UPDATE: After this article was published, Lil Tay came forward to say that she is not dead.
Those close to viral internet star Lil Tay have been left baffled by the Wednesday announcement of her death—which her father, former managers, and cops have still refused, or failed, to confirm.
“I don’t know, man. I’m really fucking confused,” producer and family friend John Cunningham told The Daily Beast when reached by phone on Thursday morning. Cunningham added that he only answered The Daily Beast’s call “in hopes that it would have some information for me.”
Cunningham left a comment on Wednesday’s Instagram post announcing Tay’s death, telling Tay’s mom to “call me please I’m on my way to the house.” That mysterious Instagram statement is still the only evidence that the 14-year-old, whose real name is Claire Hope, is dead.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the devastating news of our beloved Claire’s sudden and tragic passing,” the post said. “We have no words to express the unbearable loss and indescribable pain. This outcome was entirely unexpected, and has left us all in shock.”
Little else was revealed about the death but the statement also announced the death of Tay’s brother, also with sparse detail, adding that the “circumstances surrounding Claire and her brother’s passing are still under investigation.”
However, the police department in Vancouver—where Claire was believed to be living as of 2021—said it hadn’t received reports of their deaths. “As of now, we are not aware and are not investigating,” the PD told The Daily Beast.
Nor had the coroner in Los Angeles, where Hope briefly lived after she shot to fame in 2018, and before she was court-ordered to move to Canada to live with her father. A spokesperson for the L.A. County Coroner’s office said they had no record of Claire Hope, Claire Eileen Qi Hope, or her brother Jason Tian, in their system.
The coroner in Vancouver did not immediately respond to a request for information on Wednesday.
Only adding to the mystery on Wednesday, Claire’s former manager Harry Tsang said in a cryptic statement that he couldn’t confirm her or her brother’s deaths.
“I have been in communication with individuals who have an intimate understanding of the family’s situation,” Tsang told The Daily Beast. “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.”
For what it’s worth, Tsang said he enlisted the help of his personal psychic, according to a TikTok he made about it, who suggested that “the initial news might not be entirely accurate.”
“When I look at the messages, I don’t sense any soul crossing the line to another dimension,” Tsang’s psychic, Psychic Eliza, clarified to The Daily Beast. “I pick up something not very real about the statement.”
Does that mean she thinks there’s a chance Lil Tay and her brother could still be alive? “The two persons [mentioned]—I think that one is on the brink of crossing the line, but the other one, I don’t see it anymore,” Eliza said.
Duane Laventure, Claire’s social media manager, said he could not comment on Wednesday under instruction from Claire’s mother. Victor K. Sapphire, who was listed as the legal contact when “LIL TAY” trademark applications were filed for Hope and her guardian, also declined to speak.
Meanwhile, Business Insider, who managed to speak to the internet personality's father, Christopher Hope, reported that he “told Insider he could not comment on the Instagram post and declined to answer whether his daughter was still alive.”
Speaking to the New York Post, Hope said, “Yeah, you have the right person, but I don’t have any comment right now. I’m not able to give you any comment right now. I’m sorry—I can’t.”
The rapper and influencer rapidly rose to fame when she was just 9, posting rap videos and clips of her “flexing” money and expensive possessions on social media, and starting online beefs with minor internet personalities.
She racked up more than 3 million followers during that time, but has been largely inactive on social media since then. Her last Instagram post was in June 2018 to mourn the loss of “father figure” XXXTentacion.
One of her collaborators, a music producer known as Diablo, told The Daily Beast that he saw both her and her brother’s determination, as well as their kind personalities that oftentimes differed from their online personas.
“Lil Tay and her brother’s journey was one of determination and courage. Behind the scenes, I had the privilege of witnessing their dedication firsthand,” he said. “They were two young souls navigating the challenges of fame, driven by their aspirations and shared love for their craft. Their bond was stronger than the struggles they faced, especially considering their complex relationship with their father.”
In 2018, Claire’s family was accused of abusing the internet star. Her mom and brother faced allegations of forcing Claire to make content and coaching her on how to stir controversy and garner the most attention.
Meanwhile, Claire’s father was accused of physically and mentally abusing her—as well as taking a chunk of her earnings—alongside his wife, according to a GoFundMe campaign started by Claire’s brother. Claire was court ordered to live with her father in Canada in 2018, and has been largely silent on social media ever since.
In an interview with The Daily Beast at the time of the court order, Lil Tay made several wild claims of abuse and said she was “in a bad situation” with her father. She said her dad was forcing her to stop making videos and instead start attending a public school but she felt she was “too famous for that.”
“I didn’t see him for multiple years. He never saw me for so long, it’s obvious he just came back because he wants money,” she said, adding that her dad threatened to have her and her mom arrested if they didn’t go back to Vancouver.