‘Cooking With Lynja’ TikTok Star Dies at 67


Lynn Yamada Davis, a TikTok creator who entertained millions of people with her zany style and cooking tips on her account, Cooking With Lynja, died on Jan. 1 in Red Bank, N.J. She was 67.

The cause of death, in Riverview Medical Center, was esophageal cancer, her daughter Hannah Mariko Shofet said. Ms. Davis lived in Holmdel, N.J.

Ms. Davis began creating the wholesome Cooking With Lynja videos in 2020 with her youngest child, Tim Davis, to help keep up his cinematography skills during the pandemic lockdown.

Her social media accounts have remained active after her death, because she had asked her son to post videos that had already been edited. One such video shows the two of them looking for truffles in Italy.

“My mom was like my partner in crime,” Mr. Davis, 27, who edited the TikTok account, said in a phone interview.

Something else she requested, Mr. Davis said, was that he post a few older videos that they had made together about a decade ago.

Those early versions of what would later become an international TikTok sensation known for their lightheartedness were a way for Mr. Davis to learn how to make the food his mother cooked “as well as have a time capsule,” he said.

After the last Cooking With Lynja videos are uploaded, he said, the account will stop posting.

Cooking With Lynja began in 2020 and gained wide attention with a video in which the five-foot-tall Ms. Davis makes a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich while showing off some quirky dance moves. Soon, about one million people were following her offbeat content. (Today, the account has more than 17 million followers.) Potential sponsors noted the videos’ success and started contacting her.

More than three years later, the Cooking With Lynja YouTube account has nearly 10 million subscribers, and Ms. Davis’s Instagram account has more than two million followers.

In 2022, Forbes included Ms. Davis on its annual “50 over 50” list, which pays tribute to successful women more than 50 years old. And she won Streamy Awards, honoring online videos, in the editing and food categories. In 2023 she attended the Forbes Women’s Summit in Abu Dhabi, where she spoke on a panel.

Lynn Yamada was born on July 31, 1956, in New York City and lived most of her early life in Fort Lee, N.J. Her father, Tadao Yamada, was a businessman, and her mother, Mabel Fujisake Yamada, ran the household.

She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and earned a master’s degree in business administration as well as public health from Columbia Business School.

Ms. Davis worked for Bell Labs (now AT&T Labs) and had a long career in telecommunications before her unexpected TikTok fame, Ms. Shofet, her daughter, said.

“She had this whole chapter as a groundbreaking female engineer, and she was very proud of that,” she added.

As a TikTok star, Ms. Davis would get recognized around the world, including in Japan and Italy, where she traveled with her youngest son, Tim. Sean Davis, her other son, is a professional soccer player who used to be a midfielder for the New York Red Bulls and now plays for the Nashville Soccer Club.

“She was my first coach,” Sean Davis said. When she would visit him in Nashville, he said, she would be recognized on the street, often by young people who use TikTok a lot.

“That’s how I realized how famous she was,” he said. “People would ask for pictures, and I would take the picture.”

Most of all, Cooking With Lynja provided Ms. Davis with much fun, Tim Davis said. With special effects that have tiny versions of Ms. Davis flying across the screen and words like “Lynja’s got that dope!” her videos appealed to several generations of viewers. In her videos she is seen preparing all kinds of foods, heard sinking her teeth into crispy sandwiches or potatoes, and shown karate-chopping ramen noodles and much more.

Ms. Davis was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2019, which affected her voice. Two years later she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In one video, she bakes cookies for the medical workers who treated her.

In addition to her daughter Hannah and her sons, Ms. Davis is survived by her second husband, Keith Davis; another daughter, Becky Steinberg; two siblings, Jay Yamada and Karen Dolce Yamada; and two grandchildren. Her first marriage, to Hank Steinberg, ended in divorce.

In her final years Ms. Davis got to travel around the world and meet people as well as to cook and eat amazing food, Sean Davis said. He added, “I just think her final chapter was exactly how she would have wanted it to be written.”



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