If you are someone who has spent a considerable amount of time on TikTok, you have likely come across the work of @hal.baddie, also known as Devin Halbal, a travel vlogger living abroad in Turkey. Her inspirational videos, consisting of mantras and travel tips, are poetic in nature—a clip in which she walks outside with plenty of greenery in the background saying, “I was put on this earth to thrive, strive, and really enjoy my life, fully alive,” prompted one TikTok user to comment “Dr. Seuss behavior” and another to say, “It’s giving reduce, reuse, recycle.” In addition to her daily affirmations, she’s also singlehandedly bringing back the selfie stick, effortlessly coining off-the-cuff phrases (“Met Gala behavior”), and spreading positivity on TikTok every chance she gets. (If you’re not on TikTok, her videos are often crossposted to Twitter and Instagram, because yes, they really are that relevant).
In her own words, she doesn’t do it for the culture, she is the culture, and she is more than happy to inspire other transgender women to travel, live their lives to the fullest, and stay safe, while also adding that anyone can benefit from a daily dose of HalBaddie. Below, she talks about going viral, safe travel tips, setting the mood on TikTok, and how to stay on your Met Gala behavior regardless of the status of your checking account.
You’re from New York, but you’ve gained a lot of popularity during your travels across the globe, particularly in Fethiye, Turkey. How long have you been living there?
I’ve been in Turkey since December 1, 2021, and I’m here for one more month. After that, I don’t know where I’m going. I am choosing between Georgia, the country right next to Turkey, or Nepal. They both have very beautiful mountains.
What inspired you to start traveling?
Growing up in the Bronx, my parents were divorced and I wasn’t that close with my family. In 2020, my friend made me a GoFundMe to pay for rent in New York City, to leave my family and just have safe housing so my mental health could be on point. I was looking for apartments in New York and the budget that my friend made was 800 a month, which is literally impossible in New York. At the time I was furloughed from work, and all these landlords were like, sis, you have no job and no co-signer, so where’s this money coming from?
A lot of people have parents that are willing to co-sign for them, but my whole thing was like, trying to get away from them. I also didn’t want to live with three strangers in the middle of a pandemic. I thought, I can choose to go to a different state, but I’m pretty sure any place in the United States requires a guarantor. So I just Googled countries open to the United States and Croatia was one of the few countries open.
And then you went to Turkey from Croatia?
I thought I would rent an apartment there and have a little nature retreat for a year, but I missed my friends and New York, so I came back to stay at my professor’s place in Fort Greene, saw all my friends, got all my favorite foods. I was just going through a lot. But I felt like there was more for me out there, so I went to Montenegro, Denmark, Greece, and back to New York. I realized I was really traveling and thought, I should really try to become a vlogger. It’s such an interesting experience being a transgender woman, traveling alone. I was like, we haven’t seen that before. I chose Turkey because I wanted to go someplace with beautiful nature and I couldn’t go any place in Western Europe because of the virus.
You’re living your day-to-day life in your videos, sharing bite-size snippets of the meals you eat or the places you shop. I see a lot of supportive comments on your page, but I’m wondering what has the response been to your videos in the DMs?
One of my videos that did really well was me getting my beard shaved in Turkey. Most of the responses I get are very positive. I get a lot of messages from trans people saying I inspire them—especially from a lot of trans women who want to travel more. I also get a lot of messages from cis women who want to travel alone. I don’t talk about the horror stories on social media because just traveling alone as a woman is dangerous, especially when you’re trans. But I don’t have too many experiences where I’m fearful.
What are your tips for staying safe while traveling?
Try not to go out too late at night. If you’re out past 1:00 A.M., you have to call an Uber—you can write a report if people start acting reckless. Always share your location with your friends. My best friends back in America have my location on at all times. Use protection! You don’t wanna catch anything while you’re in a different country. These men play games. Don’t give a guy your address. And try to establish a community! I also try not to be too popped out with my outfits for safety. I want to wear heels and a mini skirt, but I’m a trans woman, in Turkey, and it brings so much attention when you’re alone, as opposed to going out with your homies or your sisters. I try to be low-key. Being dolled up with a selfie stick? It’s already a lot.
Your content is very inspirational and positive, in addition to sharing travel tips. What is your favorite content to see on TikTok?
