'Just keep dreaming': 89-year-old Instagram star embarks on bucket list adventure
Baddie Winkle strikes a pose in this Nov. 2016 Instagram photo. (baddiewinkle/Instagram)
Baddie Winkle is flashy, feisty and in the midst of a bucket list adventure that’s taking her around the world.
“I never dreamed I’d get to do my bucket list,” the octogenarian told CTVNews.ca via telephone from Las Vegas after completing a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, which even included a picnic with champagne. “I never dreamed even that I would be on Instagram. I mean, that’s still a dream to me -- which I love.”
With more than three million followers on Instagram, and counting, the 89-year-old has taken the internet by storm with her colourful -- and often racy -- outfits and crass commentary.
“I’ve always been a baddie,” the native Kentuckian said with a drawl.
Baddie’s already been to Niagara Falls, Ont. (“I love Canada!” she exclaimed), mixed drinks in New York City and hung out with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. Also on the cards for her ten-stop bucket list adventure, which is being sponsored by Hotels.com and ends on Nov. 12, is shimmying to samba in Rio de Janeiro, drinking the night away in Dublin, taking in the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and (hopefully) nabbing herself a perfect prince in London’s Buckingham Palace -- and Baddie said he doesn’t even have to be a top tier royal like Harry or William.
“Any old prince will do,” she laughed.
Baddie’s wild saga from a quiet, pastoral life in America’s heartland to the heights of social media stardom began less than four years ago, when she was still commonly known as Helen Van Winkle. Her great-granddaughter Kennedy Lewis, now 21, had snapped a photo of Baddie jokingly modelling her tie-dye shirt and cut-off denim shorts. When Lewis posted the photo of her great-grandmother wearing her clothes online, the likes and follows just started pouring in.
“It blew up,” Lewis said. “It’s been crazy!”
Winkle now counts celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Rihanna amongst her fans and followers, and she’s even inked lucrative deals to appear in ads and showcase products on her social media accounts.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” she said.
Lewis, who acts as Baddie’s manager and millennial whisperer is joining her great-grandmother on her globe-trotting bucket list adventure.
“She’s a wonderful traveller -- she takes good care of me,” Baddie said. But she added that Lewis can’t always keep up with her “more adventurous” great-grandmother.
“She likes to lay by the pool and I like to do other things,” Baddie said. “I want to get up and go!”
According to a study released by Hotels.com, a fifth of people under the age of 30 are inspired to travel based on their parents’ and grandparents’ past adventures. Forty per cent of millennials, moreover, would prefer to complete their bucket lists with their parents or grandparents over celebrities (11 per cent), siblings (28 per cent) or travelling solo (25 per cent). One in eight even confessed that that their grandmother is cooler and more well-travelled than they are.
On Instagram, Baddie makes no secret of her love for playing the field. Her Instagram tagline -- “stealing your man since 1928” -- even announces it to the world.
“I’ve been single for 30 years and I have dated a lot,” she said. “I love men, but they do take up a lot of your time.”
Lewis says that she’s grown “pretty used to” Baddie’s man-eating ways.
“She flirts a lot,” Lewis said with a laugh. “She encourages me to go out with lots of men."
Often seen wearing cannabis leaf prints and accessories, Baddie is also vocal proponent for the nationwide legalization of medical marijuana, saying that she uses cannabis pills and oils to manager her arthritis.
“I’m very much for medicinal marijuana,” she said. “It’s great -- it really is.”
For those dreaming of social media stardom for themselves, Baddie’s advice is startlingly simple:
“Keep dreaming and you never know what will happen tomorrow,” she said. “Just be unique and yourself.”