The 13-year-old living internet meme—who was allegedly tricked into visiting a shady rapper’s home—is a danger to herself and others.
Danielle Bregoli is the last female celebrity I want to be writing about on International Women’s Day. The 13-year-old skyrocketed to fame after she told rapt members of Dr. Phil’s studio audience to “cash me outside, howbow dah?” According to Bregoli’s mother, who co-starred in her daughter’s televised cry for help, the invitation loosely translates to “she’ll go outside and do what she has to do.” And Danielle has been doing what she has to do—whether that’s attacking a fellow passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight, starring in a Kodak Black music video, peddling her own line of “Cash Me Outside” merchandise, or taking a victory lap on Dr. Phil. Ever since that infamous segment aired and re-aired ad nauseam across Instagram meme accounts, “Cash Me Outside” girl has earned the new moniker of viral sensation.
In the celebrity hierarchy, meme star ranks about 10 rungs below B-Lister and one step above Jonathan Cheban. While standing outside L.A. hotspots waiting for the paparazzi to notice you might sound like a glamorous gig, Bregoli is more or less amusing the masses pro bono. Despite being a particularly rich source of headlines and material, Danielle is essentially alienated from her own labor. Dozens of TMZ articles don’t yield personal profits, and neither does agreeing to star in a music video for free publicity. That’s not a job, it’s an unpaid internship. Bregoli’s attempts to directly translate her 15 minutes of fame into fat stacks have gone pretty poorly, with Hanes accusing the Dr. Phil star of ripping off their logo for her own line of merchandise.
Unfortunately for Bregoli, you can’t sucker punch a cease-and-desist letter.
While Bregoli appears to have remained relevant far past her expected expiration date, landing her in a meme league of her own (well, her, Pepe, and Harambe), looks can be deceiving. Aside from a lifelong ban from Spirit Airlines, Bregoli doesn’t have much to show for her time in the spotlight—in fact, she’s taken a series of L’s. On Tuesday, she was supposedly hacked by a group of online vigilantes who chastised the insta-celeb for her rotten behavior. The “hack” was later revealed to be a confusing PR stunt hyping a new music video. According to an email from Bregoli’s team, the collaboration with visual artist Glassface was meant to be “a commentary on the state of celebrity, current events…hysteria, fake news & conspiracy theories.” In a series of three videos posted on her Instagram, the so-called hackers explained, “This is the modern day celebrity. This country glorifies and makes famous a young girl for being disrespectful to her mother. She is no role model. She is no idol. She is no God. Pay close attention to what happens next.” There was also a Cyrillic component to the hack, because if the “Cash Me Outside” girl isn’t being targeted in a pseudo-Russian hack, is it even 2017?
And while @bhadbhabie is back and better than ever—aka posting videos from WorldStarHipHop to her 7.5 million Instagram followers—online pseudo-hackers aren’t the only ones who are trying to take advantage of Bregoli’s following.
Miami rapper Stitches, a 21-year-old man with a huge face tattoo, looks exactly like the kind of guy who would trick a 13-year-old with a “business proposition.” And, allegedly, he did just that, reaching out to Danielle with “a vague proposition to work together” that she subsequently turned down. When rejected by a tween who’s famous for appearing on the Dr. Phil show, the normal response is to cut your losses. Instead, Stitches reportedly slid into the DMs of one of Bregoli’s friends, offering to pay her if she could successfully lure the 13-year-old to his home. Stitches’ alleged amateur abduction was a success, and the rapper managed to get a collaboration and a music video out of Bregoli without triggering an Amber Alert. Subsequently, Bregoli’s representative dragged the rapper in the press for exploiting the tween, saying, “Stitches is a scumbag. He tricked a child into his van by offering her candy.” Stiches clapped back on his intriguingly private Instagram account, claiming that he and Danielle made a “hit song” and blasting TMZ’s “bullshit story.”
In related news, Stitches, aka Phillip Katsabanis, has three children, and was arrested on felony drug and gun-possession charges in January when police found a firearm and a “Mason jar of marijuana” in his car, reported NBC News. Of course, rap sheets haven’t been a deterrent for Danielle in the past—her last collaborator Kodak Black has been arrested on numerous charges, including robbery, battery, and sexual assault.
But the last adult lining up for Bregoli-related handouts is undoubtedly the most depressing. Danielle’s own father, Ira Peskowitz, appears to have started a GoFundMe on behalf of his “estranged” daughter. Linking to articles about Danielle’s growing infamy, he writes, “I’m asking for help with covering fees associated to legal expenses to get her the proper help she needs to be able to have a happy and healthy life in a stable home with a strong positive future.” So far, Peskowitz has raised $2,515 of his $50,000 goal, courtesy of donors offering prayers, good wishes, and notes like, “There is still time to save her.”
But do internet memes really need saving? That’s not to ask whether exploiting a 13-year-old is ok (it isn’t), or if Bregoli is too young to be TMZ-bait (she definitely is). But the frenzy over “saving” Bregoli—and the fact of her persistent fame in the first place—raises some uncomfortable questions. Without sugarcoating, Bregoli is famous for being a rebellious, violent, verbally unhinged white girl making threats in a blaccent. This double standard is at the heart of the “Cash Me Outside” girl phenomenon; as blogger LaSha wrote, “Black girls who exhibit the same kind of behavior as Danielle don’t get booking agents. They get booked.”
The very whiteness that made Bregoli’s ridiculous AAVE so hilarious is now contributing to her evolving—not to mention profitable—victim narrative. Because the only thing more fascinating than an unhinged teen is a white girl redemption story.