For a few months in 2018, Lil Tay - a supposedly 9-year-old social media star - rocked the internet with a wave of scandalous behavior. Among other provocative feats, Lil Tay was driving fast cars, freely dropping racial slurs, and talking on a phone made of cold, hard cash.
With each new video and Instagram post, journalists became increasingly curious about Lil Tay's legitimacy. Was she the real deal, or simply a pawn controlled by a shadowy presence lurking off-camera? Then, a few months later, the boujee preteen vanished from social media as quickly as she had arrived. But what happened to her?
At first, fans wondered whether the young flexer was finally receiving comeuppance for her bad behavior, but this isn't the real reason why Lil Tay deleted all her social media posts.
Who is Lil Tay, really? Is she a 9-year-old with money to burn? Or is she a product of horrible parents and an online culture equating excess to success? If you're one of the millions of people who follow her on Instagram, there are probably a few things you never knew about Lil Tay.
I am:— Matt Tenopir (@tenopir12) June 2, 2018
��The youngest flexer of the century, I’m only 9 years old I ain’t got no license but I still drive this sports car, your favorite rapper ain’t even doin in like Lil Tay pic.twitter.com/eL3wVbZpYC
In February 2018 a supposed 9-year-old came out of nowhere and took over the internet. Lil Tay, the self-proclaimed "youngest flexer of the century," began posting photos of herself holding stacks of cash on Instagram, along with videos showing her driving cars and spitting pre-pubescent fire.
While Lil Tay's posts located her in Los Angeles, CA, she was doing most of her work in Canada. Obviously, Lil Tay's rise to viral fame was the result of someone's master plan, but whose?
Two months after the launch of her social media presence, Lil Tay had amassed a few hundred thousand Instagram followers. However, her popularity exploded in April 2018 after she appeared in the background of an Instagram video wherein fellow social media star Woah Vicky confronted Danielle Bregoli (better known as the "cash me outside" girl) about a supposed online beef.
After the video went viral, Lil Tay became an overnight star. Alex Goller Gelbard, a social media consultant who sometimes acts as Lil Tay's manager, told The Atlantic, "That exposure made Tay grow."
In a little over a week, her Instagram followers jumped from 250,000 to 1.2 million. People wanted to know who Lil Tay was and how she fit into the ever-evolving landscape of the rap game.
Something about Lil Tay spoke to the heart of 2018's zeitgeist. Her snotty posturing and manufactured indulgent lifestyle were simultaneously things of desire and derision for the nebulous population of the internet. In May 2018, YouTubers began work on a series of videos wherein they held up insane amounts of cash, posed near cars, and talked about how they were "flexing."
The videos were strange, to say the least. While some people were quick to write off the trend as "people making fun of an internet thing," the parodic focus was a 9-year-old child, making the #LilTayChallenge feel like cyberbullying on a massive scale.
Lil Tay being coached what to say by her brother... SAD! pic.twitter.com/lJi7o2AXnp— KEEM �� (@KEEMSTAR) May 21, 2018
From the onset of Lil Tay's rise to fame, people questioned if someone was behind the camera telling her what to say and how to act. There's no way a 9-year-old had free access to millions of dollars, high-end cars, or luxury homes.
In May 2018 someone allegedly exposed the real mastermind behind Lil Tay's operation - a video surfaced of the rapper taking directions from her 16-year-old brother, Jason.
In the video, Lil Tay's brother made her perform her lines repeatedly. The exchange was hard to watch, bordering on abusive. An anonymous person who worked with the online star told The Atlantic, "I've seen Lil Tay cry. I've seen her brother shout at her. Once [her brother] was yelling at her, saying, 'You're no good, it's no good.' She was crying hard."