- Controversial 11-year-old Instagram celebrity Lil Tay, whose real name is Claire Hope, racked up 2.5 million followers before she disappeared from the internet last June.
- Her parents, who are estranged, are battling behind the scenes to control her future.
- Claire’s father, Christopher Hope, has been the subject of relentless online harassment. The main @LilTay account, as well as a secondary @freeliltay__ account, posted lurid and unsubstantiated allegations about him, along with his personal contact information.
- Christopher Hope told INSIDER he’s received thousands of phone calls and messages from aggrieved Lil Tay supporters. Fans have sent him threats and told him to leave his daughter alone.
- Angela Tian, Claire’s mother, told INSIDER she believes a hacker gained control of the @LilTay account earlier this year.
- Even though she’s been approached by brands and record labels, Claire’s career continues to be on hold as her parents disagree over her future.
The calls started coming in August.
Christopher Hope’s personal phone number was posted to the Instagram account of his daughter, known to the world as Lil Tay, and broadcast to her 2.5 million followers.
Thousands of calls and texts rolled in, Hope said. They continued for days, and included demands for him to leave his daughter alone – and threats if he did not. That harassment extended out to his family and his workplace, too.
“It’s not easy to be on the end of extortion and harassment and death threats,” Hope, who works as a civil litigator in Vancouver, told INSIDER. “But if the people doing those things think it’s going to make me give up my responsibility to make sure Claire is taken care of, they’re just wrong.”
The harassment is the latest drama over the future of Claire Hope, better known as the 11- year-old Instagram phenomenon Lil Tay.
Lil Tay rose to fame as a controversial internet celebrity by making videos in which she bragged about purportedly owning expensive mansions and cars, dropping out of Harvard (despite, well, only being 11), and owning stacks and stacks of cash. As she grew her account and brand, she collaborated with up-and-coming rappers, and leveraged her outsized on-screen personality to social media success. Earlier this year, videos of Claire smoking a hookah, hanging out with rapper Chief Keef, and dancing with YouTube provocateur Jake Paul, went viral – much to the delight of her millions of fans.
But then in June she disappeared from the internet following a protracted battle between her estranged parents, Angela Tian and Christopher Hope.
In the months since Lil Tay’s online disappearance, there’s been a new development. A person or persons posting on Lil Tay’s Instagram accounts has been waging a campaign against her father, posting Christopher’s personal information online, fuelling nonstop vitriol towards him. Claire’s mother told INSIDER she believes it was a hacker. Claire’s father says he wants to take action against whomever posted the content. At stake is control over the career – and potential fortune – of one of the most talked-about young influencers on Instagram.
The harassment comes during a long battle over Lil Tay’s future
Lil Tay’s main Instagram account has around 2.5 million followers and has been relatively quiet for months. But she also apparently has a secondary account, @freeliltay__, which currently has around 250,000 followers and is set to private. Earlier this year, the account was listed in @LilTay’s Instagram account description, though it’s since been removed. It’s been the locus of the harassment against Christopher.
Via Instagram stories, the @freeliltay__ account has encouraged its followers to call Christopher’s personal phone number, the law firm where he works, and his personal attorney’s office. He says he’s received thousands of phone calls and messages from aggrieved Lil Tay supporters.
Fans of the young influencer bombarded him with calls and messages, sending threats and asking him to leave his daughter alone – some of them threatening to kill him, his wife, and his two other children.
Then in October, the @LilTay account posted a series of unsubstantiated allegations claiming Christopher was abusive. Soon afterwards, the @freeliltay__ account reiterated the allegations and posted Christopher Hope’s work phone number. That number received hundreds of calls.
The harassment seemed to spread into Christopher’s personal circle. As a part of the campaign against Christopher, he said, friends and family members, including those of his wife, received harassing messages on Facebook, from accounts that appeared to be fake.
Christopher believes the harassment is tied to what he thinks is best for his daughter. And he says it’s caused him to reconsider whether Claire – and her career – are actually in good hands.
“If none of this harassment had happened, [Claire] would probably be in Los Angeles right now doing what she wanted to do,” he said. “She would be [performing] music and acting. But they have just made it impossible to me to believe that she’ll be taken care of.”
The conflict between Christopher and Angela over their daughter’s future became a crisis during a trip Angela, Claire, and Claire’s half-brother Jason took to Los Angeles last spring. On April 5, the trio travelled to LA during Claire’s school spring break to find her a manager. The tickets were paid for by the manager of rapper Lil Pump, who they planned to meet, Angela told The Daily Beast. They went with the permission of Christopher, who has a joint-custody arrangement with Angela. At that point, Claire was already a bona-fide Instagram celebrity, and Christopher said he thought they’d be gone for only a few days while they sought proper representation.
But the three stayed in Los Angeles far beyond Claire’s spring break. She made a series of videos with Jake Paul, hung out with the rapper Chief Keef, and got into viral tiffs with influencers Woah Vicky and Bhad Bhabie.
Claire became very famous very quickly.
The attention – both good and bad – quickly catapulted Claire into the spotlight. Her Instagram account gained around 50,000 new followers a day. In May,Jezebel and The Atlantic wrote about her, and ABC’s Good Morning America” interviewed her and Angela for a segment. But at the same time, being in Los Angeles meant she wasn’t attending school anymore.
