TV & Movies

Baddiewinkle, 91-Year-Old Instagram Star, on Why It's Never Too Late to Do What You Want

The great-grandma—whose 3.8 million Instagram followers includes RI. HAN. NA!!!—teaches us a lesson in dealing with "the basics"

New York photo by @signepierce

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Baddiewinkle—or Baddie, for short—will steal your heart the second she and her opalescent platform booties step into the room. Weighing roughly 110 pounds soaking wet, the Kentucky grandma has a colourful personality and the fashion sense to match, as evidenced by her Instagram account (followed by 3.8 million people) and the dazzling bejewelled cane always at her side.

91-year-old Helen Van Winkle officially assumed her Baddiewinkle Instagram persona after her 21-year-old great-granddaughter, Kennedy, uploaded an image of Winkle laying in the sun wearing cut-off denim shorts, a tie-dye t-shirt and some high socks emblazoned with marijuana leaves (a cheeky addition made by her millennial kin). The photo was viral on Instagram in less than one week.

“Everyday, Kennedy would come home from school and I’d say, ‘Kennedy, what have I gained today?’ and everyday, Kennedy would say a bigger number. ‘Grana, you’re up to 50,000! 100,000! 200,000!’” (Note: Baddie’s charm jumps to 110 percent when you hear her Southern drawl.)

Her willingness to learn and employ popular digital networks, like Instagram, combined with her love for vibrant fabrics and sassy poses has propelled Baddie to social media stardom. Now, she’s replaced her flip phone with an iPhone, and she splits the duties of operating her socials—followed by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Khloe Kardashian—with her more tech-savvy grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

During her #BadAssBucketList project with Hotels.com in 2017, which saw the adorable grandma/great-granddaughter duo go around the world to complete Baddie’s bucket list—including a boat ride through Niagara Falls, a samba class in Rio de Janeiro and a show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, Baddie stopped by the FLARE closet to talk about her ever-growing Insta-fame and what it was like to shoot a music video with Fergie.

@missguided always keeps me bright and happy on rainy days

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Did you know what Instagram was before Kennedy’s photo went viral?

No way! I couldn’t grasp how many people were engaging with my photo. I still can’t believe it three years later.

Do you like using Instagram? 

It can be very addictive. You have to draw a line. When I have a coffee in the morning, my drink gets cold! And that’s how you know you’ve been on social media for too long.

Sometimes, I think social media is good, and sometimes I think it’s not so good. Especially on Twitter—those people say bad things about me! They’re not very nice at all. It hurt my feelings there for awhile—that people would say such horrible things—and then I thought, well, they just don’t have a life and this is what they do. So, I call them basics and I pray for the basics.

Were you intimidated by your sudden online fame? 

The thing about it is, I’ve never been intimidated by anything in my whole life! It was kind of overwhelming when I had my daughter, but I wasn’t intimidated. I think when you get old, you have a tendency to sit back and do nothing. You can’t think that way. You have to think young.

But do you think you’re more likely to take risks now than when you were young?

I’ve definitely become more risky. I try to live everyday as if it were my last. I don’t think that way though. I try to be happy and upbeat. I want to keep everyone around me happy.

You’re here promoting a new collaboration with Hotels.com called #BadAssBucketList, and you’re travelling around the world ticking things off your own list. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do that’s not on your list?

Meet Mark Harmon, the star of NCIS. Oh, and Drake. I would LOVE to meet Drake—can you arrange it? I’ve done a lot of dance videos to Drake’s music.

Baddie does it best in @fashionnova

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What was it like to film Fergie’s music video for “Life Goes On”?

It was fun, but they had me smoke this pipe that wasn’t marijuana, and I got sick. It was the most horrible tasting thing you’ve ever tasted in your life, but they said it was flowers!

Anyway, Fergie and I were on the beach, sitting on this bench, and we both fell backwards. I wish that had been in the video but no one caught it on tape.

You have a bunch of really cool stuff on your #BadAssBucketList, but what are you most excited for?

I have always wanted to go Ireland, so I’m quite excited about that. I’m pretty sure I’m Irish, though I’ve never done any test or any crap like that. Kennedy is coming with me and she’s going to have a tough time keeping up with me, because I intend to do and see and play!

You’re wearing an amazing millennial-pink beret right now with cherry emojis on it. Will you be wearing a beret in Paris?

Yes, and maybe one of the men there will feel on my butt!

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