I love inspirational videos and my morning mantra videos. That’s the content that I'm most excited to make. Mantras have been so helpful in boosting my confidence, and allowing me to enter the world in own my power and feel beautiful. I also want other people to feel that way. The fashion content is cool and the nature content is cool. The travel content is cool, but if there’s one thing I can do with my platform I hope it is to just empower other people, especially trans women. Period. I do talk about beauty sometimes like, beauty is a mood, beauty is a way of life because I want my dolls to feel beautiful! And I definitely would love to make me more fashion content.
I love your fashion content. Where on earth did you come up with the term “Met Gala behavior”?
You don’t need to to be in Prada or Louis to be Met Gala behavior. Met Gala behavior was a random thought in my head. In high school, before I “medically transitioned,” I always wanted to be on my Met Gala behavior. I always envisioned the fashion. I loved looking at the models, the shows. I would always post screenshots of Met Gala looks I’ve loved over the years. When we think of fashion content, especially in the Western world and America, people do fast fashion hauls—nothing wrong with that. But I really wanna go into local communities and see designers that are working for their communities, building dresses. There’s this one maroon Turkish dress on my TikTok. That was actually Met Gala behavior. That was beautiful. I feel like it’s very hard to be taken seriously in fashion, especially if you don't have a lot of money.
What are some of your favorite Met Gala looks?
Gigi Hadid’s Versace dress for Heavenly Bodies, it looked like stained glass. And Emily Ratajkowski wore an homage to Cher at the Camp-themed Met Gala. And Iman at the Venice Film Festival in 2019, in a Valentino dress with swans on it. It reminds me of my penguin bag.
You are known for filming videos with a selfie stick. How did that become your trademark?
I loved selfie sticks in high school. I thought they were so cool. In 2016, I had one, everyone was obsessed with them at the time, but for me that was just a way for me to take pictures and document my life. Now, I don’t necessarily always have people around me. I make friends as I travel, but it’s awkward to ask someone, Hey, can you film a video for me while I just say random stuff? I don't like asking people to take pictures of me or film me because it's so awkward, especially when you're meeting people for the first time or just beginning a friendship. I was like, let me get a selfie stick. It allows me to see the whole background, the streets, the world around me. Someone recognized their hometown in the background of my video, and I don’t know if they would have if I wasn’t using a selfie stick. I think it's iconic, and my selfie stick reminds me of my Turkish era.
Mantras are super important for you. A recent one you shared that really resonated with a lot of people was “elevate, activate, appreciate.” What does that mean to you, and why was it important for you to share that message?
I don’t know what possessed me to say that. That morning, I woke up and was like, Today, I’m gonna innovate and elevate and I’m gonna let every bitch know. It was just me realizing we’re entering 2022 and I really wanna pursue this, and make content that is innovative, that is elevated. Activating means I’m gonna start right now. I’m going to make decisions that are good for me. It’s never too late to activate. It’s never too late to change your life, and activation is the key to any form of elevation. If you want to create something amazing, you need to put in the work. And appreciate, it was just on my mind. Appreciate life, love everyone, and be grateful!
Where does this positivity come from?
I’ve always been like this. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved being happy. During the pandemic, I was a little bit depressed. My mantras were a way to reclaim my happiness. There are other things going on in your life that can really mess with your mood, but I’m very optimistic. I love to dream. I say in one of my videos, I’m a dreamer. My friend described me as whimsical and I feel like that’s a good word to describe me. I’ve always tried my best to be positive and a good person to the people around me.
You mentioned how successful your beard shaving video was and talked about the importance of believing beauty comes from within. What are some of your favorite beauty treatments that you like to splurge on?
When I was in New York, I would get facials once a month. Now, I really just get my face shaved. For me, that’s really healing, really relaxing. I feel most beautiful when I don’t have my beard. And I would suggest, maybe just drink water and be happy.
How do you unplug?
That’s the thing, my videos are really short and that’s why I like TikTok. I can film a random thought that takes 30 seconds. Then I unplug my phone and go for a walk, go for a run, link with someone.
Are you planning on entering your YouTube era any time soon?
I definitely want to enter my YouTube era, but right now my primary goal is just building the dolls up on TikTok. I don’t know if I will ever be a full-time YouTuber just because the video editing process is actually so much. With TikTok, it’s just you, filming a 30 second bit, and you bounce. I love that.