My first introduction to Nicole Story Dent’s social media presence was simple, hilarious, and very relatable. Just another millennial mom walking around Target, making faces of absolute shock and horror at all the throwback styles straight out of hallways of our middle schools. Only she was especially funny about it and on my Instagram Reels and, pretty soon, everybody else’s, too.

Dent is a Dallas-based, 36-year-old mom of two young kids — her toddler content is also extremely real. Over the last few years, she’s grown her following with a blend of humor and nostalgia and a very, very expressive face. And recently, I got a chance to chat with her about her wild ride online, her favorite Taylor Swift era, and the styles she actually wants fashion to bring back. (It’s not shrugs.)

Scary Mommy: How’d you get going?

Nicole Story Dent: Just like everybody else in 2020, I got on TikTok when we were all home and bored.

I look back now and I just cringe at myself, but I think I amassed about 50,000 followers over the course of a few months. And the weirdest thing happened: I got pregnant with my second son, and the idea of getting on social media made me feel sick, so I didn’t get on [it] for two years. My Instagram was private. And then about November 2022, I talked to my therapist about home and work and parenting. I was just feeling really burned out, being a mom of two, working as SVP of creative at a CPG company.

I was just feeling really burned out creatively. And she said, “I know you don’t have a ton of time, but is there anything that you feel like you could do that is yours that makes you happy?” And I was like, “Well, I like to craft, and I got on TikTok for a minute. That was fun.” And so she tossed it out there, “Well, what if you started to get back on TikTok?”

So I did. I took my Instagram off private, [and] was like, “Okay, I’m basically just going to be making these silly videos for my family and my friends that follow me. They’re going to be like, ‘What is Nicole doing?’” So I went for it, and I think within the first month I had 10,000 followers.

SM: Wow!

NSD: And here we are a year and some months later and I’m almost 800k. So it’s been a fast and fun ride.

SM: Yeah, you hit the note hard and fast.

NSD: There is that trap you can fall into with creative where, “Oh, well, people seem to like this. I’m going to do more of this.” I was just doing what I enjoyed. And luckily I’m still for the most part in that space.

SM: I think the videos that introduced me to you were the Target videos. Do you get recognized at Target?

NSD: The day that I get recognized doing that is the day that I will stop. I can film by myself in the privacy of my own home, no problem. When I have to go film in public, I go the minute Target opens or the minute Target’s about to close. I made that bed for myself and now I’ve got to lie in it and go do that in public.

SM: Truth be told, I’m pretty sure that I make similarly alarmed faces every time I go into the junior section of Target.

Photo Credit Paige Rance Photography

NSD: We’re collectively realizing how old we are. But also I feel like — and this is maybe just me saying this to make myself feel better — the fashion cycles are getting shorter.

SM: Oh they so are.

NSD: Okay, good.

SM: Do you get the viral stuff that’s like, “Get ready with me in 2016,” and I’m like, “You mean six months ago?”

NSD: I know, exactly. People will comment, “But I’m still doing that, because that was two days ago. What are you talking about?” I think maybe the 2000 is a hard math thing to get around. Our brains just stopped doing math in the year 2000.

SM: I’m going to have real trouble when 2016 is a decade ago. It’s going to be a real emotional crisis for me.

NSD: Whenever you realize that people are born the year that you graduated college and they’re able to vote, I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no.”

SM: I don’t think that’s right. That’s not true.

NSD: That literally is. I graduated high school in 2005, and that would make them 18.

I wonder if our parents felt this way, or just maybe because it’s the Internet and it’s in our faces.

SM: I feel like probably our parents’ age, they were only confronted with it when it was costume day at school and everybody wanted to dress up like it was the ’60s.

NSD: That happened to me. I was in a Forever 21 dressing room filming ridiculous content, but I overheard some girls say that they were getting outfits for their 2000 party.

SM: Get out of here.

NSD: It just hurt.

SM: So what does your feed look like?

NSD: I love funny women. I feel like I try to, with my content and also with the content I consume, do a healthy amount of mom stuff, millennial stuff, just funny people. So most of the people I follow, they’re just freaking hilarious and creative. I love people who do original content, like @heatherkmcmahan and @bigtimeadulting.

