Meet 'Heaven's Receptionist'

She is former Miss New York Taryn Delanie Smith, and she is charming all of TikTok
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2023 2:30 AM CDT
Updated May 27, 2023 4:00 PM CDT
Meet 'Heaven's Receptionist'
Miss New York 2022 Taryn Delanie Smith pauses on the red carpet during the Miss America competition at the Mohegan Sun casino, in Uncasville, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

If heaven were a place on Earth, its receptionist's office would be located in the home, and more specifically the TikTok account, of one Taryn Delanie Smith. As NPR reports, Smith—the 2022 Miss New York and 2023 runner-up Miss America, and, yes, a onetime receptionist—has created a gum-snapping, smart-mouthed, and infinitely kind character with the New Yorkiest of accents. "Denise" takes no sass from anyone and offers up no shortage of gossip from her lofty office. One video has her dealing with an uproar from the Rainbow Bridge, where the treat machine has broken down and a furry union representative has been sent to complain, though she pipes up with a complaint of her own: Heaven's choir needs to practice elsewhere on Fridays "because I can't hear myself think."

Clad in a bathrobe with a towel wrapped around her head talking into an upside-down pink razor, Smith dishes on the ghosts of celebrities, like the time Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy ran into each other at the salon or Paul Revere's latest all-caps email. She deals with the frustrated: "Right, so do you remember, when you said all those things to your son Ricky when he came out to you? Yeah, right. So, we didn’t like that. ... You didn’t earn any points up here." She welcomes Jerry Springer, telling him when Diana and Elizabeth got together, "we coulda used a mediator, if you know what I'm sayin'." And she charges lattes to her boss' credit card, scoffing at the likelihood of that one getting declined.

But as no-nonsense and witty as Denise is, Smith uses her character to respond to real people grieving their lost loved ones, like welcoming one commenter's mother to the Pearly Gates thusly: "No, it's all right. Come forward. I know who you are. You're Gerry, right?" Denise says, stopping her near-incessant clacking on her keyboard. "You are so loved. I'm already getting prayer mail for you."

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Kate Cohen, writing at the Washington Post, calls Denise "the best thing on TikTok." The idea came to Smith in the shower, when she thought, "'If I die in a chicken suit, then I have to wear the chicken suit forever.' And I just couldn't stop giggling." She shut the water off, got into her now-ubiquitous robe, and made a video she thought would actually dumb down the internet more. Some 1.2 million followers and 37 million views later, Smith says, "I'm not being weird. I'm having fun. I'm being silly." (Check out her videos here.)

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