Although TikTok has been criticized by politicians — and Montana even banned the app earlier this month with a law set to start next year — many users think the content on the social media app can be informational, funny, sweet and moving, enhancing users’ lives both financially and emotionally. (It also recently added a new feature to support mental well-being.)
Case in point: the user informally known as “heaven’s receptionist.” Her real name is Taryn Delanie Smith and you can find her on TikTok at @taryntino21. The 26-year-old pageant queen (she was crowned Miss New York in 2022) is a content creator with 1.2 million followers and 31.1 million likes after her two years on the app. Her videos have come to help people navigate death, imagined in her videos as a waiting room where she can greet them and show them what’s in store in the afterlife.
Smith told NPR she used to be a receptionist, job experience that inspired her character, Denise, a bathrobe-wearing, gum-chewing greeter with a New York accent in her fictional version of heaven. She told the news outlet that the idea for the first video came from a stray thought in the shower one day.
“I was standing there thinking, ‘If I die in a chicken suit, then I have to wear the chicken suit forever.’ Can you imagine a ghost coming to you in a chicken suit?” Smith told NPR. “And I just couldn’t stop giggling.”
So she took the first stock image of heaven that she found and made what she thought would be a very stupid video about “ghost outfits.” Here it is:
@taryntino21 Like i get you want vengence on the new home owners but why would you want to wear that forever #ghostfit #ootd #ghosts ♬ Elevator Music – Lesfm
And thus, Denise was born. That video got 2 million views and requests from commenters who wanted to see Denise again. So Smith started the series, which includes funny videos like the one below, in which the caller failed to get their wings because an upgrade to the “angel package” requires 7,899 good deeds and the caller is short about 7,899 good deeds.
@taryntino21 #greenscreen there have been many requests for more footage of denise on the job. You go Denise #ghostoutfit ♬ Bossa nova that looks good in a cafe(976272) – MiYAMO
The videos feature a combination of Denise dealing with people coming into heaven along with her gossiping about the job and historical people who arrived in heaven in memorable ways. The social media series has evolved, though. It has even been able to provide some solace to grieving families.
About five videos in, JenniferLynn13 (in the comments of this video) asked for a video of Denise greeting her mother. And Smith obliged.
@taryntino21 Replying to @jennifertavernier13 for you and your mama ❤️ she absolutely qualified for angel premium plus btw! #heaven #receptionist ♬ Somewhere Over The Rainbow_What A Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
JenniferLynn13 replied, “I am speechless and so grateful. I’m gonna listen to it every time. I miss her unbelievably happy thank you thank you thank you. Much love to you.”
And in this one, she kindly greets a baby named Olivia.
@taryntino21 Replying to @ashleynoelle29 #greenscreen ♬ Somewhere Over The Rainbow_What A Wonderful World – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
The woman who requested the video, AshleyNoelle, responded to the post in the comments by saying, “Excuse me while I sit and sob. Thank you so much. even the song is absolutely perfect. You’ve completed all these thoughts that had no answer.”
This post, celebrating a non-binary 23-year-old named Nat, was posted earlier this month in response to an email. It indicates that Nat knows they are loved and is doing OK as an intern in Denise’s office.
@taryntino21 Parts of this email were shared with permission from @Becca Darling ❤️ it took me awhile to be able to record this one without getting teary. Hugs becca. #grief #heaven #receptionist ♬ original sound – Taryn Delanie🤠
“If you ever wonder where all that love goes when we pass on, I could tell you. It doesn’t go anywhere. It’s all around all the time, and Nat just wanted to make sure that you knew that,” Denise said, addressing the message to all her viewers.
In response, Becca Darling, the video’s requestor, said, “I am overwhelmed by tears and gratitude. You have no idea what you’ve done for my heart. Thank you, you beautiful angel. Nat will make a great intern.”
Millions of people are viewing Smith’s videos, and the comments indicate they are finding these messages both emotional and healing. Smith receives sometimes hundreds of comments and emails a week requesting her to insert certain people and their stories into her videos. She said she can’t even read them all because of how much she will cry, but she does try. She believes in heaven and “talks” to those she has lost all the time.
“Because love just doesn’t … it can’t go away. It’s too big,” she explained. “When you love somebody the way my mom loves me, the way I love my friends, it can’t be contained in this boring earthly body.”