- Zoe Laverne is a 19-year-old TikTok star with nearly 18 million followers who's best known for her lip sync videos from 2016 to 2018, back when the app was still Musical.ly.
- Laverne apologized for "catching feelings" for a 13-year-old after a video appeared to show the two kissing.
- The 13-year-old is a former fan of Laverne's who she says became her "best friend."
- On his social media accounts, where he has over 300,000 followers, the 13-year-old has referred to being "more than friends" with Laverne as a "big mistake."
- Laverne's mother has publicly defended her and said "Anybody can reach over and kiss somebody, they're best friends" during a livestream.
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A 19-year-old TikTok star Zoe Laverne — who has nearly 18 million followers on the app and is best known for her lip sync videos from 2016 to 2018 — has apologized for "catching feelings" for a 13-year-old fan after a video that appeared to show the two kissing leaked on social media.
In a livestream and in social media comments, Laverne has apologized for her actions but denied "grooming" the 13-year-old fan. "Grooming" refers to building "a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them," according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Laverne says she became "best friends" with the fan, named Connor, but realized "the age is a bad thing" after the video of them kissing was filmed.
On October 24, direct messages between another one of Laverne's former friends and her ex-boyfriend leaked. In the texts, Laverne's former friend wrote, "I left because of her interactions with connor. They got very intense and it's something I do not stand by what so ever. It's pedophilia."
Days later, the video of Laverne and Connor kissing leaked on social media. Connor is known to Laverne's audience as one of her frequent collaborators and closest friends, and his own TikTok account has nearly 400,000 followers. He often posted videos with Laverne, but Laverne said the two have cut contact since.
"I didn't groom Connor, I wouldn't do that. He's a kid and I'm aware of that. It just happened," Laverne said in a livestream. "We both were in a dark place when we first became friends and we both just ended up catching feelings for each other. And friends do that, they catch feelings for each other. That's not a bad thing. Yes, the age is a bad thing. Yes, it's wrong. Yes, it's not good. We both realized that and we stopped."
Connor also addressed the leaked video in a livestream on his own social media accounts. He described him and Laverne becoming "more than friends," which he said they both realized was "wrong" at the same time. He also said in a public statement on social media that Laverne "did not rape me."
Before addressing her audience in a livestream, Laverne posted other apologies on social media, including one that said she was receiving therapy and another that said she had told Connor's mother about their kiss after it happened. On what appears to be her private Instagram account, Dexerto reported Laverne wrote "before anything was leaked I did tell his mom we kissed. She wasn't happy obviously but she understood that we are both teenagers and that feelings can be caught."
Laverne's mother has publicly defended her daughter. In a livestream, Laverne's mother said, "Anybody can reach over and kiss somebody. They're best friends." In response to the backlash Laverne has been facing, her mother said, "This needs to stop you guys, why are you doing this?"
Other famous TikTokers like Isaak Presley have spoken out against Laverne.
"Friends go to the park together, do starb runs, play among us. not fall for prepubescent minors when you're 19. you were in school already when he was being born," Presley wrote, noting that he underwent a "traumatizing sexual thing" at age 14 with a 19-year-old girl. "As a young boy you're fascinated by girls and with puberty and all the new hormones, attraction levels and interest are spiking. IT IS OUR JOB, as adults, as positive influences in those younger than us lives, to guide and help someone."
Laverne's actions follow a string of sexual misconduct allegations against top-tier TikTok influencers. In June, TikTok photographer Bryant Eslava apologized for soliciting nudes from "girls" on his Tumblr blog. In August, TikTok star Tony Lopez apologized for sending sexually explicit text messages to minors, writing that he "immediately stopped" solicitation after learning they were underage.
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