With one post on her great-granddaughter’s Twitter account, Baddie Winkle (born Helen Ruth Van Winkle) quickly transformed from an average octogenarian in Knoxville, Tennessee, to an Internet celebrity. Since late last year, Winkle—recognized for her bold, meme-inspired style, carefree attitude and mastery of slang—has amassed 1.7 million Instagram followers, been featured on CNN and modeled for edgy street-wear brand Dimepiece L.A. She’s now making the rounds at beauty conventions and frat parties, releasing her own merchandise and yes, filming a reality show. We caught up with the in-demand HBIC before her GBDC hosting duties on November 7, and now, we share some of her wisdom.
Reinvent yourself: Winkle says becoming Baddie has helped her cope with the grief of losing her husband and son, and connect with new friend and former Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus.
Embrace life: “You don’t have to sit down when you’re old. … Live your life the way you would like to live it.” Winkle says she wants to organize speaking events aimed at fellow seniors, and hopes to grace the cover of AARP The Magazine.
Disregard the haters: “We call them the basics, and we pray for the basics,” Winkle told her local KnoxNews.com.
Build your brand consciously: Winkle’s Instagram feed is so popular, companies regularly send free clothes and accessories for photo consideration. Dawn L. Lewis, Winkle’s granddaughter and manager, says, “One of the things that she got that she obviously did not post was a huge box of stuff from Hustler.” Says Winkle: “We still need to respond to that one.”
Put your goals out to the universe: “I would love to meet Drake,” Winkle says. “He’s a Kentucky basketball fan, and I would love to go to a game with him.”