What Really Happened With the Viral Bali Thread
Kristen Gray’s deportation is an internet fallout consequence, but further details attest to a bigger, more important story
In 2019, Kristen Gray, a then Los Angeles-based graphic designer and creative consultant, was getting fed up with living in America. Just a year earlier, she was a tour manager when her stint abruptly ended and she says was not paid for her labor. Thrust back into the 9-to-5 life through short-lived tech gigs before freelancing, Gray was looking for a change. She, along with her partner Saundra Alexander, saved $15,000 to temporarily move to Bali to clear their heads. They had already vacationed there back in May 2019 and found other Black expats who were living lives of “ease” and having a “clear space to create.” According to Gray, in a phone interview with ZORA, these Black expats did not have to worry about their civil rights in comparison to how they might have if they had remained in the United States. In December 2019, Gray and Alexander arrived in Bali. The following month, they went to Singapore to acquire a social visa in January. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the island in March. The country of Indonesia allowed for foreigners to extend their visa on the island until September 20th. Gray and Alexander decided to do so and stay.
During their time in Bali, Gray purports that she received numerous, private messages from Black Americans about her new lifestyle as well as tips on how to replicate her journey, which led Gray to logging onto Twitter. On January 16, 2021, Gray wrote how she and her partner moved to Bali to “stack some bread & elevate our lifestyle” before she goes on to state how she pays $400 a month for a Balinese treehouse compared to $1,300 a month for a studio in Los Angeles. In one of her tweets, she makes it clear all of the benefits of living in Bali: “Safety; Low cost of living; Luxury lifestyle; Queer friendly; Black in Bali community.”
Indonesians across the diaspora caught wind of Gray’s thread and heavily criticized her with accusations of gentrification, settler colonialism, and American privilege — some of them going so far as…