When Barbara “Babs” Costello’s daughter, Liz Ariola (aka: Mrs. Nipple, local mom influencer) first encouraged her to try recording a TikTok video, the charismatic mother of four and grandmother of eight never could have imagined where it would land her. Seemingly overnight, Babs became “the famous TikTok grandma.” No stranger to social media herself, Liz thought that introducing Babs might be a fun way to switch things up and lift the spirits of her followers while living through the pandemic. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch the instantly loveable, bubbly and warm 72-year-old Babs?
Almost all of Babs videos start off with her casual and endearing signature greeting: “Hi, it’s Babs!” followed up with quick cooking tutorials, kitchen must-haves, hosting hacks and life advice she’s gained over the years. The result was the launch of “Brunch with Babs,” and now with a massive number of social media followers, it’s clear that Babs truly is the internet grandma that everyone wants as their own.
Upon realizing how many people were watching her videos, Costello remembers thinking, “oh people are following me isn’t that lovely.” But it quickly became apparent that people were doing a lot more than just watching.
“Followers would write the most endearing and heartwarming comments. They would say things like ‘Watching you makes me feel like I’m connected to my family again,” says Costello. Connection in a time of mass disconnection felt so meaningful that Babs (and Liz) decided to keep going and as one of her more than 370,000 followers, we can confidently say that we are all so happy that she did. We sat down with Babs and Liz in New Canaan to get the inside scoop and ask some of the questions that we’ve all been wondering about.
Whose idea was Brunch with Babs?
Have you always enjoyed cooking and being in the kitchen?
Babs: Growing up Italian and Lebanese, food was almost sacrosanct, it was part of the gene pool and I’ve always enjoyed being in the kitchen and eating good food.
Did it come naturally to you or was it something you had to work at?
Babs: I certainly cooked a lot when my kids were little, there was no Uber Eats, it was a very different time. One of their favorites was always “breakfast for dinner.” We’d sit around the table and eat together; it was part of our family culture and a really good thing.
What was it like being on the Drew Barrymore show? Were you nervous?
Babs: I’ve always been good at being “on.” Years ago, I started a preschool in Ridgefield called The Growing Tree, and when you’re working with young children all day you need to always be on. At one point on the show as we were chatting, it just felt very casual, and I actually assumed that they had stopped filming and gone to a commercial break. I was very at ease and animated and just completely being myself. I didn’t realize until later that they had never stopped filming.
What was it like growing up with Babs as a mother?
Liz: She’s a natural homemaker, she is exactly what you think of when you imagine a warm and loving mother/grandmother. She was always so hospitable when we were growing up, even if someone stopped by with no notice, she’d be there with open arms welcoming them in and cooking a huge meal. She was also always fun and adventurous, she planned great family trips where we’d all get to see the “teacher” in her come out when she wanted to show us all of the sites wherever we were. My mom has always been passionate about life and living, two qualities that are contagious and always make people just gravitate toward her.
How would you describe Babs in less than one sentence?
Liz: Joie de vivre, the French phrase, “exuberant enjoyment of life.”
What was it like growing up with Liz as a daughter?
Babs: Liz is my youngest and was deeply driven from a young age. When she was little she would talk about soccer and dogs, her two passions at the time, to everyone. In fact, we ended up getting a dog because she was so determined to have one. She has always been so creative and talented with making her visions come to life and she never does things halfway. She’s just so loving and incredibly supportive, she’s my biggest fan.
Congratulations on being a new face for Summersalt swimwear. At 72, did you ever think you’d be part of your first swimwear campaign?
Babs: No! I never thought I’d do anything like that, posing for a bathing suit company wasn’t something I had ever thought to include on my bucket list. The initial connection came through Liz, and when they asked me to do it too, I said OK. It is such an important message for women to know that no matter what age you are, you can have fun, enjoy life and enjoy who you are. At the photoshoot, before they started, they asked all of us what our “superpower” was and I said, “My energy.”
What’s the easiest thing to make that looks impressive when you’re hosting?
Babs: Steak. You can just heat up a cast iron skillet until it’s super hot, throw on a steak for a few minutes on each side, add a dab of butter and in less than 10 minutes you have a delicious meal. Roasted chicken is also easy. You can stuff a whole chicken with cut lemon, garlic, salt and pepper, throw it in the oven and in about an hour you’ll have a beautiful chicken. Plus, you can clean the house and get ready for your guests to arrive while it’s cooking.
What has been the best part of all of this?
Babs: Connection. I’ve heard from old friends and students that I taught years and years ago. I’ve heard from followers from near and far. It’s been such a fun thing to share with my family and friends.