I’ll admit it: “Cash Me Ousside” was funny for the first two weeks of its memehood. People made all sorts of holiday-themed poems in honour of Danielle Bregoli, the foul-mouthed, 13-year-old brat from a recent episode of the Dr. Phil show.
As someone who doesn’t agree with spanking children, I felt that Danielle Bregoli needed several spankings to knock her loose of her high horse, and I loved watching her throw a tantrum at the end of the episode when she was forced to go to a behavioural camp.
But then: tragedy struck. As a now-famous Danielle continued to steal cars, do drugs, and get kicked off airplanes for fighting, someone decided to give her a record deal. And thus, “Bhad Bhabie” was born and became a millionaire for her terrible behaviour.
The act left a sour taste in my mouth. Many people blamed the spread of the memes for Danielle’s success; however, many people are featured in memes every year. Few of these people are ever rewarded. The rise of Bhad Bhabie was not the meme’s fault. It was the fault of a record executive in an office somewhere.
I avoided any Bhad Bhabie products and videos for the next year to avoid giving her any sort of support. Views equal money. Sales equal money. I didn’t want to give Danielle Bregoli any money. I wanted her to go to rehab and re-enroll in school. Then, in February 2018, TMZ posted an article and a video of Bhad Bhabie fighting another girl named “Woah Vicky” at a Mall.
Woah Vicky makes Bhad Bhabie look like a saint. She talks in an almost incoherent mumble, which she claims is cause she’s from the streets. People from the streets don’t talk like that, Vicky. They have their own dialect, but they still sound intelligent. Vicky also claims to be black, and a proud member of the African American community. Vicky needs glasses.
But as I watched Trash and Trashier spar on TMZ’s video, I noticed another challenger enter the arena. It was a small, Asian girl with blonde hair and a foul mouth who appeared to be glued to Woah Vicky’s hip throughout the altercation. Once the majority of the commotion was finished, the little girl began screaming in support of Woah Vicky and swearing at Bhad Bhabie and her fans. Overall, she seemed very out of place, and I was very confused.
What was a child doing in this hullabaloo??
That little girl turned out to be Lil Tay, the world’s youngest flexer. She may be only nine-years-old, but she has clothes that cost more than your momma’s rent! How do I know? Well, she has said so numerous times in her videos.
Lil Tay was everything that I’d come to despise from Bhad Bhabie, Woah Vicky, and their crew of faux-street Internet rappers, yet something drew me closer to her. Whereas I could barely get through more than two Bhad Bhabie or Woah Vicky videos, I found myself entranced at Lil Tay’s Instagram page. I watched video after video, until there were no more. Then, I went to her YouTube channel, and I watched some more. There was something different about this pipsqueak, and I was intrigued to learn more.
Lil Tay’s videos were simple, yet entertaining. She’d loudly introduce herself, show off her latest car or house, remind us that she’s only 9-years-old yet her belongings cost more than your momma’s rent, and make it rain dollar bills for the camera. Profanity was often featured in Lil Tay’s videos, and sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder if she was another Andy Milonakis-esque adult, suffering from a growth-hormone deficiency that made her appear as a child. But no, Lil Tay was actually a child. A “flexer”. A source of controversy.
Lil Tay was received differently than her counterparts, primarily due to her age and her content. None of Lil Tay’s videos featured illegal or harmful acts; they were simply vlogs of a young girl with a foul mouth and stacks of cash. Instead of comments that she should be in jail or calling her a slut, people were either amused by Lil Tay or wondering where her parents were while she was producing these videos.
It turns out, they were close by. Lil Tay’s mother, Angela Tian, was a leading realtor from Vancouver, Canada. All of the designer homes in which Lil Tay shot her videos were actually those of Angela Tian’s clients, people looking to sell their homes. The fancy cars in the videos were clients’ cars parked in their garages.
One of Angela Tian’s clients–who ironically watched the Lil Tay videos routinely–soon noticed their home on display in one of the videos. Not wanting to be associated with a foul-mouthed pipsqueak, the client squealed to Tian’s boss, and Tian was subsequently let go from her company.
The Internet exploded. Lil Tay was a fake?? She didn’t really purchase her own electronics that cost more than your momma’s rent at 9-years-old?? Oh. Em. Gee.
The media published story after story about Angela Tian’s firing and the true nature of the Lil Tay videos. Morning outlets like Good Morning, America invited the Tians as guests. Despite being exposed as a “poser”, Lil Tay’s star was rising higher than that of her counterparts.
