"They're Basics. I Pray for Them:" A Chat with Internet Sensation Baddie Winkle

by Mathias Rosenzweig

By now you're likely familiar with Baddie Winkle, the octogenarian social media superstar who popped up like a trill daisy on Twitter and Instagram this April, delighting the Internet with her streetwear, pot-leaf socks and sassy captions. Since then, the 86-year-old has gained hundreds of thousands of followers via posts that pray for the basics, leave haters in the dust and make a great case for age being nothing but a number. With a little help from her great-granddaughter, Baddie is showing countless people around the world that it's never too late to don a Beyoncé t-shirt and twerk in bike shorts. I talked to Ms. Winkle (she asked that we not use her real name) to learn more about the woman in front of the camera and behind the tweets.

How did this whole thing get started?

I was staying with my granddaughter one week -- or my great-granddaughter, rather, and we were just fooling around. She said, "Why don't we do this, Granna?" And so we did. We had no idea that it was going to go the way it has. It was started by fun and just went from there.

Tell me about your life! Where are you from?    

I'm from Eastern Kentucky, born in Hazard. My father was a coal miner. Then we moved to a small town that was soon after hit by a tornado. I've had a hard life all my life. My husband died thirty years ago and my son died fifteen years ago, so it's been very traumatic for me. Then we came up with this and it's been such a great motivator.    

I hope you know that so many people are getting enjoyment out of it.   

Well thank you. I wish I could meet everybody that follows me, but that's impossible. I've talked to people in countries like Poland to, well, everywhere. I've got a lot of followers overseas, which surprised the devil out of me. Countries I've never even heard of. I had to look them up just to see where they are.

Lots of your posts show you being active -- dancing, doing water aerobics, using a slip-and-slide. That's so impressive at age 86. How do you stay in such great shape? 

Well, I stay active. I'm never still. I'm up doing something all the time, and I've always been pretty healthy. I've worked hard all my life. Up until two years ago, I was mowing fifteen acres on my farm for about fourteen years straight. Then I moved from my farm into town. I also go to water aerobics three days a week to exercise and play ball. I'm pretty healthy, and I thank the lord for that, but I really hope I can get other old people moving.

Do you hope to inspire other seniors to become social media stars?

Even in my old age, I've never really done anything noteworthy until now. I would love to get other old people active instead of just sitting around all day doing nothing, acting like life is over.

How do you feel about young people today?  

Oh my gosh -- young people today are nothing like when I was young. I mean nothing like it. There were no drugs, no drinking, no wild parties like the kids today. I just think it's terrible the way kids act now. But don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good kids too, and I'm here for everybody. They absolutely love me. I'm like their Granna. You know what? I'm like the world's Granna.

You call people "basic" a lot. Can you define the term?  

There's a lot of people that don't like me. They hate me. They want me to die. They put that on Twitter! They want nothing to do with me. There are even fakes like GrannyWinkle, but that's just not me. I'm Baddie Winkle. We've tried to get them off of Twitter and we will eventually. They're basics. I pray for them.

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