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Mom Snaps Selfie From Daughter’s College Dorm Room, But Ends Up Regretting It

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Deanna and McKenna Pilling were about as close as any mother daughter duo could get. So when McKenna left the family’s New York City nest to attend college at Utah State University, the separation was going to be difficult. By the end of her freshman year, Deanna had thought it was time to get creative in how to keep her bond with her daughter – but she’d have no idea how it would snowball in the end.

A New Chapter

Utah native McKenna Pilling moved with her parents to New York City shortly before it was time for her to fly the nest and attend college. McKenna was looking at college programs all across the country, but the one that caught her attention the most was quite a far way from home. This was tough seeing that she had just gone through a move and because of how close all the Pillings are to one another.

McKenna Pilling


With McKenna off to school soon, the mother-daughter duo knew they would need to come up with some more creative ways to stay connected, especially after McKenna announced where she had decided to enroll. As the youngest of four children, and with three older brothers, she and her mom, Deanna, had an extra special relationship. They came up with an idea that seemed ingenious, but was it possible?

The Big Move

Although mother and daughter look remarkably alike – with the same megawatt smile, as McKenna revealed exclusively in an interview with viral story site Chasing News, she’s actually adopted. However, no genetics were necessary to bond Deanna to her darling daughter, the two were as close as could be.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling


After some deliberation, McKenna had ultimately decided that she wanted to major in occupational therapy at Utah State University — a more than five hour plane ride away from her family home. McKenna called her mom nearly every day of her freshman year. And so, as her first year came to a close, Deanna wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. 

Freshman Year

As McKenna’s exciting freshman year of college started to come to a close, she had a lot on her list of things to do. She had just a few days to take the last of her finals, and after all that, she still had to pack up her dorm room.

McKenna Pilling


Thinking only of getting some rest before getting to work once more, McKenna headed back to her dorm room after yet another exam. She was excited to get back home to the east coast to see her family, and of course, especially her mom. Little did she know, her mom had a surprise for her.

Deanna Goes The Distance For Her Daughter

Back in New York City, Deanna had missed her daughter while she was away at school. For her part, McKenna had been a little stressed out about studying for finals and packing up her dorm. On top of all that, McKenna would only be home for a few days before flying off for a trip for the summer break. 

McKenna Pilling


So, Deanna thought up an idea as to how she could help. As a wonderful surprise, she hopped on a plane from New York City to Salt Lake City, Utah. Bubbling with excitement as she entered the school’s campus, she made it to her daughter’s dorm building. But things weren’t about to go as planned.

Deanna Lays In Wait

Deanna, who had worked as an interior designer in Utah, before bringing her business over to New York City, was known for being kind of quirky. Many of her children’s friends called her “Mama Pilling.” As Deanna walked through the halls of McKenna’s dorm building she said hi to some of the other students as she passed.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie


Finally, she found what she remembered was her daughter’s door, unlocked, and went inside to see Mckenna. As she entered the room she saw that all of the decorations had been taken down off the walls, and the room was full of boxes. Except McKenna wasn’t there, so her excited mother got ready to wait.

Things Don’t Go Quite As Planned

Having flown over from New York a day early, Deanna knew McKenna couldn’t have anticipated her arrival. At first Deanna had expected to burst through the door of McKenna’s dorm, to the delighted surprise of her daughter — except there was no one in the room.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie


Assuming McKenna was still finishing up her final exam, Deanna loitered around the room, waiting. But after five minutes had passed, there still was no sign of McKenna. Although it would not be the big in-person reveal she had initially hoped for, Deanna took a look around the room, and came up with another idea.

Deanna Spoils Her Own Surprise

As Deanna later told TODAY, “Instead of standing there and waiting, I thought, ‘Oh what a comfortable bed. I’ll lay on it and wait for her.’ Every dorm room looked exactly the same. In my mind, I was perfectly confident this was her bed.”

mother selfie daughter's dorm room


Deanna got into her daughter’s bed, and for perhaps the first time ever, she took a selfie. Sending the photo to McKenna, Deanna captioned the photo “Look where I am!” She was confident McKenna would recognize the bedding and followed her first message asking her daughter, “Where are you?” McKenna’s response came quickly, but it was far from what Deanna had expected.

