Mom Goes Viral for Documenting Daughter's Growing Eleanor Roosevelt Obsession After School Project
Liz Hewett's daughter's project took on a whole new life in a way she never expected.
The mom took to TikTok last month to share the story of how a school assignment given to her 5-year-old daughter, Essie, has taken over her whole personality in a hilarious way.
"My 5-year-old was Eleanor Roosevelt for the President's Day thing at school and ever since she put on that costume, she has not taken it off," she shared in a TikTok video post on Feb. 17.
"She wants an Eleanor Roosevelt birthday party. She's asked for a stuffed Eleanor Roosevelt to sleep with at night. She has asked that I refer to her as your ladyship from now on."
Speaking with PEOPLE about her viral videos — the initial clip has since amassed nearly 4.5 million views — the mom of two explains that her daughter was pointed toward choosing Roosevelt for the presentation by her teacher because her first pick, Coretta Scott King, was neither a president nor a first lady.
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As she did her research, Essie started growing her appreciation for Roosevelt.
"She was talking about Eleanor Roosevelt a lot. We were watching Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum on PBS, and it's a really great show because it makes real historical people the heroes of the shot," shares Hewett. "There's one with Eleanor Roosevelt, and so we had to watch that one over and over."
According to Hewett, things turned up a notch when Essie's costume — meant to be an English nanny outfit — came in. It wasn't long before Hewett knew this fixation was going to go beyond the project.
"I told her, 'I don't think Eleanor Roosevelt wore glasses' and she said, 'Well, I feel that she did,'" she says with a laugh. "And then she put the costume on and went straight into character and that was the end of that, I could not get it off of her."
Essie did take off the costume to get ready for bed. After saying goodnight, Hewett went to her kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine and when she turned back around, she was greeted by none other than her little Eleanor Roosevelt.
"She scared me, and that's when I was like, 'Okay this is turning into something.'"
Hewett had previously shared footage of her daughter trying to hype herself up for the event, which marked her first-ever school presentation. She can be seen taking deep breaths and pep-talking herself in other videos, one of which has nearly one million views.
"I thought it was really cute but also really inspiring because you can tell how powerful she feels in that little outfit, staring at herself in the mirror," Hewett tells PEOPLE. "I was like, 'This is giving me goosebumps.' And I thought it was so funny, so I posted it, and other people were like, 'I wish that's how I felt when I look in the mirror.'"
The mom also shared footage from the presentation day, which shows the little one putting her heart into singing "God Bless America" with her classmates, who don't appear on camera. She says that Essie's teacher has been calling her "Essie Roosevelt."
The 5-year-old doesn't quite understand the impact her video has had but does know she's been on the news. "I think she just thought she was already famous because that's her personality," she says with a laugh.
"She's very unique, definitely her own person. I really hope she never loses that," she says of the 5-year-old. "That silliness but also, she's so creative and you worry about your kids, you don't want them to be bullied or anything because it's not super normal to be really invested in Eleanor Roosevelt and having an Eleanor Roosevelt birthday party. But who knows? It could be cool."
What's definitely cool are all the different little Roosevelt-related gifts Essie has received from people who have seen the video.
"Someone sent us a real postcard written by Eleanor Roosevelt, Someone else sent a Life magazine with her on the cover from 1939. And Laura Roosevelt, who is her great-granddaughter, sent me an email. She's an artist in New York City and she has amazing art and she's letting my daughter pick out one of her paintings of Eleanor and sending it to us. It's so cool, so crazy."
Essie isn't just inspiring those online. She's also giving her little sister Roosevelt fever. "My other daughter is 3, and yesterday she started crying and said, 'I want to be a Roosevelt too!'"
"And I was like, 'You can be! You can be Alice,'" the mom reassured her little one.
It's also inspired Hewett to get in back in tune with her own love of history. "I'm such a history person. I started reading so much about Eleanor Roosevelt, and I knew she was great, but I didn't know how amazing. So I hope this sparks in other people the desire to look up that kind of stuff."