I follow Gen Z comedians. I don’t know if I follow any boomer comedians, I’ll be honest about that. There’s that family, three sons and their dad: @itsthemacfarlands.

It’s a pretty healthy mix. My feed used to be some aesthetic mom stuff, and it just made me feel awful about myself. So I’ve also unfollowed quite a bit of accounts; I really want to make my social media good for my mental health and I want to be that for other people too.

SM: Sometimes I have to go through and be like, “You know what, we’ve got to unfollow some of the really attractive houses because we’re not in that tax bracket.”

NSD: Exactly. It’s like, why am I just torturing myself?

SM: Yeah. Is there somebody that followed you that you were like, “Whoa, okay, now it’s real”?

NSD: Isaac Hanson, one of the Hanson brothers. So I did a video poking fun of “MMMBop” and how you don’t understand any of the words, and people started tagging the Hanson brothers. And I was like, “Oh, gosh.” You never know; I never want to hurt anybody’s feelings. But Isaac Hanson reposted it, and then I saw that he followed me. I was like, “If I could tell my elementary school self, she would think I’m just the coolest bitch around, because I’ve made it.”

SM: You’ve been doing a lot of very millennial mom content. Is there anything that you’ve realized or learned about your own generation of moms doing this?

NSD: We all have so many similar experiences as millennials and as moms. I just happen to have a camera in front of my face showing it.

I grew up with the internet and AIM, but social media didn’t come about until I was in college. So because we didn’t have that sharing, I thought my school was the only one where people were making those Ss on their paper. You just think your world is so small. And now we’re re-experiencing it together and realizing we all had, for the most part, very similar childhoods.

SM: And it didn’t live in our feeds forever. It was experienced in our notebooks.

NSD: Thank goodness. I feel bad for Gen Z because your digital footprint is there forever. Thank goodness that didn’t exist when I was a kid.

SM: Is there anything fun that you’ve learned about Gen Z doing this?

NSD: They’ve been really kind to me. On Instagram, they don’t venture over into my feed very often, but on TikTok I did make one video, and I think it’s actually Gen Alpha. It was really my first one that went viral, me going, “Parenting hack, get candy, but separate the good flavors from the bad flavors. You keep the good flavors. Your kids don’t care. They love orange and yellow Nerds. I don’t, so it’s a win-win.” And oof, those kids were very upset that I was suggesting that. So parents loved it, but there were some very upset children in that one.

Honestly, I want to be cool. I think I posted, “I don’t dress for women, I don’t dress for men. I dress for Gen Z to think I’m cool.” It’s going to reach a point where, “Ma’am, ma’am, you need to stop,” but I’m still hanging onto my youth via their trends. Any makeup I know, it’s because of Gen Z.

SM: I absolutely moved where I part my hair. They were correct about the middle part. I moved it and I never looked back.

NSD: Same. And I’m like, “I don’t have the hairline for a side part. I don’t.” And I’ve heard that the side part’s coming back and I’m low key terrified.

SM: Can’t make me do it. I was watching one of your videos, I think it was the “Get Low” one about your knees, and I also feel that very much. Do you still have your early 2000s clothing?

NSD: I went to college 2005 to 2009 and moved back in with my parents for a little bit, and I brought all my clothes with me. And my mom called me about a few months ago and was like, “Hey, you need to finally come clean out your closet.” And I was like, “I totally forgot I had all those there.” So I’ve got two bags in my bedroom that I want to do a try-on, because it’s Soffe shorts and Nike running shorts that every girl in my college had. Oh my gosh, the slouchy Peter Pan boots. Do you remember those?

SM: Oh God, wow.

NSD: So bad. I think I had a pair that was knit. I’m not going to fit into any of it, which hopefully will add to the comedy, but I’m so glad. Because I find myself jealous of some of those girls who have their entire childhood room that still exists. And I’m a purger, so usually I just get rid of everything.

SM: Oh man, the tube top era.

NSD: I think I have some shrugs, which, they’re coming back. Now I’ve got mom boobs, there’s nothing that could be less flattering for my upper half than a shrug.

