Prerequisite Details to Know:
• “Kei Wells” is the name of a cartoon girl who started sharing her mixed-reality, fictional life on Instagram in October 2019
• In her storyline, Kei released multiple real songs under the artist pseudonym “Dad”
• Kei (@ThatGirlDad, “Dad”) is a completely fictional character created and managed by real people as a business venture in the music industry
• Kei suddenly vanished from the internet in late March 2020
irtual influencer and singer/songwriter Kei Wells accomplished a lot between her October 2019 debut and her mysterious disappearance just five short months later. In February, our team set out to learn more about her life in a sit-down interview, discovering she’s highly connected to her fanbase, carries her emotions heavily in her words, and just wants to be an LA girl who makes music from her studio apartment.
As was told in her fictional story, she uprooted her life and followed her boyfriend’s dream to L.A., which ultimately didn’t work out due to a failure to put herself first and know her own worth. After the breakup, she found solace in her singing and songwriting, proven by the three high quality singles released over the course of just a few months. In that time, she amassed 10k+ Instagram followers, all rooting for her along her journey.
Sadly, this fairytale ends here. For Kei, everything took a turn for the worse near the end of March: her online presence completely vanished without a trace. Since then, new details have emerged about what transpired behind the scenes in the form of a first-hand account from the real human singer-songwriter powering Kei Wells. The following will be upsetting to those who grew to love this pink-haired, budding icon.
Fans first noticed something major was off when all of Dad’s music was taken down from streaming sites on, or just before, March 17, 2020. The explanation offered by “Kei” in a post, only accessible on her now-deactivated account, went as follows:
When you swipe, you see this fictional email from her boyfriend (recall, this is fictional storytelling within the then-ongoing @thatgirldad narrative):
Fans rushed to the character’s aid, offering encouraging words and sharing their own experiences with abuse in the comments. While some showed their support or sadness, others felt as though something seemed off about the post; user @floydfuji writes “Thought that post was odd when I saw it tbh”. Everyone, though, lamented the loss of access to her music.
One week later, a French, LA-based singer/songwriter named Noé took to her personal Instagram to out herself as the vocal artist behind Kei Wells.
In an eye-opening post, Noé reveals she collaborated with a not-to-be-named male producer on a new project. In the aftermath of an abusive relationship, Noé wanted to share songs about her experiences while also remaining anonymous, which drove her to the idea of creating a cartoon character to which she would lend her voice. And so, Kei Wells aka Dad was born. From the beginning, Noé was both the songwriter and voice behind the virtual influencer, according to Noé.
Noé goes on to discuss how she received a blindsiding ultimatum. The unnamed producer and other male member(s) of the team told Noé they did not see her as a co-creator of Dad, and thus she would not be credited as an equitable partner. She was given two options: have Dad’s songs remain online and accept working for the producer as a voice-for-hire, or quit and subsequently have all of Dad’s songs taken down. She chose to quit.
When the Kei Wells virtual influencer story went on, fictionally pinning the takedown of her music on her ex, Noé was horrified. In her own words, she says “this is the truth behind the curtain: Dad is now the image of a 19-year-old female character, owned and run by men who bullied the original female creator out of the project.” It wasn’t long after the exposé until @ThatGirlDad’s social media accounts disappeared from the internet. See her post here:
Over a month later, fans are still hearing about Noé’s post in their search for answers to Dad’s sudden disappearance. Many share the sentiment that she should name the producer, while others rally for her to fight for control of Dad. @marielangmusic writes “So proud of you for speaking up. #teamNoé #givedadhervoiceback”. A large portion of the 100+ comments come from fellow musicians sharing their experiences in similar situations, highlighting a vast lack of fair creative accreditation taking place within the music industry. Overall, Noé receives overwhelming support in her post.
The Dad character storyline was built on the authentic foundation of a girl turning her vulnerability into empowerment. In reality, a woman’s vital contributions to a project were discounted and her empowerment stripped, leaving her with ironic vulnerability. In a very Dad fashion, though, Noé shows her fans the last word was her’s, bringing empowerment to herself in place of waiting for others to give it.
In our February interview with Kei, Noé ghost-wrote the following: “The community that’s formed around me are all so welcoming and inviting, and I’m still so amazed there are so many other people out there like me. We can just geek out together and if I’m feeling down, they’re always there to listen and give me support. I try and do the same for them.” While Kei may be no more, there’s still an opportunity for fans to find new solace in Noé moving forward.
Just two days after sharing her version of what happened, Noé excitedly announced she is now signed with Disney Music Publishing. Here’s looking out for whatever Noé gets up to next. For now, though, you can listen to her new EP here.