Lynn Yamada Davis, a TikTok creator who brought joy to millions of people with her zany style and cooking tips on her account, Cooking With Lynja, died on Jan. 1 at Riverview Medical Center in New Jersey. She was 67 and lived in Holmdel, N.J.
The cause was esophageal cancer, said her daughter Hannah Mariko Shofet.
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 him 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 an interview on Thursday.
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 zany humor and 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 that feature Ms. Davis are uploaded the account will stop posting, Tim Davis said.
The Cooking with Lynja videos began in 2020 and gained attention because of a highly popular video in which the 5-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 Ms. Davis’s offbeat content. (Today, the account has more than 17 million followers.) Sponsors also noted the success and started contacting her.
Now, more than three years later, the Cooking with Lynja YouTube account has nearly 10 million subscribers and her Instagram account has more than two million.
In 2022, Forbes included Ms. Davis on its “50 over 50” list, and she won Streamy Awards for editing and food. In 2023, she attended the Forbes Women’s Summit in Abu Dhabi, where she spoke on a panel.
Lynn Yamada Davis was born on July 31, 1956, in New York City but lived most of her early life in Fort Lee, N.J. Her father, Tadao Yamada, was a businessman, and her mother, Mabel Fujisake Yamada, was a homemaker.
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 University’s Business School.
She worked for Bell Labs (now AT&T Labs) and had a long career in telecommunications before her unexpected TikTok fame, Ms. Shofet said.
“She had this whole chapter as a groundbreaking female engineer, and she was very proud of that,” Ms. Shofet said.
But as a TikTok star, she’d get recognized around the world, including in Japan and Italy, where she traveled with her youngest son.
Sean Davis, Ms. Davis’s 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,” he said. When she would visit him in Nashville, he said, she’d get recognized in the street, often by young people who use TikTok a lot.
“That’s how I realized how famous she was,” Sean Davis 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, as is evident from the videos. With special effects that have tiny versions of Ms. Davis flying across the screen and quotes 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, karate chop Ramen noodles and much more.
Ms. Davis was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2019, which changed the sound of her voice. In 2021, she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, for which she completed treatment. In one video, Davis can be seen baking (a lot of) cookies for the medical workers who treated her.
In addition to Ms. Shofet and Tim and Sean Davis, 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.
Ms. Davis’s earlier marriage to Hank Steinberg ended in divorce.
In her final years, Ms. Davis got to travel around the world, meet people as well as cook and eat amazing food, Sean Davis said on Thursday, “I just think her final chapter was exactly how she would have wanted it to be written.”