Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

Shock over a statement announcing the sudden death of Lil Tay, a 15-year-old internet personality and rapper who rose to viral fame as a foul-mouthed, braggadocious nine-year-old on Instagram, gave way to confusion after the girl’s father and former manager refused to confirm or deny her death, and TMZ has now reported that she is still alive.

An unsigned statement posted on to Lil Tay’s Instagram account on Wednesday said the star’s death at 15 was “sudden and tragic” and “entirely unexpected”. It also said that her older brother Jason Tian, who at one point had been in control of her account before it went dormant in 2018, had also died, and that both deaths were under investigation.

“It is with a heavy heart that we share the devastating news of our beloved Claire’s sudden and tragic passing,” the Instagram message read. (Lil Tay’s legal name was reported to be Claire Hope.) “This outcome was entirely unexpected and has left us all in shock. Her brother’s passing adds an even more unimaginable depth to our grief.

“During this time of immense sorrow,” the statement continued, “we kindly ask for privacy as we grieve this overwhelming loss, as the circumstances surrounding Claire and her brother’s passing are still under investigation.”

The statement has since been removed from Instagram.

On Thursday, TMZ reported that the social media star was in fact still alive and that her Instagram had been hacked, citing a statement from her family. According to the statement, Lil Tay sought “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. 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 also said: “My Instagram account was compromised by a 3rd party and used to spread jarring misinformation and rumors regarding me, to the point that even my name was wrong. My legal name is Tay Tian, not ‘Claire Hope.’”

Earlier Wednesday, Lil Tay’s father and former manager refused to confirm or deny her death, with the latter calling for “cautious consideration” in handling the news. Speaking to Insider, her father, Christopher Hope, refused to comment on the Instagram post and declined to answer whether his daughter was alive.

Her former manager, Harry Tsang, also declined to confirm or deny her death. “Given the complexities of the current circumstances, I am at a point where I cannot definitively confirm or dismiss the legitimacy of the statement issued by the family,” Tsang told Insider in an email on Wednesday. “This situation calls for cautious consideration and respect for the sensitivities involved. My commitment remains focused on delivering updates that are both reliable and appropriately timed.”

The Guardian could not immediately reach Tsang for further comment. In the absence of confirmation, internet speculation over whether the announcement was a hoax has run rampant.

The police departments in Vancouver, where Lil Tay was raised, and Los Angeles, where she resided for a time during her viral fame, had no information on the death of anyone named Claire Hope, according to Insider. The Vancouver police department confirmed they were not investigating a case.

Lil Tay accumulated more than 2 million followers as a brash, profane nine-year-old in 2017, with videos featuring the girl in mansions and fancy cars with handfuls of cash. The account went dark that summer after a video was posted online in which she appeared to be coached by someone off-camera, whom many suspected was her brother Jason.

The account resumed that October with bizarre and concerning activity, including a video of the girl crying that was posted and then taken down. The posts, later scrubbed, levied serious allegations of abuse by Christopher Hope amid a bitter custody dispute. Many suspected Jason had taken over the account, and was the engine behind Lil Tay’s attention-grabbing videos.

Activity briefly resumed on the account in 2021 with several posts, presumably from her brother, that accused Christopher Hope of physical and mental abuse and stealing all of Lil Tay’s money, amid a supposed business dispute between Tsang and Hope on one side and Lil Tay, Jason and their mother, Angela Tian, on the other. Hope denied the allegations and sent a cease and desist letter to Instagram.

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