Many knew the young pageant competitor through a viral gif of her appearance on the TLC show.
Actress and ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ alumna Kailia Posey, who many knew without realizing it from a viral GIF, has died at 16, her mother said Monday.
“I don’t have words or any thoughts,” Marcy Posey Gatterman wrote. “A beautiful baby girl is gone. Please give us privacy as we mourn the loss of Kailia. My baby forever.”
Posey appeared in just one episode of TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras”, a long-running reality show documenting the world of child beauty pageants around the U.S. Her mother said on the show that Posey started competing in pageants at 3 years old, exhibiting her talent as a contortionist.
But one moment on the episode left a lasting impression on the internet. A GIF showing the then 5-year-old smiling and scrunching up her face while looking to the side has been popular for years. The GIF, dubbed “grinning girl”, made her recognizable even outside the TLC show’s fanbase.
According to Posey’s Instagram, she continued to compete in pageants into her teenage years and became Miss Teen Lynden WA USA in February 2022. Her personal Instagram page was flooded Tuesday with comments mourning her loss.
She also recently competed in Miss Teen Washington USA. According to the pageant’s website, she planned to study aviation in college and become a commercial pilot. As well as being named to her school’s Dean’s List, the pageant said she had performed contortion with Cirque du Soleil. She also appeared in the Netflix horror film “Eli”.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, officials in Washington State’s Whatcom County confirmed that Posey had died by suicide.
In a statement posted to social media, Posey’s family said they set up a donation fund at the Whatcom Community Foundation in her name to yelp young people in crisis.
“Although she was an accomplished teenager with a bright future ahead of her, unfortunately in one impetuous moment, she made the rash decision to end her earthly life,” the statement read.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.