Online sensation has new creative pursuits in the works

Photo by Shelby Claire Photography
Amber Estenson has reached somewhat of a crossroads in deciding what to do with her online popularity as “That Midwestern Mom” and a combined follower base of over 1 million followers. Multiple plans are in the works, but she stresses the importance of keeping close to her roots in Frazee.

By Robert Willams


Amber Estenson of Frazee, also known as online sensation “That Midwestern Mom,” can flip between her real self and her popular alter ego with ease and that act creates instant hilarity both in-person and for her many followers. Much of the credit for her popularity goes straight to her mother Jay as the character is largely based on her.

Photo by Robert Williams
“That Midwestern Mom” will be using her online platform popularity for good by raising funds for the Boys and Girls Club while participating in two Polar Plunges in February in Mankato and Detroit Lakes.

“A lot of it,” Amber said. “It started out as mostly her. I’m embellishing stereotypes and my mom is so perfect. Anybody in this town will say that. She runs 100 miles per hour and nobody can keep up with her. She’s just the perfect midwestern mom and that’s how I came up with the name.”

The name came out of the blue and caused a small panic to make sure it was usable online. Usernames can often seem unique, but a quick search online can often showcase how unique a name isn’t. Amber got lucky.

“I was traveling down the highway when I thought of it and I literally pulled over and made sure the user name was available on the platforms,” she said. “I changed my username immediately to lock it down.”

Talking to Amber is also talking to “That Midwestern Mom” at the same time. It can be somewhat disconcerting how quickly she can flip between the two.

“People laugh at the juxtaposition of my normal voice and how different and fast I flip,” she said.

That ability can be credited to, or explained by, being diagnosed later in life with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia at the age of 40. 

“I’ve always wondered why my brain just fires off these ideas, but I struggle putting them together,” she said.

Estenson used those abilities and quirks to become a TikTok sensation that began on St. Patrick’s day in 2021 with a Pistachio Fluff Salad video and she was not in character yet.

“For me, that was a big one, about 30,000 views, which is huge for somebody who was getting like one or two views,” she said.

The next night, she posted a jello salad and somebody commented that Amber reminded them of Kitty Forman (That 70’s Show) and Rose Nylund (The Golden Girls).

The real source was her own mother and Amber put Jay on board with “That Midwestern Mom,” especially with creating the now famous hairdo.

“She just rolled her eyes at me and did it,” said Estenson. “She goes along with my crazy ideas.”

Jay uses a tried and true method to create the famous coif.

“Mom can put the rollers in 20-30 minutes,” Amber said. “If I want the hair to last more than one day I have to sit under the dryer for an hour. It’s old school but it works the best because the curls last the longest.”

Once she posted a video in character, she took off and from all places—downtown at Frazee Family Foods.

“It instantly went to a million views—I’m in a facemask, my hair is in curlers and I’m grocery shopping at the Frazee grocery store. People loved that,” she said.

“That Midwestern Mom”  was quickly picked up by state and national media including Fox 9’s “The Jason Show,” in Minneapolis, which led to WDAY in Fargo coming to Frazee to record while she made another dessert TikTok.

“That’s the one that went super viral,” she said.

“That Midwestern Mom” was soon featured on Novice News,, Buzzfeed, the University of Minnesota’s “The Minnesota Daily,” Yahoo News and many other outlets.

“It was all over that day,” said Estenson.

In a short span of a couple months, TikTok duties began to demand time for a mom trying to get a family trip in before the kids went back to school. She made another dessert video in character and the views kept coming.

“I was just doing as much as I could,” she said. “The next one was Cookie Salad, the one with mandarin oranges and fudge stripe cookies and that one went to 8 million views! There are three big ones out there and there have been other big ones since. About once a month or two months I get something that’s really viral.”

Estenson tries to post to TikTok daily, not always in character. There is a balance between what she calls “That Midwestern Mom” and her real persona “This Midwestern Mom.” Creating online content has nearly become an actual job.

“I’d like to get to the point where I have an editor,” she said. “My focus should be every day you film a video because people enjoy watching your content. Eventually, I would like it to be that every day is a cooking TikTok in character and then just other normal day Amber stuff.”

Amber’s alter ego is the little voice in the back of her head of her mother telling her what she should and should not do in life and the continual laugher that helps create.

“It’s about 50 percent my upbringing and then also observational comedy,” she said.

A big part of her online success she credits to the Frazee area, the community, and being raised here with all the particular nuances of life in the midwest. She learned how unique that situation was going to school at Johns Hopkins University out east.

