The Wild Journey Of Internet Star Danielle Bregoli (2024)

Last month, Danielle Bregoli, the 15-year-old rapper known as Bhad Bhabie, was in a restaurant when a man started screaming at her. "He wasn't really screaming anything," Danielle says, nonplussed. "Just screaming."

If this unhinged response to a teenage girl eating dinner seems strange to you, it doesn't to Danielle. She became internet-famous in 2016 after mouthing off on the Dr. Phil show during a segment titled "I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime." A screengrabbed frame of her face circulated the internet as a meme, emblazoned with the memorable line with which she invited the laughing studio audience to fight her: "Cash me outside, how bow dah."

Danielle was labelled as a foulmouthed juvenile delinquent and the line became so viral that even Walmart began selling a t-shirt with her famous catchphrase. That's where it should have ended. But although she never asked for the viral attention, Danielle wasn't ready to be filed away as just another internet oddity. Under the wing of music brand manager Adam Kluger, she instead started a rap career under the name Bhad Bhabie, eventually signing to the prestigious Atlantic Records.

The Wild Journey Of Internet Star Danielle Bregoli (1)

This year, she released her first mixtape, 15. The title references her age, but also her 15.7 million Instagram followers. It's also a nod to the brief period of fame she was supposed to have when she shot into the collective consciousness as a meme—15 minutes, if not seconds. As she tells it on 'Bhad Bhabie Story (Outro)', the closing track of 15, this viral fame was just another inconvenience tacked onto an already hectic existence—"Like, I didn't even remember I said [cash me outside]...that sh*t was so irrelevant."

The song never tries to paint herself as a victim, but it's hard not to wince at the detail she reveals about that time in her life—fighting with her deadbeat dad who tattooed all his children's names on his body but hers; her mom putting her on Dr. Phil only because she couldn't pay for Danielle's rehab; moving into a girlfriend's trailer and being hounded by local kids who recognized her from the meme. It reveals her viral fame for what it was: taking a moment from a vulnerable 13-year-old's life and laughing at her for it.

However, it is clear how far she's come in such a short time. Not only is she about to head to the studio to work on her debut album, but she is also set to tour Australia and has just finished filming her new reality show, Bringing Up Bhabie, which will premiere on Snapchat in January. She's blunt when it comes to the people who say she is a bad influence, a joke, or problematic for appropriating black culture. "I really dont let any of the negative sh*t get to me," she says. "They don't mean nothing to your life. All all! Why are you worried about what they say? They don't pay your bills!"

Although she's only released a mixtape and a handful of singles, she's already proved she has something more than the ability to capture public attention. Her first ever time in a studio, she realized the qualities which made her a meme—her distinctive voice, scrappy attitude and a knack for a memorable one-liner—could also make her an internet-era rap star.

During her first session she stood in front of the mic, repeating "Hi bitch, hi bitch, hi bitch," which, in her bouncy Florida lilt, came out sounding like "hi bich." The song was named, of course, 'Hi Bich', and became a surprise hit; it's now reached 130m YouTube views since its release a year ago. It's not groundbreaking, but it's definitely catchy, with Danielle chewing the beat like gum. Her rapping has a rounded, rasping delivery; the verbal equivalent of baby fat.

'Hi Bich', accompanied by a video showing Danielle in court and strapped to an electric chair, played on her reputation as a delinquent, but this time, with her in control. A lot of rappers and pop stars talk about haters; not many have experienced such streams of vitriol tempered with such little admiration as Danielle. Even the haters couldn't deny that her continued, stubborn presence in the public eye proves her almost heroic teflon qualities.

Researchers have linked even ordinary teenage social media use to social isolation and low self-esteem; becoming a viral meme seems like it would magnify the troubling elements of online life to monstrous proportions. Where does she get this self-belief from? "I doubt myself sometimes, but the thing about it is that I doubt myself of off how I feel, not by what nobody tells me," she says. "And that's the difference between me and other people. I don't necessarily be like, 'Oh, she says, she thinks'—no. That's not how I am at all," she says.

Her willingness to fight people continues unabated, but now it's happening at Los Angeles fashion parties rather than at Florida stripmalls. Recently she threw a drink at rapper Iggy Azalea at a party hosted by Cardi B—Snoop Dogg has since weighed in on the scrap, calling Danielle "gangsta." On 15's standout track 'Juice', she baits this perception of herself as an existential threat to middle America: "f*ck you and your picket fence," she raps. But she says fame has been a good influence on her: " [My life is] just as crazy, but the stuff I'm doing now isn't bad," she says. "That's really it."

The Wild Journey Of Internet Star Danielle Bregoli (2)

These days, her fans, who she says are mostly aged between 10 and 21, come to her with stories of their own bullying, and she gives them advice on how to stand up for themselves. Meanwhile, the internet still tries to put Danielle in her place. A Twitter user recently drew her attention to a new meme which compared her face to that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the bewigged and pallid Austrian composer. Most 15-year-olds would have closed Twitter and withered in shame. Instead, Danielle turned an insult over her looks into a flex about her music. She retweeted the comparison, adding: "That's cuz I'm Mozart reincarnated bich."

Bhad Bhabie's Australia tour begins on 7 December in Perth. Clean Bandit's "Playboy Style (ft. Charli XCX & Bhad Bhabie)" is out now.

Uncommon Knowledge

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The Wild Journey Of Internet Star Danielle Bregoli (2024)
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