A new video was leaked, which featured Lil Tay sitting before a green screen and playing with her phone with a bored expression on her face. Behind the camera was a teenaged male’s voice, one that was later to be her 16-year-old brother’s, Jason Tian. Jason hyperactively gave Tay suggestions on what to say, while she looked on with annoyance. At one point, their mother interrupts, and Tay complains that she was filming.
With Jason exposed as the mastermind behind the character of “Lil Tay”, I expected the little girl to crash and burn; yet, she continued gaining more followers, appearing on more shows, and producing more videos. How?
What separates Lil Tay from the rest of her pack is that…Lil Tay actually has talent. She took Jason’s poorly-fed lines and ideas and delivered them with such a powerful energy that it sucked in her viewers. She wasn’t sitting on a balcony with a grille in her mouth and a lit joint spouting off about “N-word this, and n-word that”. She was delivering actual monologues, and she was delivering them well.
Once Lil Tay was busted and began her media tour, her Instagram Stories began to show behind-the-scenes footage. One such Instagram Story featured news anchor Julie Chen. A bubbly, calm, and articulate Lil Tay asked Chen a few questions, then turned to the camera and announced that she was ready. As soon as the cameraman (presumably Jason) said that it was rolling, Lil Tay instantly transformed into her role, announcing that she was here “flexing with Juju” and making it rain dollar bills from her puffy jacket pocket. When the monologue was complete, Lil Tay paused and giggled at Chen, proud of her performance.
Unfortunately, Lil Tay’s media tour also irreparably damaged her social media career. She experienced what I call “the Jackass effect”.
Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, and crew from the hit Jackass series have frequently mentioned that filming the Jackass television show and the first movie were a lot easier and a lot more effective. Why? No one knew who any of the actors were. They were just ordinary guys doing unordinary things and garnering reactions.
By the time the second Jackass movie rolled around, many stunts were ruined by people spotting and recognizing the cast. The reactions were no longer genuine, and the guys began to focus more on pranking each other than pranking the public.
In a similar fashion, people began to recognize Lil Tay while she and her family were out on shoots. Someone would yell, “Hey, it’s Lil Tay!” from the window. People would wander into the background and wave. Many passersby would antagonize the entire Tian family, upsetting Tay greatly and ruining the shoot.
Lil Tay quickly realized that her act was up. A talented ballerina, she also longed to show off her actual talents instead of simply her monologues. By early June, Lil Tay deleted all of her videos from Instagram and YouTube, promising a comeback within a few weeks with “all new material”. The Internet–myself included–began to wonder what was coming our way.
And then…as quickly as she’d gone silent…she was back. On June 18th, 2018, troubled rapper XXXTentacion was shot and killed at a motorcycle dealership in Miami, Florida. Lil Tay flooded her Instagram page with tributes to the slain rapper, including screenshots of their conversations together and recordings of their video chats. The heavily-advertised charity event that XXXTentacion had been promoting for the following weekend was to be a surprise joint-effort with Lil Tay, something she confirmed via her screenshots.
Lil Tay posted a tearful video mourning the rapper, in which she repeatedly said that he was “like a father” to her. And this is where my realization that all was not well in Lil Tay’s life hit the roof.
For those unaware, XXXTentacion racked up a long list of crimes and atrocities in his short 20 years of life, beginning with a stint in juvie at age 12. He was perhaps most known for beating his pregnant girlfriend, Geneva Ayala, nearly to death in 2017. More on him can be found here.
If there was anyone acting as a “father-figure” in Lil Tay’s life, it shouldn’t have been a mostly-unapologetic abuser.
On top of this, Jason’s Tweets were beginning to seem hostile and manic, and Woah Vicky posted a video of her talking in a mostly normal voice, exposing Jason as a controlling mastermind. From her interviews, Angela Tian seemed constantly aloof. It became clear that Lil Tay was not getting the support or the upbringing that she needed at her age.
And I think that’s one of the most troubling things of all. It’s not a little girl using vulgarity or throwing money around on a camera. It’s that a little girl is seemingly either all alone, or surrounded by negative influences (her brother, XXXTentacion, Bhad Bhabie, Woah Vicky). It’s the cryptic Stories she’ll occasionally post on her Instagram for a matter of hours that say, “Help.” It’s her failed reality television show on an unknown network.
I worry about Lil Tay because she’s not a “thuggin’ bad girl” like her allies and rivals. She is legitimately a little girl who started out making videos for fun with her brother, and now has been thrust into the harsh world of Internet bullying and criticism. Lil Tay does need a remarkable comeback, and she’s only going to get one chance to do it.