“I believe wholeheartedly that I captured, that night, an angel on film,” Colette Reynolds said in a recent TikTok shared with her 2.2 million followers.
Behind her was a photograph of a tree, at night, with a gauzy white shape visible on a branch. Reynolds, a professional-looking woman with glasses and curled blonde hair in a black turtleneck sweater, identified it as a seraphim, the highest order of angel in Christendom. She had taken the picture years ago, she said, at a low point in her life, explaining that this angel had visited her “in a moment when I needed one most.”
Reynolds has since become an internet celebrity thanks to such videos about religious and supernatural experiences. She claims, in both her TikToks and an interview with Rolling Stone, to be psychic, clairvoyant, and a genius — traits she calls “gifts” from the “holy spirit.” She also likes to expound on a dizzying array of conspiracy theories. That combination has made her a focal point of what’s been termed “conspirituality,” a growing subculture where New Age pseudoscience and religious thinking overlaps with paranoia about nefarious actors within government and other institutions.
Watching Reynolds’ videos, you can see why she’s a popular one-stop shop for such disquieting views. Rather than deliver her material in the raving, fear-mongering style of a character like Alex Jones, she initially comes across as nothing more threatening than an excitable, quirky mom who wants to spread love and light. In fact, that’s exactly how she started out on TikTok. It seems, however, that the peculiarities of the app’s algorithm have led her to produce an endless stream of potentially radicalizing misinformation.
And her influence is expanding. Recently, Reynolds’ content has been picked up by prominent right-wing influencers including Dan Bongino, who during a livestream shared a portion of Reyonlds’ TikTok discussing the input Barack and Michelle Obama had as executive producers of Leave the World Behind (the former president gave feedback on the details of the nationwide cyber attack depicted in the film, prompting some to call it a “warning” of a planned communications blackout). She also got a boost from Matt Walsh, who commented sarcastically on Reynolds’ viral claim that mysterious “creatures” had caused a disturbance at a Miami mall on New Year’s Day, triggering a huge police response. Reynolds later specified that these supposed entities were “demonic nephilim,” or giant fallen angels.
Reynolds’ interpretation of the Miami event is no less alarming (or matter-of-fact) when she brings it up in conversation. “CERN is trying to open a portal to a demonic entity dimension,” Reynolds tells Rolling Stone, referring to the European physics research lab known for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator. “And there were kids in that [Miami] mall that apparently opened a portal that allowed these eight-to-ten-foot tall creatures. There were multiple witnesses that said this. I think that these demons are starting to get into our world to prepare, and they know that their time’s running out and it’s getting closer and closer.”
Several years ago, Reynolds hardly imagined herself a social media star, let alone on a platform with a user base as young as TikTok’s. The 47-year-old mother has a realty business in Elko, Nevada, where she was born and raised, plus a welding company and a local pub she owns with her husband, Mike. She only downloaded the app because at a professional retreat in 2018, real estate coach Tom Ferry told her and other attendees to start using it as a marketing tool. It would be another two years before she first gave it a spin, following two years of medical misery. Alone on a trip to Ohio in April 2020, the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, for surgery, she says she was scared — and began randomly scrolling TikTok for comfort.
“It got me through all of that,” Reynolds says. “It was really neat. I wasn’t making videos yet. I was too scared. And then I came back [home], and something just told me you need to start sharing your incredible stories of survival. So lots of my health stuff is the reason I started on this, actually. That’s the only reason I started on the app.” She still hasn’t used it to promote her realty practice.
Reynolds found that her messages of support and inspiration against the odds resonated with her steadily growing audience, which soon numbered in the tens of thousands. But it was a different routine that went mega-viral. In the summer of 2021, she recorded herself waxing her face while listing “things I wish I knew when I was 20.” (One example: “If he won’t let you look at his phone, he’s cheating.”) During this video — which has now been viewed millions of times — she also alluded to a conspiracy theory. “Biggie and Tupac aren’t dead, yo,” she said. People were especially intrigued by the throwaway reference to the slain rappers, Reynolds says, which helped her to realize she could share some of her more unexpected beliefs and aspects of herself she didn’t ordinarily share outside her friends and family. She was also suddenly fielding demand for more elder wisdom from younger viewers. “These kids just turned to me, and really quickly,” she says.
The result was that Reynolds embraced a social media role as a “cool auntie,” changing her handle to @auntie_coolette, doling out a mixture of life advice and spiritualist commentary, often while doing her makeup. A video from December 2021 is typical of this transition: captioned “THINGS I WISH I KNEW SUPERSTITION EDITION PART 2,” it begins with Reynolds saying, “Keep a glass of water on your nightstand to absorb any negative energy, frighten away evil spirits, and ensure you don’t have nightmares.” She also tells her audience, “Always keep a window open at a funeral so that the spirit knows how to escape and go to heaven.”
