Bullying, exploitation accusations follow death of homeless teen ‘internet star’

Friends of “Debby Gang” say troubled teen was exploited, harassed and even beaten on video for clicks and views

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He described their meeting as divine intervention.

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As Toronto mourned Tuesday’s death of online star Alexis Matos — better known as “Debby Gang,” “Debby Parkway” or simply “Debby” — a chance encounter last week with Toronto influencer Saif Shawaf turned into the troubled teen’s final on-camera appearance.

“Honestly, I think it was God’s plan for her to share her story and her truth before she passed,” Shawaf told the Toronto Sun of the genuinely heartbreaking exchange, where the clearly intoxicated teen described a tortured life of homelessness, addiction, and sexual abuse.

“It was a cry for help.”

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Shawaf stood outside the Eaton Centre last Wednesday offering passersby $100 if they could make him cry.

Among the onlookers was Matos, whom he said he recognized immediately.

“Debby Gang” was a notorious and controversial figure in Toronto’s burgeoning urban social media scene.

The 18-year-old died Tuesday of a drug overdose at a Toronto homeless shelter.

She was just 15 when people started posting videos of their encounters with her — clips described as exploitative and glorifying violence against a vulnerable girl clearly struggling with addiction and homelessness.

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Most popular were videos of people harassing and even assaulting her, including a 2019 clip of a man beating and kicking her outside of Lawrence subway station.

Those who knew her remember a troubled but genuine soul who longed for a career in entertainment.

“She wanted to do music and acting,” said close friend and ‘street mom’ Tiny, who told the Sun Debby had a hard time adjusting to people taking advantage of her fame.

A GoFundme campaign raising money for a memorial exceeded $10,000 in just 15 hours .

Much anger is being directed towards 6ixBuzz — the independent media juggernaut founded by Sarman Esagholian and Abraham Tekabo — accused of exploiting Debby for both clicks and clout.

The Toronto Sun’s inquiries to 6ixBuzz for comment went unacknowledged.

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“She tells me it never got to her, but deep down I know it did,” Tiny said of the negative attention Debby garnered, adding people were more interested in using her notoriety than getting her help.

“It was eating her up inside, she was just a kid. They’ve been exploiting her since she was 15.”

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A petition demanding 6ixBuzz’s closure neared 700 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

6ixBuzz has garnered criticism for profitable arrangements with Toronto rappers involved with gangs and criminality, including Top5 — arrested last month in Los Angeles while fleeing a second-degree murder charge.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter:  @bryanpassifiume

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