“She dropped out of school at that point, basically,” Christopher told INSIDER. “She missed 72 days from school last year for no reason,” he said.
Christopher sought a court order to have Claire and Angela return to Vancouver. A Vancouver-based family court granted the order in May, and the group returned to Canada. In June, Lil Tay’s Instagram account went quiet.
Angela says she wants to look after Claire while supporting her influencer career and keeping up its rapid growth. But without the ability to travel back to Los Angeles, the Lil Tay brand has stalled. She blames Christopher for the limitation.
Christopher said he wants to integrate Claire into his own family – he is now married and has two more children – and allow her to continue her pursuits, but with a more formal legal and managerial structure in place.
“Everything kind of went sideways, and me and my family are paying the price for trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Claire’s mother says her dad just wants to profit from her daughter
To Angela, Christopher’s claims about the harassment and desire to establish stability in his daughter’s career is just a smokescreen. The real thing he wants, she told INSIDER, is fame and money.
Claire, according to Angela, wants nothing to do with her father. Until Claire became famous, she said, he hadn’t seen her in years. And while bank records obtained by INSIDER show that Christopher has paid Angela thousands of dollars on a regular basis, Angela said that the payments aren’t sufficient.
Currently, Angela and Christopher are sharing custody of Claire, though Christopher has full decision-making authority in legal matters, according to court decisions reviewed by INSIDER. Angela is seeking full custody, arguing that Christopher has little involvement in her life.
“My daughter, Lil Tay, has been with me since birth. She never goes to Christopher Hope’s house,” she said. “If she wasn’t famous, do you think he would bother?… He just wants fame and money.”
“Unfortunately, he is a parent. Nobody can change that. That’s fact. But he wasn’t in her life,” she continued
Christopher thinks Angela has it backwards. He’s the parent who needs to be responsible, he said.
“I think the story here isn’t ‘Dad didn’t take care of his celebrity daughter and wanted to get involved because she’s a celebrity,'” he said. “The story is ‘Dad tried to do the right thing to make sure his daughter is protected. And as a result, the people that want to make money off the daughter went to war with him.'”
Christopher Hope got thousands of calls telling him to leave his daughter alone
Christopher believes the purpose of the harassment he and his family received is to put pressure on him to end his involvement in his daughter’s career and day to day life. But he said he isn’t going to cave to it.
According to Angela, her son Jason currently controls the @LilTay Instagram account, though both she and Jason deny being behind the campaign. Instead, they say it was the result of the account being hacked twice in the past few months. Angela provided INSIDER a copy of a police report filed in September with the Los Angeles Police Department claiming the account was hacked and that the posts were made without permission.
Instagram declined INSIDER’s request for comment.
Christopher says he plans to take legal action over the online campaign – and he knows who’s behind it.
“I know who planned and carried out the harassment,” he told INSIDER in December, claiming “[in] addition to the ongoing police investigations in [British Columbia] and California, a civil lawsuit for defamation, harassment, and extortion is being prepared against defendants in Vancouver and Los Angeles.”
Representatives for the Los Angeles Police Department and Vancouver Police Department did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Christopher says he wants Claire’s future to be secure
Angela says that she’s already sacrificed a lot for Claire to grow her career as an influencer – including leaving her job as a realtor to focus on growing the Lil Tay brand full time. (Angela left the real estate firm Pacific Place Group after her daughter used both Angela’s boss’s cars and the firm’s properties in Lil Tay videos.)
“It’s a struggle to resign, but I [had] to if I want Lil Tay to continue pursuing her dream,” she said. “My child is everything to me… Somebody has to sacrifice. It’s me. Nobody else. I’m going to have to take care of her.”
Christopher insists he isn’t against the idea of his daughter being a celebrity, he simply wants the process to have more structure. He wants Claire to get an education, hire a manager with professional experience, file trademarks on her intellectual property, and ensure that money is set aside for her future.
“The way she is being managed – by Jason and her mum, who know nothing about the business and know nothing about management, to be honest – is not appropriate, and it cannot happen that way,” he said.
Several sources with knowledge of the negotiations told INSIDER that over the past six months Claire has been in talks with record companies to make an album. She’s also been offered acting roles in a handful of movie and web show productions, according to messages and contract proposals reviewed by INSIDER. If one of those deals moves forward, Claire could feasibly move to Los Angeles with a work visa.
But Christopher says that won’t happen unless everyone comes to an agreement about how Lil Tay’s management operates.
“She doesn’t have [a record deal] right now so there’s this barrier to her even going down to the States,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for her to sign a record deal and to get [a working] visa, but it’s contingent upon us agreeing on a bunch of stuff in terms of how the business is going to be run.”
In the meantime, Christopher remains uncomfortable with the degree of influence Angela and her son wield over Lil Tay. “I really am so concerned that her life is going to be ruined if those are the people who are managing her.”
- Read more:
- Nearly 90% of Americans think it’s wrong to make money from photos of children on social media
- 11-year-old Instagram star Lil Tay went silent for months, and now there’s a secret battle brewing to control her future
- 9-year-old Instagram star Lil Tay apologizes for using a racist slur in a video: ‘I’m not racist at all’
- A 4-year-old known as ‘Mini Jake Paul’ is quickly becoming one of YouTube’s biggest celebrities – and it exposes a big issue with child stars
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