The wellbeing of a pre-teen internet personality known for her supposed vast amounts of wealth and bad language has fans concerned.
Rapper Lil Tay’s Instagram account has been relatively inactive for a couple of years, but sputtered back into action in April 2021 with the words, “We have bad news about Tay...”
So just what has happened? Who is the rapper, and is she OK? Here is everything we know so far.
Who is Lil Tay?
Lil Tay – real name Claire Hope – is a Canadian YouTuber, rapper and internet personality, who first shot to fame in 2018 when she was just nine years old.
The self-proclaimed “youngest flexer of the century” debuted her first single in early 2018, a trap-influenced track that featured lyrics like: "I keep a chopper on me, f*** that b**** up all my diamonds on freeze".
She quickly became known for her foul mouth while bragging about her wealth (she once gleefully told viewers how her toilet was worth more than most people’s rent), flashing wads of cash, and “flexing” in sports cars.
She quickly gained fame both online and within the hip-hop community, and even found herself getting a mention in Eminem’s 2018 song, ‘Killshot’.
Is Lil Tay real?
Tay’s background has always been a subject of debate among fans, leading many to speculate the pre-teen rapper wasn’t in fact a real child, and was in fact a persona dreamt up and manipulated by internet-fame hungry parents.
Through years of internet fan sleuthing and interviews, it’s now known that Tay’s mother is Angela Tian, a suburban realtor from Vancouver.
Tian used her career connections to film videos with Tay in the empty luxury homes that she was otherwise supposed to be selling.
The expensive sports cars seen in many of Tay’s videos? They allegedly belonged to Tian’s boss, and were used without their permission.
In late May 2018, Lil Tay gave an interview to Good Morning America, with her mother also appearing with a chance to defend herself against accusations that the treatment of the nine-year-old was “exploitation or borderline abuse”.
Despite claims to the contrary, Tian argued that Tay’s videos were all of her own volition, and that the nine year old was the only person with access to her own Instagram account.
“She had the idea with her brother,” she later told The Daily Beast in 2019. “I was never involved.
Tay herself has said she started the Instagram account “around the beginning of 2018”, saying “I just wanted to do that.”
What has happened to her?
Tay’s account has posted cryptic messages in the past.
It’s technically not been active since June 2018 when, shortly following her appearance on Good Morning America, a bitter custody fight broke out between her parents.
All of her previous posts were wiped and replaced simply with the words “help me”.
Then, in October of the same year, an unnamed person who claimed to have "worked” with Tay in the past took over her account, posting images and videos with detailed descriptions, many relating to her father, Christopher Hope.
According to those posts, Tay suffered abuse at the hands of Hope in 2014 whilst living with him before he moved to Canada with a new partner.
The posts made by Tay’s anonymous account holder (later revealed to be her older brother, Jason) alleged Hope "often slept with different women with Tay in the same bed" and "was naked around Tay" often.
The posts also claimed he would also feed her “horrible food substances” for school lunches, and that the sister of Hope's new partner “would scream at Tay and forcefully lock her in a dark closet for hours at a time for no reason.”
Once Tay was gaining notoriety, Hope filed a court order to have Tay leave social media and move back in with him; this may have been what the words "help me” were in reference to.
"I was really unhappy that she had dropped out of school to participate in inappropriate activities that I thought could negatively affect her future and her present,” said Hope.
"She was never locked in a closet. If there is any abuse, it didn’t take place at my house or have anything to do with me. Whoever was running the Instagram… made a lot of false allegations.”
The late-2018 flurry of activity also saw Tay’s Instagram leak personal documents (including a passport that appeared to show Tay was actually 16) – Tay and her mother have since claimed the account was hacked.
Tay said her and her mother “had to” go back to Vancouver as Hope was “threatening arrest”.
“He never saw me for so long, it’s obvious he just came back because he wants money.”
Is she OK?
On 21 April 2021, a message appeared on Lil Tay's Instagram Stories that simply read: “We have bad news about Tay..."
It took a while for a follow up to be provided, leading many fans to worry that the rapper – now 11 years old – was in some kind of physical trouble. Or worse.
In her 2019 interview with The Daily Beast, Tay said she was “in a bad situation [with Chris Hope],” adding, “I don’t want to talk about these things.”
"I don’t want anything except for Claire to be educated, safe, and happy and protected both now and in the future,” said Hope as part of the same article, in which it was revealed he had also trademarked the Lil Tay name “because it was obvious that her mum hadn’t taken any steps to do things in a business-like manner.”
Hours after Tay’s latest Instagram story was posted, there have been no developments or confirmations of her wellbeing.
Logging back on to Instagram now reveals a slew of posts have been made since April, with many purporting to show the effects of Hope’s abuse on Tay.
None of the posts have been verified, and in one video – which appears to show Hope confronted as he drops off documents to Tay’s residence – Hope responds to the person behind the camera with “nice one, Jason”, which confirms Tay’s brother is behind the posts.
"Let me clarify,” says the posts caption, “Chris Hope does not have custody of Tay. He has taken all of Tay’s money. Everything you’ve seen online is just speculation, this is because Chris Hope has silenced Tay through the legal system from speaking out about the truth.”
Another post alleges “Chris Hope and his wife Hanee Hope (previously known as Richanee Alcover) have been living a lavish lifestyle and going on Vacations all off of Tay’s money.”
A GoFundMe has been setup to provide funds for Tay’s ongoing court battles.
What is Lil Tay’s net worth?
The website coed.com estimated Lil Tay’s net worth to be $500,000 (£360,000) as of 2019.