JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After losing her dream job and being forced to move back in with her parents in St. Johns County, Danielle Dziwulski was feeling pretty down. But her 9-year-old sister, Jess, wasn't going to stand for it. Her now-viral pep talk has reached the masses on TikTok and beyond.
Danielle, like many other 25-year-olds across the country, hit a low point during the coronavirus pandemic. After graduating from the University of South Florida, she had just moved to New York City and signed a two-year lease when things started unraveling.
"I signed a lease at the worst time possible. Two weeks after moving in, it didn't feel safe to be there," she said. "Everyone was in the midst of a full-blown crisis."
Danielle was furloughed from her job along with 2,000 other employees. She sold her car, unable to make payments while juggling a New York lease. She submitted "countless" applications, attended job interviews and faced numerous rejections. She felt defeated — so she left the city to move back in with her parents.
The Dziwulski family lives in a quiet equestrian neighborhood, Whitelock Farms. Danielle is one of five sisters — she's the oldest and Jess is the youngest. Danielle had just finished a job interview when Jess sat her down, met her stare dead in the eyes and gave her some tough love. Luckily, their sister Keri, 23, recorded the exchange.
"If you want to do something, you do it. If you want to go to a bar, go to a bar, go to it. If you want to go to outer space, you go to outer space. OK?" Jess says in her squeaky voice, her hands grabbing Danielle's face. "If you want that dream job, you get that dream job. OK?"
The video almost instantly exploded, garnering 1.4 million likes in its original form and being shared and re-shared across platforms thousands of times by the likes of People, E! News and others.
"The three of us of course didn't intend for it to blow up the way it did," Danielle said. "But day-by-day the likes, views and comments were flooding in. It was actually insane to watch and hilarious at the same time because I wasn't expecting that."
Very quickly, the sisters also had to explain to their parents what TikTok was.
"My parents found out pretty quickly because we were stunned watching the numbers climb," Danielle said. "My mom has been getting random texts asking if those are her kids in the video."
Last week, Danielle and Jess were featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show where a show sponsor awarded the girls $1,000.
For Jess — who's used to watching TikTok videos for the dance routines, not so much starring in them — as the youngest sister, she's pretty used to being the "family therapist."
"She grew up watching all of us mature from kids to adults. She's given me dating, career and life advice," Danielle said. "She offers simple solutions because most times, adults overcomplicate things."
On TikTok, Jess, who attends Hickory Creek Elementary School, has become a fan favorite from people in the comments section.
"Does she have time available for an appointment this week?" one comment said. "Your sister is my new life coach," said another.
As it turns out, the 9-year-old's advice worked, too.
Danielle got her real estate license and said it's been progressing. Looking back at it all about one year since things went awry, she says she feels lucky.
"I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from these unprecedented times is perseverance and to be grateful for my family," she said. "I know friends from other countries that haven’t seen their families since 2019. Worldwide we have all been impacted by COVID-19 directly or indirectly and I think we all just want things to go back to normal."
That's why she thinks her little sister's words resonated so well with others.
"I think everyone could use a little more positivity," she said.