken down. The red-faced youngster passionately stutters out that “I have a dream. Like, I’m tryna make my mom proud.”

Despite the obvious loss for words and the discomfort in young Tay’s face during the interview the family continues to insist that maintaining the lifestyle of a social media star. It is one thing for a child to believe that internet notoriety and fame is a good thing, but for her mother to condone a foul-mouthed web persona is a troubling thing to see.

Although Tay’s feed is at a standstill, her 16-year-old brother Jason tweeted that his sister is going on a hiatus and will be back with a revamped platform and persona.

Stop Hating on Her

So after reading about this 9-year old, why is it important to discuss her appearance and disappearance on social media?

She is a byproduct of an internet culture that encourages and sometimes rewards outrageous behavior. Seeing that her origin story is full of holes, it becomes more apparent with each video that her pseudo-ratchet persona is crafted not by real life experiences but entirely by everything that is trending online. Behind the whole Lil Tay Money Way mentality is a young child whose entire life is consumed by clapbacks and negativity that she is instructed to say.

This young girl’s videos are uncomfortable to watch because any kid with a camera and encouragement could do what Lil Tay does. The problem doesn’t lie squarely on the creators of Tay’s content but also on a public that continues to cycle hatred and negativity rather than to ignore or properly address inflammatory videos.

Lil Tay said it succinctly enough herself, if you hate her, then don’t follow her antics. Let it come as a reminder that hating and cyberbullying a 9-year-old — who might be exploited by her family — does nothing but fuel the Gucci-lint-roller-wielding kid’s fire. (By the way, Gucci doesn’t actually make lint rollers. Sad.)

Hopefully if Tay ever pops up on the scene again, the adult keyboard warriors are wise enough to resist roasting a mere child and finally help put an end to an online culture of unnecessary cursing and flexing.

Writer Profile

Christine Fang

University of California San Diego

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