Alyssa McKay is an influencer and actress with more than 10 million TikTok followers — and millions of dollars in her bank account as a result. But she grew up in foster care and did not have an easy childhood.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST
Alyssa McKay plays a spoiled rich girl on TikTok, where she raps about her high-school nemeses, bullies the “new girl” and name-checks designer labels like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana in a sing-song Valley-girl lilt.
But the bratty princess persona is far from McKay’s own identity.
The 23-year-old social media star grew up in foster care, separated from her siblings and taken away from an abusive household at 9.
Bouncing between various homes, she found solace watching escapist teen movies from the 1990s and early 2000s, like “Clueless” and “Legally Blonde.”
“I gravitated to those characters … that type of bubbly, successful, confident leading woman,” McKay told The Post.
She idolized these sassy, determined ditzes, with their designer wardrobes, doting fathers and the whole world at their well-manicured fingertips.
“Part of it was, like, because I loved pink,” she said with a laugh. “But Iooking back now, I think a big part of it was wanting to manifest that kind life for myself.”
McKay now makes “millions” of dollars posting content across various media platforms.
She has 10 million followers on TikTok; her YouTube channel has 1.4 million subscribers.
Her Snapchat account — where she’s her most authentic self, not a carefully crafted character — attracts a staggering 2.5 billion views a month.
There, she chronicles basically every waking moment on her page, posting between 150 and 250 verité videos a day, with ads spliced in between.
Her stardom has blazed beyond social media, too.
McKay voices the main character in the fiction podcast “The Royals of Malibu,” based on the 2016 YA romance “Paper Princess.” (She’s also an executive producer on the series.)
And she just finished filming a supporting role for “Wild Girls,” a period film set in the 1930s. “I get to wear the coolest dresses!” she enthused.
McKay is a petite, bubbly blonde herself.
But while she may be a millionaire, she still feels less like Cher Horowitz or Elle Woods and more like Ella Sinclair, the scrappy orphan she voices on the “The Royals of Malibu,” which debuted its second season earlier this month.
Instead of an LA mansion, she rents a house on the Jersey Shore, which she shares with her miniature dachshund, Ayla Rae, and orange rescue tabby, Indiana.
“I don’t even know how I ended up here, to be honest,” McKay said of her success. “Like statistically I really shouldn’t have.”
McKay grew up in Portland, Oregon. Her mother was addicted to drugs. Her father — whom McKay met only once, when she was in high school — was in and out of jail her whole childhood.
She said that her step-father was abusive. At one point she, her mother and one of her sisters lived in a car.
Still, she said, “being homeless wasn’t as much of a concern to me as just wanting a family — like, a sense of family and love and connection.”
When McKay was put in foster care at 9, the authorities split her and her four younger siblings. (“I took care of them — they all called me Mom,” she said.)
She lived for a bit with her grandparents, but bounced around several foster homes till she was 21.
“I think I went through five, which is actually on the lower end,” she explained. “A lot of people end up going through 10 or more. So for me to only have gone to five in that many years is kind of miraculous, in a way.”
McKay made her first piece of online content when she was 9.
Her grandfather — a wedding videographer and musician — taught her to use Sony Vegas Pro to edit videos, and he gave McKay her first camera.
She made little music videos of herself singing and playing guitar and uploaded them to YouTube.
“I think part of me making videos on the internet when I was younger was kind of like a cry for help and a cry for community,” McKay said, adding that she was hospitalized after several suicide attempts, when she was 12 and 13.
“I wanted to feel like people cared, because growing up there just really was no one I felt that really cared that much.”
In high school she began acting in school productions after seeing a friend in “The Addams Family Musical.” (“I thought, ‘I want to do that,’” McKay recalled.) Acting provided an “escape” from her precarious life.
In 2018, she downloaded an app called Musical.ly — which later became TikTok .
“I had all this creative energy pent up inside my little body, and I was like ‘I need to get it out!’” McKay said.
She had seen kids lip-syncing to movie and TV scenes on the app and decided to do a scene from one of her favorite flicks, “Mean Girls.” It went viral.
“From there, it just kind of snowballed.”
Around the summer of 2019, McKay debuted her “rich girl” alter ego on the app — a platinum-blonde bully dressed in pink, spitting bars about high-school rivalries, falling asleep in class and partying on yachts.
“I just woke up one morning and was like, I’m just gonna start rapping, unafraid of consequences or what we would think of me,” she recalled.
The satirical, tart videos, which McKay writes, edits and stars in, netted tens of millions of views.
They also quickly made her enough money — through brand partnerships or through the then-nascent TikTok Creators Fund — that she could quit her job selling frozen yogurt.
Still, McKay stayed in the foster system until she was 21, so the state would cover her college tuition.
She said she couldn’t rely on her foster parents, let alone her biological relatives to help her out: “It’s one of those situations where [everything] felt like it was conditional.”
McKay majored in communications at Portland State University, moved in with a boyfriend and traveled to Los Angeles for auditions.
About a year ago, she asked her manager, Brian Nelson — whom she refers to as her “family”— to find her a house on the East Coast.
“I wasn’t happy with anyone I was around or anything that was going on in my life,” McKay said of this time.
Nelson — a father figure who appears frequently, if bemusedly, on her Snapchats — found her a charming rental in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, about 90 minutes from Manhattan.
“It was amazing,” McKay recalled. “I broke up with my boyfriend, told my family I’m moving to New Jersey next week and left [LA].”
A year later, McKay said, she is happy.
She wakes up every morning and posts whatever she feels like to Snapchat.
She has her own streetwear line, Beyond Lost, and often asks her Snapchat followers for feedback on colors and patterns.
She is close with her siblings and her grandmother (her grandfather died of COVID last year).
But she said that she will never forget where she came from.
“I hope one day, when I’m super rich, I can open up some kind of foundation for foster youth — a scholarship, maybe — something like that,” she said.
In the meantime, she wants to use her platform to encourage lost young people that they can find their way.
“I would say to anyone who is in foster care, of if they are in an abusive household or a toxic, dysfunctional household, that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” McKay said. “It’s possible for anyone and everyone to find happiness and success no matter what cards you’ve been dealt with. You can make what you want out of it.”