Dancing grandma Fran the Hip Gram of Naples turns into viral hit

On TikTok she is called Fran the Hip Gram.

But Marie Frances O’Brien isn’t that hip: she hadn’t heard of the social media app until two months ago.

Then her granddaughter posted a funny video of O’Brien on TikTok and that changed everything.

O’Brien, 93, recalls when her granddaughter told her the news. She didn’t understand.

Tick ​​what?

“Allison said to me, ‘I posted it on TikTok,'” recalls O’Brien and laughs. “And I said, ‘I don’t know what TikTok is. I have no idea.'”

Two months later, the Naples woman knows everything about TikTok. In fact, she has become one of the app’s most unlikely stars.

The first video? It has garnered over 7.3 million views and 1.3 million likes.

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And another video of O’Brien dancing with her granddaughters got almost as many views in just two weeks.

All of a sudden, O’Brien is checking her pageviews every day and chatting online with fans all over the world.

“That makes a lot of people happy,” she says. “If it makes people happy, I’m ready to do it.”

It all started when granddaughter Allison Krause visited O’Brien at The Carlisle Naples Senior Community this summer. O’Brien’s daughter was being treated for lymphoma cancer and they wanted to do something to cheer her up.

“Allison said, ‘Mom is not doing well. Let’s make a fun video, ”says O’Brien. “And we did that.”

Naples TikTok star Marie Frances O'Brien with grandchildren (from left to right) Kerry Krause, Nicholas Krause, Caitlin Krause and Allison Krause.

The first video, released in late July, shows a cheeky O’Brien wearing clothes to the music of Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I did it again. “The caption:” If you are in your 90s and your daughter has told you to stop buying more clothes. “

“My grandma is always well dressed,” says Krause, who shot the video. “It doesn’t matter whether we go to a fast food place or a five-star hotel.

“My mother is always after my grandma because she bought so many clothes. My grandma loves shopping, so we thought we’d make a funny video about it. “

The video worked: O’Brien’s daughter, Colleen Krause from Boston and Naples, is having a lot of fun. But then it also started collecting views on TikTok.

That was great, says O’Brien.

Well, mostly.

“I didn’t want anyone to see my closet,” says O’Brien and laughs. “And thanks to Allie, the whole world has seen it. It’s a mess! “

More videos followed, including the second most popular to date. The September 10th post begins with a cheerful O’Brien dancing and holding her granddaughter about 30 years ago. Then it quickly moves on to newer material – only this time it’s the granddaughter dancing and holding O’Brien.

The caption reads: “WHEN YOU WERE YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER TO DANCE, BUT NOW, AT 93, SHE WEARS THEM.”

The video suggests that they are both the same granddaughter, but in reality they are two different people. Allison Krause can be seen in the earlier video (around 4 years old), but it’s her sister Kerry Krause who is dancing and wearing O’Brien in the newer takes (captured by Allison at a family reunion in Washington, DC this month).

Allison Krause got the idea for this on a family trip to Paris three years ago to celebrate O’Brien’s 90th birthday. O’Brien would get tired of walking the cobblestone streets, so Kerry Krause would pick her up and carry her around.

Years later, Kerry still loves to pick up O’Brien and dance with her. So Allison decided to combine that with an earlier video.

“I thought it would be a good mash-up,” says Krause.

Other people apparently agreed. 7.2 million people have seen the video in the past two weeks, and O’Brien has been featured in national articles for Newsweek and Good Morning America. A couple of TV talk shows are also interested.

“I don’t think we knew how many people we would reach and how much interest that would arouse,” says Krause. “It’s incredible.

“We all know my grandma is a star, and she’s the star in our lives. … She was meant to just stand in front of a camera. “

The dancing grandmother Marie Frances O'Brien from Naples has become a TikTok hit as

Many of the videos show O’Brien dancing – something that wouldn’t surprise the people who know her best. She has been dancing since childhood and even dreamed of becoming a professional.

“I wanted to be a Rockette,” says O’Brien and laughs. “But I was too small!”

She gave up the dream of professional dancing when she got married, she says. But she never stopped going on the dance floor.

“That is my earliest memory,” says Krause. “My grandma always dances. It’s so much fun. She is the first person on the dance floor and the last to leave. “

Now O’Brien brings joy to the rest of the world too. And Krause loves that everyone on TikTok finally knows about the greatness of their grandma.

“She’s just so positive and happy,” says Krause. “She’s just so willing to do anything and try anything. She never says no. And so I thought it would be a hit – mainly with our friends and family. “

Krause made the videos to cheer up her mother and show off her grandmother. But they ended up becoming so much more than that.

“That inspires me,” she says of her grandmother’s energy and joy. “I feel like at 33 I can’t even keep up with her.

“She’s an inspiration to so many others, and I just wanted to show her to the world.”

O’Brien, meanwhile, enjoys her newfound fame – and makes friends all over the world. She loves that she can bring a bit of happiness into people’s lives everywhere.

“I’ve talked to people from Australia and Sweden and they asked me all these questions,” says O’Brien. “It’s so great to see. … I do it with pleasure.”

To watch O’Brien’s videos on TikTok, search for “fran_the_hip_gram”.

Connect with this reporter: email crunnells@gannett.com or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter), and @ crunnells1 (Instagram).

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