On Wednesday, Aug. 9, a post on the Instagram account of the teenage influencer Lil Tay announced the deaths of her and her half-brother. But fans questioned it, leaving skeptical comments on the post. Lil Tay’s internet presence was characterized by stunts and staged controversy, as well as strained familial relationships.
Then, Lil Tay told TMZ on Thursday that she wasn’t dead, and that her account had been hacked. Fans didn’t appear to be that surprised, but the news came as a relief to many. She said, “My Instagram account was compromised by a 3rd party and used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors regarding me.” The Instagram post alleging Lil Tay’s death has since been removed from the account.
The details of the story are still developing, but reflect a larger story of a young influencer who seemingly never had complete control over her public identity. Here is the full Lil Tay death hoax controversy, explained.
Why was there so much confusion around the Instagram post? Is Lil Tay alive?
Lil Tay is alive, according to the statement her family gave to TMZ on Thursday.
However, the time leading up to her giving this statement was marked by confusion. On Wednesday, her management told Variety that she had died. When outlets, including Insider, reached out to Lil Tay’s father for comment, he would not give comment.
Who is Lil Tay?
Lil Tay is an American-born internet influencer raised in Canada who rose to prominence during an intense three-month period in 2018. She posted primarily on YouTube and Instagram, where she built a following around her persona of bravado and beefing with other influencers. Her videos often showed her “flexing” an extravagant lifestyle and rapping.
Her identity has been shrouded in mystery, however. In 2019, New York Magazine reported that she was born Claire Eileen Qi Hope, though she referred to herself as Tay Tian when speaking with TMZ. There has also been confusion around her age; Vox and New York Magazine reported that she was 10 when she rose to prominence, though she said she was 9.
Lil Tay’s breakout moment came in April 2018, when she and influencer Woah Vicky staged a fight with the Bhad Bhabie at a mall. TMZ captured the fight, which propelled Lil Tay to newfound stardom. At the time, she gained 2.4 million followers on Instagram. The budding influencer also appeared on Good Morning America.
Why is Lil Tay’s career so controversial?
Lil Tay’s newfound popularity led to further scrutiny of her persona. Reports alleged that her half-brother Jason controlled her social media accounts. In May 2018, Lil Tay’s mother told BuzzFeed that Jason was the “mastermind” behind his sister’s account. That same month, a leaked video showed a teenage boy’s voice coaching Lil Tay on how to act. (The video has since been deleted.) And in June 2018, Lil Tay’s Instagram account stopped posting new content. This recent controversy had catapulted her back into the limelight.