Inside mysterious ‘death’ of 14-year-old influencer Lil Tay

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By Dan Sears

She’s alive — but there’s still a cloud of controversy and tragedy surrounding 14-year-old influencer Lil Tay, whose reported death rocked the internet this week.

The social media sensation, who amassed millions of followers with expletive-ridden rants and photos of her holding wads of cash before going silent in 2018 — when she was just 9 — was alleged to be dead on Wednesday, according to a statement on her Instagram account. The post also claimed that her brother Jason Tian, 22, had passed away recently.

“We have no words to express the unbearable loss and indescribable pain. This outcome was entirely unexpected and has left us all in shock,” the statement read.

Almost immediately, conspiracy theories took rise online as Tay’s alleged ex-manager anonymously told the US Sun that they were skeptical about why the statement hadn’t been signed from anyone in Tay’s family — and the child’s own father refused to confirm or deny the deaths.

On Thursday, the girl also known as Claire Hope and Tay Tian surfaced to say it was all a hoax.

Lil Tay sitting on a Mercedes SUV and holding stacks of cash
Lil Tay amassed more than 3.5 million followers in 2018 with her vulgar videos showing her flashing cash, cursing and driving expensive cars.

Lil Tay sitting on and holding ash
Her internet fame waned after only a few months.

“I want to make it clear that my brother and I are safe and alive, but I’m completely heartbroken and struggling to even find the right words to say,” Lil Tay told TMZ Thursday via a “statement from her family.”

“It’s been a very traumatizing 24 hours. All day yesterday, I was bombarded with endless heartbreaking and tearful phone calls from loved ones all while trying to sort out this mess.”

She went on to claim that her long-stagnant Instagram account had been “compromised” and “used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors regarding me…”

Lil Tay appearing to "smoke" a baby carrot
Lil Tay’s videos were said to be staged by her older brother.

But the new statement did little to assuage fears about Lil Tay’s health and safety, especially considering ominous reports over the years detailing a bitter custody battle over her and rumors that she was being abused and exploited by family members.

Equally puzzling was her father’s response to a Post reporter Wednesday. Christopher Hope, an attorney who lives in Vancouver, just added fuel to the fire when he would not speak about his children’s purported deaths

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“Yeah, you have the right person,” Hope told The Post, adding: “Sorry, I can’t really comment or give you any help.”

A photo of Lil Tay showing an apparent bruise on her cheek
A 2021 GoFundMe created by Tay’s brother, Jason, claimed the girl was abused by her father and stepmother.

 A photo of Lil Tay.
The Post has been unable to reach Lil Tay’s father, Christopher Hope, to ask him about allegations that Tay was abused in his care.

Deepening the mystery, Rolling Stone reported Thursday that the news coincided with the launch of a Little Tay crypto project apparently overseen by the girl’s manager Harry Tsang. Furthermore, Tsang told Rolling Stone that he did not believe there had been a hack — and that this could be the work of Tay’s brother.

“The actions of Liltay’s brother, renowned for his propensity for extreme measures, lead me to hypothesize an alternative motive behind this occurrence,” Tsang told Rolling Stone. “It is conceivable that the intention behind these events could be rooted in an endeavor to illicitly extract funds from devoted supporters and unwitting bystanders.”

The website for LilTay Token was taken down after the girl emerged to say she was alive.

Home page for LilTay Token, showing a caricature of Lil Tay
Rolling Stone reported that the alleged hack coincided with the launch of a Lil Tay crypto project — though the website for LilTay Token was taken down after the girl emerged to say she is alive.

Lil Tay became internet famous in 2018 with videos that showed the child trash-talking and flaunting wads of cash in luxe settings.

Many of Lil Tay’s clips consisted of her appearing to pull up in an expensive car such as a Ferrari or Rolls Royce — complete with a sunglasses-clad dog in the passenger seat. 

In one video she kicks in the door of an off-white Rolls, damaging it, while bragging about “dropping 400 racks” on this car and driving it around Beverly Hills without a license.

It’s a theme that runs through her videos.

 Lil Tay.
Lil Tay has said it was her idea to do her Instagram account videos and that she was not influenced by her family.

