When MSNBC anchor Katie Phang landed in New York City from her home in Miami last Friday for a quick work trip, a furry critter was hiding in her suitcase: “Franky,” her daughter’s beloved stuffed bear.
“She put him in the suitcase and I legit forgot about him until I got to the hotel,” The Katie Phang Show host, 47, tells Yahoo Life with a chuckle, explaining that her daughter Charlotte, 8, asked her to take the creature to the Big Apple so it could “see the world.”
“‘He never leaves the condo,’ ‘He never leaves the house,’” Phang recalls Charlotte saying. “I said, ‘Well, you could take them to Publix. You could take them to the supermarket if you really want them to go somewhere,’ then she looks at me, rolls her eyes, and says, ‘The supermarket is not New York City.’”
Can’t argue with that, quips Phang, who agreed to bring Franky.
The host had 24 hours to show him as many sights as possible. She also made sure to photograph Franky’s adventures every step of the way — from being on set at MSNBC headquarters to a long scenic walk down Sixth Avenue and a short coffee break near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“My little girl asked me to take her stuffy, Franky, on my quick trip to NYC because ‘he’s never traveled outside of our house before and needs to see the world,’” Phang tweeted alongside a photo of the pink stuffed animal sitting on the hotel bed. “Everyone please send your regards to Franky!”
Franky’s adventures drew immediate attention on Twitter, drawing over 1 million views and nearly 50,000 likes and retweets. The images inspired others to share photos of their own stuffed animals with sweet anecdotes about how they’ve helped them through tough times.
“My mom (who has dementia now) put Bun Bun and Quackdoodle in my husband’s and my Easter baskets about 12 years ago,” a commenter wrote alongside a photo of a stuffed duck and stuffed rabbit. “They have since traveled with us everywhere we go.”
“Greetings from Dotty,” a follower added alongside a photo of their stuffed animal.
Charlotte, who has “dozens” of stuffed animals, was unsurprised by Franky’s viral success.
“She was so excited that people loved Franky,” Phang says. “It fits its purpose, right? She really wanted him to see what the world was like. I asked her, ‘Well, now that he’s seen it, what do you think?’ And she goes, ‘Well, now he can tell me about it.’”
Franky served another purpose as well, adds Phang, who says that being away from Charlotte can be tough on the family. Ensuring that Franky had the trip of a lifetime was a bonding experience for them both.
“This is the first time in eight years she’s asked me to take a stuffy with me. It’s kind of like a little proxy for her,” Phang says. “So, when it goes with me, [it’s like] she’s with me.”
For the cable news host, it was also refreshing to see people from different backgrounds come together online to celebrate Franky, particularly now, when there is such “discourse” around the world.
“The world has been so crappy these days,” she says. “It’s such a tough world that no matter who you are politically affiliated with, no matter how old you are, no matter where you live or whatever your background is, there are certain things that I think are unifying” — including “children” and “pets.”
“You can’t go anywhere without being reminded that we’re at odds often,” she says. “It’s nice that we can look at something that’s an inanimate object — though, in my daughter’s mind, he’s not; he signifies something to her. It grounds you a little bit, her love for Franky. She entrusted me with him, to make sure that he had an experience that was going to be positive, that was going to be uplifting for him. It’s a really generous thing to do if you think about it.”
“It made me realize, OK, this is what the Internet is supposed to do for us,” she says. “It’s supposed to be provocative sometimes, but I also think it’s supposed to unite us with people that are not next door, that are somewhere else in the world. And it helps us find some common ground.”
“There’s purity in the way that children look at the world,” she notes. “If my little daughter’s stuffy can make people feel good, and remember their childhoods, or whatever things that remind them of something warm and friendly, then that’s awesome. It’s a gentle reminder to all of us that there is commonality. There are things that bring us together, things that unite us, because the world is so polarizing these days.”
And, for those wondering: Franky’s adventures are far from over.
“Charlotte and I are going to create an Instagram account called ‘The Adventures of Frankie and Friends,’” Phang reveals. “Then, Frankie can bring a friend. I gotta go to Los Angeles next week for work, so I’m going to take Frankie and a friend to L.A.”
We’ll definitely be staying tuned.
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