SM: Every time I see one of those, I’m like, “We really thought we were doing something.”

NSD: We thought it was cute. Gen Z, I feel like they do a great job of styling a lot of those pieces so much better.

SM: All you had back in the day was a copy of Glamour magazine, your best friend, and a dream. And maybe What Not To Wear if you were feeling fancy.

NSD: Yeah, we just had our hype girl best friend saying, “Girl, you look amazing.” We didn’t have the internet to knock us down a few pegs.

SM: Right. To switch gears a little, do you have a favorite kid’s song?

NSD: Currently we’re into the soundtrack of Trolls, which I so appreciate. I will stan any kid’s movie that takes modern or even nostalgic music and redoes it. My daughter loves NSYNC now because of Trolls.

My daughter’s a huge Taylor Swift fan because I am. My kids are luckily at the age where they don’t know what the word “fuck” is just yet. So we’re able to not have to censor anything, but the day will come when I can’t listen to my 2000s hip hop when my daughter’s in the car.

“Mom, what does drop it low mean? What does it mean to back that ass up?” Back to Trolls.

SM: Okay, so you’re a Taylor Swift fan. What’s your era of choice?

NSD: Reputation. So just waiting day by day for her to drop Reputation (Taylor’s Version). It was such a cool experience to take my daughter to her concert when she was in Dallas. She fell asleep two hours in, which was an expensive nap. But it was just the absolute best.

It’s my favorite because it’s like I want to be that bitch vibe that she has in that. That strutting and the confidence and just swagger that came in that album. And I feel like pound for pound, when I look at the records and I look at which one do I skip the least amount of songs in, it’s Reputation.

SM: So what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind at the end of the day?

NSD: I love scrolling my hilarious feed. I love reality TV. I love crafting. But yeah, reality TV I would say is probably my biggest vice. I love watching reality TV.

SM: What’s your franchise? What’s your go-to?

NSD: Housewives, Bravo.

I haven’t watched the “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” reunion yet. I’m a Real Housewives girly for sure. There’s just something about watching middle-aged women scream at each other as if they’re in middle school, it just is relaxing for me.

SM: It’s very cathartic somehow. Because you’re in so many situations in life where you would really just like to throw your leg at someone, and it’s just not an option that’s available to you, unfortunately.

NSD: That’s what it is. They’re doing exactly what we want to do inside of our brains, but would never. And true crime, I like true crime too. Also weirdly relaxing, which is probably a red flag.

I have to do a palate cleanser afterward, and I can’t do ones with kids any more since I became a mom. And I’ll need a good palate cleanser like Housewives right after, so I don’t go to bed with those intrusive thoughts swirling.

SM: Do you have a go-to karaoke song?

NSD: “Milkshake” by Kelis is a crowd pleaser. There’s one that my husband and I, we were listening to music while giving the kids a bath and we were like, “The next time we go to karaoke, we’re doing this one.” It’s, “Hey, yeah, yeah, what’s going on?” Just a good, get-the-crowd-into-it belter.

SM: That’s fun.

NSD: My husband’s go-to is “Ice, Ice, Baby” by Vanilla Ice. You’re making me realize we need to go to karaoke more.

SM: I miss karaoke. I used to go all the time when I lived in the city.

NSD: Yeah, we lived in Dallas for a long time, and then we had kids and now we live on three acres out in the middle of nowhere. So we’re like, “Okay, karaoke night at Chili’s is our only option.” I don’t think that’s going to pop quite like the nightclub.

SM: So we talked about all the crazy stuff that they’re bringing back that we’re like, “No, don’t bring that back.” What SHOULD come back that’s not back yet?

NSD: I’m glad wide leg jeans came back. That’s one I’m happy about. Not excited for low rise. I’m glad sweatsuits are back. The athleisure has been lovely, that that’s now business casual. Growing up, Spice Girls were my fashion icons, which none of it is practical and makes any sense. But the bigger the platform, the better. Orthopedic surgeons get ready for some ankle surgeries, but I think platform shoes would be incredible.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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