Lil Tay, the social media child star who captivated the internet as “the youngest flexer of the century” has died at age 14, according to a statement from her family.
"It is with a heavy heart that we share the devastating news of our beloved Claire's sudden and tragic passing," read the heartfelt message posted to the late creator’s Instagram page. "We have no words to express the unbearable loss and indescribable pain. This outcome was entirely unexpected, and has left us all in shock."
Though the statement did not list mention how the rapper, whose real name was Claire Eileen Qi Hope, had passed away, they shared that her older brother and frequent collaborator, 21-year-old Jason Tian, had also died. "The circumstances surrounding Claire and her brother's passing are still under investigation,” they wrote.
"Claire will forever remain in our hearts," the message concluded. "Her absence leaving an irreplaceable void that will be felt by all who knew and loved her."
First skyrocketing to viral fame at nine years old with several brashly hilarious clips of her flaunting her wealth, posing with wads of cash, driving expensive cars and claiming everything she owned cost more than our rent, the young influencer quickly made a name for herself as one of the web’s most badass flexers.
Lil Tay was not the first internet personality to create these videos, nor would she be the last. What distinguished her from the internet’s ultra-saturated army of grindset bros wasn’t her age or her gender, it was her earnestness.
Beyond her bathtubs full of Benjamins, designer digs and high-end cars, Lil Tay embodied a keystone memory in many Zoomers’ childhoods, the not-so-long but oh-so-beloved tradition of grabbing a camera and spending a Saturday making dumb videos with your neighbors and siblings.
While she may have the luxury of exorbitant sets and eye-wateringly expensive props — the rest of us had to make do with our backyards and whatever we could scrounge from our dress-up boxes — Lil Tay, at least at first, was a little girl playing pretend, creating silly clips with her brother.
“It’s Lil Tay, and lemme tell y’all something, this shit cost more than your rent, my toilet cost more than your rent, everything in my bathroom cost more than your rent,” she said in one of her first viral videos dating back to March 2018.
After flexing her closet — “Everything in here be designer, Gucci, Louis, Versace,” she yelled — Lil Tay shared her inspirational tale of grindset success, one she claimed began when she was just entering grade school.
“When I was six years old, I lived in Atlanta, and I was broke as HELL!” the pint-sized influencer exclaimed. “But one day, I woke up and I said to myself, ‘I ain’t gonna be broke no more,’ and so I got up and started working hard, moving bricks, and we be livin’ in the hills,” she said with the same tenor of a kid whose older sibling just taught them how to make a grill out of tin foil.
She ended her video with a message of empowerment, one that while largely rendered cliche by the hustle bros of the internet, rang oddly sincere from a then nine-year-old girl.
“I worked hard! So if y’all worked hard, you can accomplish your dreams, just like I did,” she told the camera, a part of her truly appearing to believe that anything was possible.
And for a moment, it was.
Though her time in the limelight largely came to a close in late 2018 as several began questioning her family and how much the then pre-teen actually wanted to be Lil Tay, her legacy is — and will always be — defined by genuineness and hilarious badassery.
From carrying bands to chillin’ in Beamers, here are some of Lil Tay’s coolest flexes.