AAs a child, Lauren Bell didn’t think there was anything unusual about her family. She believed everyone knew how to be aware of their surroundings at all times, never walk the streets after dark wearing headphones, and always keep their mass box in their hands rather than in their purses.
It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized that not all of her peers had been trained so fiercely on how to spot and avoid potential violence. Then again, not all teens were raised by a father who served four US presidents as a Secret Service agent.
âOur neighbors literally thought my dad was a hit man,â says Ms. Bell, 34, who lives in Philadelphia and runs an online store called Cardy Couture. “My [other] the neighbors thought my mom was lying when she said she had a husband, because he was never home … his life story is so crazy. “
Earlier this year, Ms. Bell went viral with a series of TikTok videos compiling “inspirational” quotes from her father to inspiring music. âNever turn your back on the door,â one advice said. Others included “headphones should never leave the house”, “no one in Miami is your friend” and “order bottled drinks – they’re harder to drug”.
The videos were humorous, but in the follow-up tapes Ms Bell once recounted how she believed her father’s advice saved her life, describing how a suspicious man followed her to a supermarket and tried to loot her. ‘lure in her car before rushing when she called for help. Ms. Bell’s videos continue today and have struck a chord with many users.
âSome of this knowledge makes so much sense, but if you’re not safe your brain isn’t trained that way,â said Ms. Bell, who spoke to The independent this month about his upbringing and his father’s reaction to his fame online.
âI had a lot of moms there who were like, ‘I’ve tried telling my teenagers but they’re not listening. If it’s from a viral TikTok, they take it more into consideration.'”
‘You know Liam Neeson in Taken? It was my father ‘
Although Ms Bell will not disclose her father’s identity, she says he worked for the Philadelphia Police Department before joining the Secret Service and protecting Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sure, sometimes while in office and sometimes after retirement. He is now in his sixties.
“What is the name of this film? Taken. That was him, “Ms. Bell said, referring to Liam Neeson’s successful 2008 performance as a retired Special Forces soldier looking for his teenage daughter after her kidnapping on vacation.” When it came out, I was like ‘Daddy! It’s you!’ He was like, ‘yeah, but you never would’ve been anywhere [like that] when you were 17. “
This led to a “very strict” upbringing, out of step with the mainstream culture of the 90s and 2000s. Where other parents could take their teenagers’ word of where they were going, Ms. Bell would call to verify it or even drive past friends’ houses to verify his car was there.
Sleepovers were strongly prohibited until the age of 14 (“I don’t know those parents. I don’t know their siblings. I don’t know uncles,” he said), and a cover-up 11pm light remained in place until she was 21.
âIt all came from a place of love,â Ms. Bell said. “As a teenager I hated it because I thought I was missing out on somethingâ¦ I wasn’t happy that my friends could be out all night long.”
When the family went to a restaurant, he insisted on sitting facing the door and constantly listening to conversations nearby. He once even drove her and her brother to a run down neighborhood outside of Philadelphia that was torn with heroin addiction, warning them that if they were on drugs, maybe it was where they would end up living.
In college, Ms. Bell was shocked that her friends seemed “totally oblivious to their surroundings,” displaying behaviors she thought were “just not safe.” Her roommate trusted her bulk can but kept it buried deep in her purse, inaccessible in a crisis.
âNo one is going to stop and wait for you to take it out,â Ms. Bell says. “That’s when I realized that this kind of information just wasn’t public knowledgeâ¦ people didn’t know where they were.”
“I had to explain to him what TikTok is”
In March 2021, Ms. Bell saw a trend around TikTok of quotes from parents of people disguised as âinspirationalâ quotes, often circulating online in misallocated or fictitious form in front of generic clip art backgrounds.
Mrs. Bell wanted to be funny, but also genuinely believed that people should know what her father had taught her. Her first video got around 640,000 views, and subsequent clips totaled around 3.8 million views.
âHonestly, I was so surprised,â Ms. Bell said. âI didn’t think it was going to explode like it did at all. Which gave me some peace knowing that this information might help someone. Obviously, I hope it is. the case.”
One of the tips that sparked the most discussion was “men don’t ask for help” – meaning women should be wary of stranger men who do. Ms Bell said: âIt’s been eye-opening for a lot of people. It doesn’t mean they don’t need help, but they don’t usually ask women for help. If they really do. need help, they ask other men. “
Mrs. Bell’s father was even more surprised. “I had to explain to him what TikTok is; he kept calling it Tic Tac,” she recalls. “You know he’s an old school guy he just wants a flip phone [and] has a Facebook account that he barely uses. He was like, ‘There’s a million views on this? Oh good? I can not believe it; it’s crazy.”
Since then, however, he has collaborated with her on videos, giving new tips such as always knowing where each exit is when you enter a building (in a disaster, most people will try to cram the same. way they entered), or never look for a child lost in silence (“What if people think you’re crazy?”).
‘If I told you, I should kill you’
These days Mrs. Bell is happy with the way she was brought up. As the mother of a two-year-old son, she feels a protective instinct as strong as any bodyguard and plans to raise him to be careful. She says her husband agrees, even though he’s grown up much more wearily.
She recognizes that it is difficult to follow her advice in modern society, where oblivion is only a smartphone icon at your fingertips. “It’s hard sometimes. You’re distracted … Oh my God, if I told you [my dad] as I walked the streets of Philly looking at my phone he would have a heart attack. And did she do it? ” Yes of course ! During the day.”
She doesn’t think everyone has to follow her father’s rules all the time; it depends on your situation and where you live. Still, she says the advice has helped her on several occasions, including two years ago at a drugstore where a man followed her into the store and then followed his car with hers until she takes refuge in a car wash.
She always makes sure to park next to a cart stand when shopping, to minimize the time it takes to put her cart away. Her child is always dressed in bright colors when in public, and always on the driver’s side in the back of his car.
Despite his starring role in his videos, there are still things Ms Bell’s father refuses to tell him about his time in the Secret Service. “The difficult questions that I have asked him all my life, he will absolutely not answer to this day,” she laughs. “I would say 90% of his information is totally off-limits to me.
“I ask him like, ‘Oh, has this president ever been attacked before?’ He said to me, “If I told you, I would have to kill you, and you are my child, so I’m not going to do that. It’s over your salary. “I’m 34 and have nothing.”