“I always knew there was something special about this town,” said Estenson. “I went to college in Baltimore, Maryland, and to grad school in Washington, D.C., so I’ve been all over the country in these giant cities.”

What she shared with her friends back at school from home she knew would seem strange to those people back in the city. Things that seem common here were very uncommon there.

“It really shocked me when I went to Baltimore because I would sing for funerals, but there was no community to provide a meal after the funeral,” she said. “Everybody just came to the funeral and left and I was like, what do you mean? Where’s the food? That was another thing too. I would always serve Thanksgiving for my friends in Baltimore because we were all stuck there, especially for my international friends.”

An early inkling of midwest desserts and their effect on people unfamiliar with them came at one of those Thanksgivings.

“I put raspberry pretzel jello salad next to the turkey and I said what it was, not even thinking about what I had just said to my Taiwanese pianist and she was like, ‘I understood your English, but I didn’t understand what you said.’ We joke about that all the time. 

“It is just kind of those realizations that were funny in the moment but you don’t think anything of them and you kind of stack them in the back of your brain. This is just different parts of food culture, different parts of how we were all raised,” Estenson said.

Transferring that humor online was not part of a plan. There really was no plan.

“It was all accidental,” said Estenson. “I did not set out to be a TikTok creator. I was on it during the pandemic, just because it was entertaining. I watched other people blow up and now I’m mutual friends with them.”

With her combined online platforms, “That Midwestern Mom” has well over 1 million followers. That level of popularity denotes there needs to be a plan. For Amber, the question is more which plan or how can she combine all of her plans.

“Being an influencer gives me the freedom to do what I want and when I want, but I still don’t have a solid plan,” she said. “My dream would be to go on tour, start writing a Midwestern Mom comedy sketch.”

With friends who are composers and in the music business, creating music and a comedy show has a lot of potential.

“What I would love to do is to commission 10 Midwestern Mom songs and combine all of that into a one-woman show,” she said. “That’s definitely in the future; it’s more plausible now than it was five years ago. Your followers will come see you. I saw that at the Minnesota Twins game and the Minneapolis Pride parade.”

Amber has a big following in-state where 30 percent of her 850,000 TikTok followers are in the Twin Cities metro area.

“Anytime I go to the metro area I get recognized,” she said.

Around our area there are plenty of people who notice her, but people leave her alone most of the time.

“They do recognize me, but we’re more shy,” she said. “They’re just like, ‘oh, she just wants to live her life,’ which is so cute. I don’t mind if people recognize me and want to say hi or ask for a picture.”

Even if she was incognito in public, a quick flip to her Mom accent would give her away in a second. It’s baffling to some viewers who do not know Amber personally.

“The fun part about the accent, especially if they see me on a TikTok live or at an event, they say, ‘oh, your accent isn’t real.’ No, no, it’s very real,” she said. “I obviously do it for comedic effect and accentuate it, but people love it.” 

The positive outpouring Amber has received from multiple social media platforms has given her a unique perspective that she wants to share.

“Everybody thinks that social media is the demise of society, whereas I think you need to open up and our community is just changing,” she said. “This has opened up an entire community of like-minded people that I never would have had access to before. People who have ADHD, people who are single parents, people who are in the very same situations as me. Creating content along the same lines and all we have to do is have a conversation and all of a sudden we have 20 video ideas. I’d like to focus on collaborating with my friends and traveling to see them, because it’s really fun and easy to create content when you have somebody to bounce ideas off of.”

Upcoming this year are Minnesota appearances at Frazee’s Turkey Days and Pride in Minneapolis, the biggest Pride celebration in the midwest. The rest of her schedule is to be determined.

“I have to keep focused on why I keep doing this,” said Estenson. “Yes, food is central to my content, but my purpose is to bring light to how community-minded we are in this area of Minnesota. Whether that is I go camping on the North Shore and I show everybody how beautiful Minnesota is. Maybe 10 people decide to take a vacation in Minnesota when they never would have considered it before.”

While travel is definitely in the cards, it’s home that matters most for “That Midwestern Mom.”

“I know how lucky I am and I have that community support that builds me up and builds my platforms,” Estenson said. “I get to be on the front page of the hometown newspaper. Not every content creator out there has those kinds of opportunities to be so well known in their hometown.”

Estenson is raising funds for the Boys and Girls Club by participating in Polar Plunges in Mankato and Detroit Lakes this month. She’s also singing the national anthem at both. Donations to her cause can be sent online at