Nine-year-old Instagram star Lil Tay’s ‘flexing’ got her mom fired

That’s only the beginning of her reign of terror

If you think this is a wake-up call for the preteen calling herself “the youngest flexer of the century,” you haven’t been paying attention

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single, foul-mouthed young girl in possession of riches must be in want of viral fame.

At (allegedly) nine years old, viral star Lil Tay made headlines last week for getting her mother, Angela Tian, fired over her profanity-laden videos. If you haven’t heard of Lil Tay by now, consider yourself lucky. As the (repeatedly) self-anointed “youngest flexer of the century,” the kid does everything from revving “her” Ferraris to tossing stacks of hundred-dollar bills in the air with YouTube star Jake Paul. “I’m out here flexing to y’all broke-ass haters!” she crows, like a Lost Boy from hell, in one of her Instagram posts. “I got a $350,000 chain, y’all haven’t seen this in your lives, I’m richer than all y’all... y’all broke and jealous.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all that underaged “flexing” is now reaping real-world consequences. It was reported Thursday that Tay’s mother, Angela Tian, has been fired from her plum job as a Vancouver real estate agent for her involvement in those videos. “As of last week Angela is no longer attached with our firm,” Jim Lew, director of business development for Pacific Place Group, confirmed to The Verge in an email. “Our firm does not condone this type of behavior and has no place for this in our business.”


By “this type of behavior,” Lew no doubt is referring to Tian’s role as both Lil Tay’s mother and her manager, though subsequent posts on Lil Tay’s Instagram loudly state that she isn’t managed by anyone. Glimpses of a woman who looks like Lil Tay’s mom can be seen in this video (skip to 0:36). Lil Tay had not responded to requests for comment at press time.

The nature of social media and outrage culture means that an over-the-top caricature like Lil Tay was bound to go viral. She’s everything we’d hate to become, yet simultaneously aspire to as a culture, enhanced and stuffed into a grotesquely small package. Watching her videos makes you feel something unpleasant has latched onto your brain and started eating.

With over 1.7 million followers on Instagram, Lil Tay is every proverbial car crash you can’t look away from, except in miniature — painfully, cringingly miniature. She’s messy, like a growing child star plastered across the pages of tabloids over the past few decades, but she also embodies everything we understand about excess, about being extra. And if Lil Tay is already allowed to do this at nine years old, as she stresses every post, it’s unlikely her mother’s termination will be a wake-up call. According to The National Post, Tian has reportedly already said that critics simply “don’t get the joke” and that Lil Tay’s videos are “comedy” and “acting.”

Given Lil Tay’s latest post was just yesterday — in which she actually drives a Rolls Royce a few feet, with a dog in sunglasses in the passenger seat, and kicks the car door to prove she definitely owns it — it’s only logical that she’s nowhere near done flexing, especially as fans continue to flood her Instagram and YouTube accounts with likes and views. “I’m trying to accomplish my dreams,” she cries in one of her videos to “haters” who were reporting her account for one reason or another.

But Lil Tay’s rise to stardom feels as familiar as it does singularly horrifying. Her antics ring some of the same bells as the child stars of yesteryear, from Judy Garland to Corey Haim to Lindsay Lohan, all of whom developed tumultuous relationships with the public as they approached adolescence. Tabloids follow along rapidly as kids act (and are treated) like adults, all the way through the eventual arrests and multiple rehab stints, burning brightly only to eventually crash and burn in front of our eyes.


But the more recent crops of famous kids — first reality stars, then viral hits like Tay — have more often than not started and maintained their careers by being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous, rewarded with fame and followers because of it. That’s noticeably true for a lot of the prominent content creators on now-defunct micro-video platform Vine (RIP). Vine gave way to really snappy, funny, and slapstick comedy snippets that can be digested readily and easily. It’s how we got Logan and Jake Paul, who now each have millions of followers on YouTube, their second home. These new stars have been propelled into the spotlight for being bad first, rather than starring in any notable movies or TV shows; sometimes, they’re famous for having no obvious talent at all. Viewers love a hot mess, and more views equal financial success in this world where clicks and eyeballs equal monetization.


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