Content Warning: Mentions of child pornography
Claudia Conway was our Gen Z young adult protagonist of the summer. From her outspoken progressive politics to her biting criticisms of the Trump administration, Conway has amassed over 1.6 million followers on TikTok through her activism and the publicization of her bitter family dynamics. As the sixteen–year–old daughter of Kellyanne Conway, former senior counselor to Donald Trump, Conway’s TikToks shed light on the personal life of one of America’s most infamous Republicans.
Like most of Gen Z, Conway was on the cusp of adulthood during the 2020 election. Too young to vote, but old enough to feel the effects of politics, she utilized her platform extensively to promote tolerance and speak out against her mother’s role in the Trump administration. After first going viral for exposing her mother’s COVID–19 diagnosis, she was hailed as a whistleblower, an anti–Trump resistance hero, and a Gen Z political icon who embodied typical teenage rebellion with an activist streak. As Conway rode on her newfound internet fame, however, things took a dark turn.
After her mother was diagnosed with COVID–19, Conway soon came down with the same virus. Due to her mother’s anti–mask stance and the large maskless social gatherings of the Trump administration, family transmission was inevitable despite being entirely preventable. Although Claudia Conway's own actions were not completely compliant with pandemic safety guidelines, her COVID–19 diagnosis exemplifies how Gen Z often suffers from the repercussions of a government administration that older generations voted into office.
In August, Conway claimed she was seeking emancipation to escape her parents’ abuse. In response to these claims, her mother announced that she was leaving the White House, promising that there would be “less drama, more mama.” However, earlier this month, Conway posted two compilation videos of her mother berating and hitting her for “telling people [she’s] a b*tch.” She later posted a follow–up video saying that she wasn’t “looking to hate on [her] mom,” but wanted to show people that “as a woman who has such power in this country, I don’t really think people know how she is."
Just last week, there was a scandal where her mother allegedly uploaded a topless picture of her on Twitter. While Conway denied that her mother would intentionally post child pornography, she clearly wasn’t surprised by the fact that her mother had this explicit picture of her in the first place, saying, “I’m assuming my mom took a picture of it to use against me one day and then somebody hacked her or something.” With this disturbing incident, rather than Conway being the Gen Z hero that the internet wanted her to be, TikTok and Twitter communities were forced to recognize the toxic realities of her family. What seemed like a daughter rebelliously acting against her mother’s hateful views was actually a teenager struggling with a physically and verbally abusive household, and a politically divided one at that.
Simply put, Claudia Conway shouldn’t be considered an anti–Trump hero. Watching her capture the attention of millions by oscillating between exposing her family’s abuse and defending her mother from the media highlights the almost apathetic gaze of the internet. Rather than calling out Conway’s parents for the abuse that they perpetrate, tabloids dismiss these happenings as political drama and TikTok gossip. While Conway’s outspoken activism and reclamation of her own agency are courageous, she is still a victim of the Trump administration that her mother participated in, and is a representation of the toxic convergence between modern politics and celebrity status.
Like much of Gen Z, her childhood and youth were casualties of the Trump administration, with the horrors of this past presidency forcing her to politically and publicly mature to face the hungry, uncaring internet masses. 16–year–old Conway shouldn’t be expected to carry the burden of internet labels such as “hero,” “rebel,” and “activist” when she’s simply a teenager struggling to navigate her abuse in the public eye.