I wish someone told me that failing isn’t a failure, that it’s a learning experience. It took me many years to look back and realize that I had gained incredible knowledge and value from pulling myself back up from my setbacks. If I knew then, I may have been easier on myself.
Doris, also known as Sassy Gran is a popular 95 year old social media celebrity. Her videos online have been seen over 250,000,000 times. She is the world’s Grandmother, giving advice and sharing wisdom with her fans around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born in Colorado in 1925. My family moved west to buy land and become ranchers. I know it’s hard to believe looking at me now with my love of designer jewelry and false eyelashes, but I basically grew up shoveling horse crap and plowing fields.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You don’t get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness. You don’t get there without crossing over hills and mountains, but if you keep on keeping on, you can’t help but reach it.”- Martin Luther King Jr.,
I say keep on keeping on often in my videos. It’s pretty simple. Never give up, life constantly changes, we constantly evolve. If you keep moving forward you’ll grow in good times, and you’ll make it out of the bad times. I believe that’s why I’m so active and healthy. I just keep on keeping on.
How would your best friend describe you?
At 95 years old, most of my lifelong friends have passed on. However, my best friend throughout my life used to describe me as a bumble bee. He would say that you didn’t want to make me angry for fear of my sting, but that I was the catalyst to make things bloom and blossom. In 1955 being an openly gay man wasn’t easy, but I encouraged my best friend to come out of the closet and be true to who he was anyhow. We fought bigotry and homophobia in a time when there was virtually zero support from the world around us. Life was hard, and coming out didn’t make it easier on him, but he became an incredible force because he was living his truth. We fought for civil rights side by side for decades. Sadly the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s took him from me. Because of him, I’m still a champion for the LGBTQ community and I speak of it often in my videos as well.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?
Longevity. This is something that I truly have no control over, but with this many years under my belt you’re bound to see history and people repeat their actions. You learn to see it coming and make preparations to either fight or get out of the way.
Determination. Whatever the circumstance, I will find a way to a better outcome. I left my cheating and abusive husband in the 50’s. I took my kids and slept in the car. I worked 3 jobs while the kids were at school until I saved enough for our own place. Many many years later at age 93, I broke my back in multiple places. We know this is a death sentence for seniors. I was determined not to die in bed and fought every single day to get up and walk again. It was excruciating, exhausting and overwhelming sometimes, but I did it. Today at 95 I still work out in my gym every single day, dance, and do yoga.
Empathy- listening to the needs of others and finding resourceful ways to empower people to reach their full potential. If we don’t truly care, we aren’t listening to the nuances in what people are saying with body language, eye movements and behaviors. Sometimes words alone aren’t the whole story.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
When I left my husband the biggest obstacle was trying to make sure my children were safe so I could work. There weren’t a lot of single working mothers back then, and to be honest it was frowned upon. I didn’t have the support system that I needed to succeed. So when I finally established my own living situation I decided that there was a need for affordable child care. I started by babysitting children in my home and grew it into a larger daycare center that was aimed particularly at working mothers. I had a program for mothers that were on welfare, or struggling financially. I provided free childcare for them because I knew that the thing they needed most was peace of mind, so they could put their efforts into bettering their situation for themselves and their children.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I reinvented myself quite by accident. I think it was a combination of several things;
Fashion, technology, and a pandemic.
As a young woman I always adored fashion. I would collect magazines and dream of wearing the haute couture designs of the movie stars, Jackie O, and the French runway models.
We lost photo albums in a storage fire and my Grandson began filming me every time we were together. He would prank me, or he would ask me about my past, or just sit and gossip. But it was all filmed.
The pandemic arrived and people were stuck home and looking for escapism. Technology helped a lot of people survive by connecting them to the outside world. My Grandson uploaded his videos of me to the internet and overnight I had become a social media sensation.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
It started before Los Angeles. I was living with another family member in a small town. There was very little to do and I was incredibly lonely. I spent more and more time in my room, in my bed, existing but not living. I was literally waiting to die. I thought “Is this how I’m going to go out? This is what my life has ended up to be?” I was 90 years old and there wasn’t much hope.
