FROM THE MAGAZINE

Devin Halbal Wants to Be Your Motivation

With her signature selfie stick and popular catchphrases, TikTok’s Hal Baddie is on a mission to spread positivity to all the dolls out there.

Interview by Brooke Marine
Photographs by Nick Sethi

Devin Halbal wears a Valentino dress and tights; stylist’s own shoes.
Devin Halbal wears a Valentino dress and tights; stylist’s own shoes.

For W’s annual The Originals portfolio, we asked creatives—pioneers in the fields of art, design, fashion, comedy, activism, and more—to share their insights on staying true to themselves. See this year’s full class of creatives here.

On TikTok, where you go by the name @hal.baddie, you share videos of your travels around the world: meeting new friends, trying new foods, and sending good vibes into the universe—all captured, of course, with the help of your signature selfie stick. What makes you want to help others to be positive?

It started with me wanting to motivate myself. With the way the world treats you when you’re someone like me, you need to inspire yourself. I’m not trying to say I’m discriminated against everywhere, but there are moments in my life that have really fucked with my whole mental health. So, in order to get out of bed sometimes, I need to hype myself up and believe in myself. If I can motivate myself, maybe those words can motivate somebody else. Not everyone has friends or a supportive community around them.

Who do you think is an original person?

Cardi B. She has her own way of speaking, and it is really empowering to see a woman not really care what other people think about what she sounds like or how she talks. And my friends—I’m friends with people who are original and stay true to themselves too.

Where does that confidence and energy to do your own thing come from?

It stems from healing my inner child. Growing up, I never really felt comfortable saying what was on my mind. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized, This is your life, and you either do what you want to do or you die not having expressed yourself, not having tried new things that you’ve always wanted to do.

You’ve coined a lot of phrases—“Met Gala behavior,” “doll check-in,” and “elevate, activate, appreciate,” to name just a few—that have been very popular on TikTok. But not everyone gives you credit for the phrases you’ve created.

You can use them as long as you credit me—especially if you’re a big brand. When people use my phrases to promote products and then they’re getting compensated for that promotion, with words that they didn’t even create, or when a celebrity is making money off of my words and then not even tagging me or referencing me and they literally have the platform to do that, to give space to someone like me who is marginalized, based on my skin color and my whole gender identity—that’s when I get annoyed. If “doll check-in” resonates with you, then “doll check-in” resonates with you for some reason.

Balenciaga coat, earrings, and bag; her own leggings and sneakers.

For those who don’t know, what is your definition of a doll?

In the LGBT community, “doll” means a really beautiful, passable trans woman—a trans woman who looks cis. That word also has a lot of internalized transphobia behind it, because some girls get called dolls and others don’t. My friends who are cis women were telling me that when they were growing up, people would say, “You look like such a little doll today.” I feel like the term can resonate with so many women and femme people. “Doll” refers to somebody who experiences the world as a very femme person. Everybody wants to be a doll nowadays.

What piece of advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Live your life and slay.

Hair by Adam SzabÓ at Frank Reps; makeup by Kuma for NARS at Streeters Agency; photo assistant: Paige Labuda; stylist assistant: Tori López.