Since then, Reynolds has progressed into hardcore conspiracism — what she calls “critical thinking” — and amassed a huge following for it. There is virtually no fringe theory you might name that she hasn’t at least explored: in the course of an interview, she claims that the moon landing was faked, that we can’t go into space because the firmament is an “impenetrable dome,” that there is a huge land mass “beyond the South Pole” (an idea connected to the Flat Earth concept, which she has also endorsed), that murals at the Denver International Airport contain clues to a coming “Great Reset” carried out by a “New World Order,” that nephilim are working in underground bases for the U.S. government, that recently unsealed court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein are an attempt by those in power “to distract us from something much bigger,” that mermaids are demons, and that the Bible contains references to aliens, dragons and UFOs. (She rattles off these outlandish ideas while occasionally apologizing for feeling frazzled from lack of sleep because she’s caring for Andrea, her best friend of 25 years, who has terminal cancer, and for whom she’s raised thousands of dollars from her followers. In an email several days after this interview, Reynolds shares the news that Andrea “went to heaven last night peacefully.”)
In all her clairvoyant visions, Reynolds’ unifying theme is how religious truths allegedly undergirding our reality have finally come to light, despite the efforts of shadowy elites — including the Vatican and the Illuminati — to cover them up. A favorite source of her theology is the Book of Enoch, an apocalyptic text originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic that is not canonical to Jewish or Christian scripture. Along the path to this message, Reynolds has also taken on the role of of seer and prophet, conducting livestreams in which she offered to contact the spirits of viewers’ deceased loved ones, and offering prognostications. It certainly helped her brand that in June 2023 she went viral for a decidedly Biblical reason: documenting a plague-level infestation of thousands of Mormon crickets that had descended on her home. Reynolds herself connects the event to a reference to locusts that opens the Book of Joel in the Old Testament.
“I love doing the advice,” Reynolds says when reflecting on the evolution of her TikTok account. “I loved that I could touch people and help them and help them learn. Unfortunately, TikTok just wanted more from me on different things. I was, we could say, gently nudged by the views I was getting or something. You could say it’s interesting how TikTok helps creators grow in different directions.” She claims that when she started acting as a medium and explaining her favorite conspiracy theories, she was rewarded with higher engagement. Meanwhile, interest in her less provocative content fell off. It was clear what her followers wanted: “Suddenly they stop sharing my advice videos as much, and I noticed that they were more privy to share my supernatural stuff,” Reynolds says.
Reynolds has a tendency to fold big names and organizations into her pronouncements — she has wondered if Elon Musk could usher in the end of days with AI tech, is suspicious of Mark Zuckerberg’s Hawaiian bunker, and subscribes to the debunked notion that the Smithsonian Institution destroyed skeletal evidence of giants. That could be one reason she’s taken to adding up-front disclaimers that her content is “for entertainment purposes only.” Still, this is more of a secret code than a caveat. “They’ll flag it for misinformation and give you a community guideline violation,” Reynolds says of TikTok moderators. “So you really do have to be kind of careful. That’s why I always say we’re just goofing around, and it just means, yeah, I’m actually very serious about this.”
So, too, are her viewers. The millions of views on her videos about the Miami mall incident and Leave the World Behind demonstrate that Reynolds’ ability to break out of her corner of TikTok and into the mainstream is only increasing. While the occasional skeptic or nonbeliever can brush off Reynolds’ proclamations as nonsense, plenty of people take them at face value, either agreeing with a patently untrue premise or attempting to put their own spin on it. In a clip from this earlier month, Reynolds begins with the claim that “I, just like so many other people, have not really dreamt since 2020.” The comments echo this alarming but somewhat vague assumption. One user writes, “nope i don’t anymore,” while another says, “I really miss dreams.”
The net impact of this messaging is impossible to ascertain. Reynolds isn’t directly advocating for any kind of dangerous or extremist action. At the same time, her vision of a holy war transpiring behind the veil of reality has parallels in overtly far-right conspiracist movements like QAnon, and many of the ideas she espouses could start someone down a rabbit hole leading toward radicalization. She’s quite aware, with such a massive audience, of how she might be negatively characterized by those who disagree with her — and that while TikTok freed her to be herself, she’s walking a delicate line.
“It’s hard to be the conspiracy queen,” she says.