But faking it until you make it isn’t exactly a deal breaker in the entertainment industry. Even most of Lil Tay’s most ardent supporters didn’t believe that the 9-year-old was a millionaire, and YouTubers are known to rent out cars, houses, and luxury goods to use as props in their videos. One manager who works with social-media stars compared YouTube and Instagram content like Lil Tay’s to rap videos. People know not everything in music videos is real, but they still appreciate the content for its entertainment value.
Producing that content, however, is grueling. It’s one thing to have a handful of videos reach viral success, but maintaining that success and putting out new, interesting, and creative content every day requires an incredible work ethic, especially for a 9-year-old.
All of this led many to speculate about who was really “behind” Lil Tay.
On Monday, Drama Alert obtained footage that purported to show Lil Tay’s 16-year-old brother Jason coaching her on specific lines. In the video, Jason bullies her saying, “No, no, no. Redo,” when she doesn’t perform her lines to his liking. On Wednesday, Lil Tay and her mother conducted a bizarre interview with Good Morning America where she seemed to struggle several times with her story. Meanwhile, footage of Lil Tay shouting the N-word and making explicit comments, after being prompted by her brother, simultaneously surfaced online.
“I’ve seen Lil Tay cry,” said one person who has worked closely with Lil Tay in the past but asked not to be identified by name for fear of jeopardizing their business relationship with the star. “I’ve seen her brother shout at her. Once Jason was yelling at her, saying, ‘You’re no good, it’s no good.’ She was crying hard.”
“If you really want to know who’s in charge, it’s the brother,” they said. “The mother has lost control of the son and he is the head of the household.”
When reached by phone in mid-April, Jason confirmed that he was the one in charge. He said that he was Lil Tay’s manager as far as the press was concerned, and claimed that he was the sole decision maker in regards to all of Lil Tay’s press requests and business opportunities. This loose hierarchy has since been confirmed by several people who have worked with Lil Tay.
“Lil Tay’s big brother who is like 16 years old is the one that is controlling her and telling her what to say,” Keemstar, host of Drama Alert, the leading YouTube news channel, said on a broadcast Tuesday evening.
But in a call on Wednesday, Gelbard pushed back. “Lil Tay’s brother is just another young person working to help them succeed as a family,” Gelbard said. “These are two young people who have come up with an incredible concept and are taking on the entertainment industry on their own. They are two kids working hard to make something successful happen, and they have.”
Gelbard said that ultimately, Angela Tian, her mother, is Lil Tay’s legal guardian, but that it’s natural for her to rely on her son in some capacity since he’s an expert in the area of social media.