NEVER TOO LATE
Baddie Winkle chats with In Touch about becoming a viral sensation at age 87 — and meeting celebs like Miley Cyrus
Age ain’t nothing but a number for Baddie Winkle, the badass great-grandma who’s become a viral sensation
It started two years ago with a simple tweet. While visiting her granddaughter’s family in Knoxville, Tenn., Helen Ruth Van Winkle put on one of her typical crazy outfits: cutoff jeans and a tiedyed Grateful Dead T-shirt. Greatgranddaughter Kennedy, then 17, tweeted a photo and it went instantly viral. “I was astounded,” the plucky octogenarian tells In Touch. “I couldn’t believe it — and I still can’t!”
She’s now taken the Internet by storm. The 87-year-old started an Instagram account, calling herself “Baddie,” and built a following with her wacky clothing and confident sense of humor (“Stealing your man since 1928,” brags her Instagram bio). She now has 1.9 million followers, a TV commercial for Smirnoff Ice Electric Flavors and a 2016 Shorty Award for Instagrammer of the Year. “It’s been very exciting,” she beams.
The instant fame has helped Baddie cope with tragic loss. The former factory worker’s husband had been killed in a car accident on their 35th wedding anniversary, and her son’s subsequent death from cancer at age 46 left her further depressed. Sudden acclaim has “changed my life completely,” she says. “I don’t sit around and think it’s the end of the world anymore.”
And now Granny’s got game. When not hanging out with new celebrity pals like Gwen Stefani (“She’s a great gal”) or Miley Cyrus (“She’s as sweet as she can be”), she’s thinking up cheeky posts. “It’s kind of a family thing,” she says, explaining that she gets help from her daughter, five grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren. Clothing companies often send her outrageous outfits to promote on her sites (she’s made up to $5,000 for promo posts!). But there are limits to how far she’ll go. While she has donned a bikini for the camera, “I would never pose nude or wear just pasties!” she assures.
She’s become an inspiration to millions. People all over the world now come to Baddie for advice. “I tell them to eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and keep moving,” shares the golden girl. “You just walk through this world one time, so you might as well be happy!” — Reporting by Diana Cooper
SOCIAL MEDIA MAVEN
“I love my fans,” says Baddie, who has 1.9 million followers on Instagram, 222,000 Twitter followers and 752,000 likes on Facebook. “They give me energy and motivation.”