One day I called my grandson and said “Please come and get me out of here. I love my family but I have so much more life to live” within a week I was living in Los Angeles with a completely renewed lease on life. The first thing I did was join a dance class.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
I’ve been afraid of the camera my whole life. I’ve never been comfortable in front of it. My Grandson talking to me in such a one on one manner made me forget he was recording. Once I saw the videos and I heard the comments around the world that I was inspiring people to live life to the fullest, it changed my outlook. Each time he asks me a question I know somewhere, someone is listening and hopefully learning that seniors have validity and are still important.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Well, I’m answering these questions for your interview so that’s incredible. My videos have almost 300,000,000 views across the internet. The ability to reach so many people young and old, in so many countries is astounding. I’m about to launch a book series called Sassy Gran Presents. I’m collecting stories from disabled children and incorporating them into books that will be inclusive to everyone. My great grandson is blind and autistic. Children are honest and curious when they see him, but parents are to polite and don’t allow them to ask questions for fear of offending. I’d like to break that barrier and let them learn more about the differences and the similarities between them.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Obviously that would be my Grandson. He is responsible for all of this. Without him recording the videos and posting them, I wouldn’t have any of this. I can’t express how grateful I am that at 95 my entire world has been changed and fulfilled. How does this happen for anyone?
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I suppose that being recognized by people each time I go out. I’ve had young women grab onto me and start crying. They’ve told me that I bring back memories of a lost loved one for them, and that watching my videos gives them a oft of comfort. To know that I might bring a little love or comfort to someone that I’ve never met is the most fascinating thing in the world to me.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
This might sound terribly narcissistic, but no. I believe that if another person can do something, why can’t I? With the right training, practice, dedication, focus, hard work and fine tuning we can achieve anything we want.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Interestingly enough, I didn’t have any support from my family before moving to Los Angeles. How do your children support a woman in her 90’s moving across country, away from them, the grandkids, and the great grandkids? They don’t. They were very angry and completely unsupportive. I’m sure they thought they would never see me again, and that possibility still holds true. But I dedicated my entire life to all of them. In the end, I was mostly alone and sad. So I had to do what was right for me. Putting yourself first is one of the hardest things for people to do.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I think I touched on this before, but being on camera was something I wasn’t comfortable with. I also don’t like my accent and my grammar. Hearing myself speak has given me chills of embarrassment at times. But then I read the comments that are so loving and supportive that I realized my approachability comes from my personality. A woman wearing designer clothing and jewelry and lots of makeup can sometimes come across as snobby or stuck up. I realized that my down to earth and real personality inside of the designer gift box reaches more people, they see the real me and hear the real me. That really helped me get comfortable with things that I didn’t like before.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone told me that I didn’t have to follow the path that society built. Getting married, having children, becoming a homemaker. People need to ignore the preconceived ideals that they believe their parents, or others think is best for them. Do what is right for you no matter what.
- I wish someone told me about darker issues in life we don’t realize until they are too late, codependency, cycles of abuse, addiction. These are things we don’t talk about early enough in life, but can affect everybody and prevent them from living a full and productive life.
- I wish someone told me the importance that being active and working out has on the mental part of us and not just the physical. I didn’t care about being physically fit, many people don’t. But the benefits of reduction in stress and elevating my mood were things I didn’t know until I started. Now it’s something that I can’t live without.
- I wish someone told me that failing isn’t a failure, that it’s a learning experience. It took me many years to look back and realize that I had gained incredible knowledge and value from pulling myself back up from my setbacks. If I knew then, I may have been easier on myself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I don’t think it’s possible, the genie is out of the bottle, but if I could inspire kindness and transparency on social media. I truly feel that the facade of social media and the ability to hide behind created personas has really affected how people treat each other now. The things people say and do to each other on the internet used to stay in the internet, but it’s bleeding into real life and changing how people communicate with one another in real life. Not always for the best.
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
That I wasn’t afraid to live my life, and I wasn’t afraid to die. I want young people to embrace life at every stage and realize aging isn’t a punishment.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I have a YouTube channel, Instagram, Facebook and of course where it all started, TikTok. Googling Sassy Gran Doris will usually pull them up.