“This is a message to all y’all broke ass haters, y’all ain’t doin’ it like Lil Tay,” she said in one video showing her flashing a stack of cash and getting into an expensive-looking sportscar. “This is why all you f–king haters hate me. s–t cost me $200,000. I’m only 9 years old. I ain’t got no license but I still drive this sportscar, b–ch.”

In 2019, New York magazine summed up the absurd Lil Tay lore: “She grew up ‘broke as hell’ in Atlanta but worked really hard ‘moving bricks.’ Eventually she got into Harvard and then dropped out. At one point … she claimed to be “partially black.” Now she lives in ‘the hills’ (which ones? She hasn’t specified).”

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In reality, Tay Tian is a little girl who lives in Vancouver. Her mother has worked as a real estate broker and her father is a lawyer. It was Jason, the brother, who reportedly created the Lil Tay character and coached his sister on what to say.

Lil Tay and her father, Christopher Hope
Lil Tay, seen here when she was younger with her father, Christopher Hope of Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Christopher John Hope/facebook

In 2018, a reporter for “Good Morning America” interviewed Lil Tay and her mother, Angela Tian, grilling them about Lil Tay’s vulgarity on screen and reports that her family was profiting off her videos.

“No one’s forcing me to do this,” Lil Tay said as her smiling mother sat next to her. “That’s not true that she [Angela] wants to make money off me.”

She quickly connected with other internet-famous types, including the rapper Bhad Bhabie, made a video with rapper Chief Keef and, according to the New York magazine profile, her family ran through a string of managers and didn’t follow through on a six-figure music deal for Tay.

Slice of pizza.
Jason Tian alleged that Tay had been given moldy, old food by her stepmother, including this pizza.

But Lil Tay, who was said to be home-schooled, stopped posting on her verified Instagram account in June 2018 after just six months, with big names weighing in on her “career.”

Snoop Dogg criticized the child’s use of the n-word but Bow Wow defended her, saying “she was probably just looking at it like a form of entertainment. She was just playing a role.”

Videos showing Tay flashing cash in luxury homes were reportedly shot inside houses listed by her real estate broker mother and at least one of the expensive cars she was seen in reportedly belonged to her mother’s boss. According to Vice, Angela’s boss stated that she resigned from her job before she could be fired.

Fake death announcement for Lil Tay
The death announcement on Lil Tay’s site is now said to have been the result of a hack.

By 2021, it appeared that Lil Tay’s life had taken a very sinister turn.

Her brother Jason organized a GoFundMe for his younger sister titled “Save Tay from a Life of Abuse” and outlined a litany of nightmarish accusations.

Hope has previously said of such allegations: “If there is any abuse [of Lil Tay], it didn’t take place at my house or have anything to do with me.”

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Jason accused his father and his stepmother Hanee Hope, aka Richanee Alcover, of physically and mentally abusing Tay and trying to gain custody of her just to exploit and hurt her.

Lil Tay and her mom, Angela Tian, on "Good Morning America."
Lil Tay and her mother, Angela Tian, sat for an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 2018, when the girl said her family was not looking to make money off her.

The son said Christopher Hope owed Angela Tian thousands in child support for the kids but refused to pay it, and that he gained 50/50 custody of Tay just to reduce his payments.

Jason also accused Hope of bringing women home and having sex with them naked while Tay slept in the same bed. He claimed that Hope gave the girl “things like moldy bread, moldy chicken with little maggots and parasites coming out of it, one-month-old pizza, leftover soggy white bread with ketchup, cold burnt toast hard as a rock, and sometimes only crackers for lunch.”

The Hopes also hit Tay and locked her in a dark closet at times, Jason said. The GoFundMe page included photos of Tay showing what was said to be cheek bruises inflicted by her father, moldy food and a police report filed on Tay’s behalf in Vancouver, among other documents.

The Post was unable to reach Christopher Hope or any members of Tay’s family for comment on those allegations or other issues involving Tay and Jason Thursday.

When Tay’s mom appeared on “Good Morning America,” she presented a portrait of her daughter unlike the little girl’s online image.

“She is well-mannered and a great kid,” she said. Asked about Tay’s foul-mouthed videos, Angela said simply that her daughter “has a passion. Passion and a dream.”

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