Indianapolis Monthly

TOK of the TOWN

ZOE LAVERNE likes to dance. She dances in her bedroom, in the snow, in parking garages after dark, her limbs liquid and sinewy, like she’s all muscle, no bones, booty dancing to Mickey Rose and Popp Hunna, songs with explicit lyrics and F-bombs. Most days, she wears sweatpants and cropped tops. Her belly ring sparkles with crystals. Sometimes friends dance backup, like a fun shadow, as if you’re seeing double, only Zoe is the one with flawless skin and impossibly blonde hair. She tapes her performances, most a fleeting 15 seconds, and uploads them on the social media app TikTok, where her followers, known as Zonuts, leave loving messages like “Ur so pretty” and “YOU KILLED THIS QUEEEEENNNNN.” Since she began posting at age 15, the Greenwood resident has amassed 17 million followers and last year earned $800,000.

Not bad for a 19-year-old.

But fame, like adolescence, hasn’t always been easy. LaVerne’s rise has been both plagued and propelled by controversy: breakups with her former boyfriend, accusations that 19-year-old fellow TikTok star Cody Orlove physically abused her, a contretemps with TikTok diva Charli D’Amelio, and an explosive scandal when LaVerne kissed a 13-year-old boy and was accused of “grooming,” a term for enticing a minor into having sex. The heat and hate got so bad that last fall, LaVerne announced she was taking a break from social media and checking into a hospital. She apologized in videos that swerved from tearful to defiant.

“I understand I’m the most hated person on the entire platform. Whatever. Like, I get it, but you guys are making me out to be such an awful, horrible person when I am genuinely trying my best to be happy and grow from the things that I’ve done and be a better person and I can’t do that when all you guys do is tear me down and make me out to be something I am not. Please just let me live. Please let me breathe.”

But a few days later, LaVerne was back and badder than ever—sexy,

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