Deanna And McKenna Realize She’s Made A Big Mistake

Deanna was so excited to see her daughter, and despite her best efforts not to spoil the surprise she revealed to McKenna that she’d come to Utah unannounced by taking a photo from her daughter’s bed. But McKenna’s response instilled a pang of panic in Deanna.

mom dorm room selfie


As McKenna would later explain, “I was just confused at first and then I immediately figured out what had happened.” She quickly responded to her mom, “Where’s that?? I’m in my dorm.” Deanna immediately felt sick to her stomach. She thought to herself, “Oh my gosh. I’m in the wrong place.” Quickly, she sprung up from the stranger’s bed.

Deanna’s In The Wrong Room!

McKenna beat her mom to the punch and texted her “Please tell me you’re not in someone else’s dorm.” After the fact she’d tell an interviewer, “I was in a panic of where she was. I was scared of whose room that was. I didn’t want her to embarrass me.”

 Deanna Pilling selfie dorm room


Deanna then answered straight away – “I am in the wrong dorm omg.” Deanna had, in fact, been in the correct dorm building, but had mistakenly entered a room on the wrong floor. That meant she’d entered a stranger’s room and gotten into a stranger’s bed from where sent her daughter a selfie! And whose room was she even in?

A Big Time Fail

McKenna had known that there was no way her mom could have been in her dorm room, or her bed for that matter, because she had been in her actual room all along – and in her bed no less! Once Deanna and McKenna had both figured out what had happened, mother and daughter both jumped up and raced toward the other. 

McKenna Pilling


Meeting in the middle, Deanna and McKenna were in absolutely hysterics when they finally reunited. Later McKenna would say, “I just could not stop laughing at her.” McKenna took a screencap of the conversation, and uploaded it to social media unprepared for the response. 

McKenna’s Tweet Goes Viral

McKenna posted the screencap of the hilarious exchange with her mother — including her selfie, to Twitter, thinking that her older brothers would get a good laugh out of it. But, completely unexpectedly, her tweet gained traction and quickly went viral online. As of October 2019, the tweet has been re-shared by other users 17,500 times, and was liked by 38,600 people.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie

YouTube/ABC News

Before long a whole slew of viral news sites had caught wind of the hilarious mixup. The Pillings are down to earth folk, and could never have expected that they’d become social media celebrities practically overnight! Every time McKenna looked at her phone – she just couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

The Pilling Women Can’t Believe The Response To Their Story

While McKenna lovingly described her mother as “kind of a dorky mom,” who is known to give her kids a good laugh from time to time, Deanna described herself as being like “The Absent-Minded Professor.” She went on to add, “I’m a little bit like that, with a big heart. I get myself into weird situations sometimes, unknowingly.”

McKenna and Deanna Pilling

YouTube/Chasing News

Although Deanna was used to goofing up and even embarrassing her kids, she could not have imagined anything she’d do would ever gather so much public interest. Still, many empathetic mothers responded to her story saying this was something they would accidentally do too. And then the story got even more attention.

The Story Catches The Attention Of Someone Important

Once the story went viral, many morning news programs took an interest in McKenna and Deanna’s funny episode. CBS News, The Daily Mail, Good Morning America, and NBC’s TODAY all reached out to McKenna. They wanted to feature the mother-daughter duo as part of their mother’s day programming.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling interview

YouTube/ABC News

With their story garnering so much publicity, Deanna’s selfie was practically everywhere – and it just so happened that it caught the eye of someone specific. It turns out, the girl whose bed Deanna had accidentally laid down on recognized her bedding! Deanna and McKenna were about to get their chance to send a message to the mystery student, live on-air.

Deanna Is Still Left With One Major Regret

The girl whose dorm room Deanna had actually been in had no idea that anyone had been in her room at all, that is, not until the story went viral. Luckily, it turned out that the girl, who had recognized the pillowcase, was a friend of McKenna’s.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie

YouTube/Chasing News

Laura, the Utah State University student who had unknowingly gotten mixed up in Deanna and McKenna’s funny mistake, took it all in stride, and just like everyone else, thought it was hysterical. On-air with Good Morning America, Deanna thanked Laura for being such a good sport. Still, Deanna had one major regret though.

Deanna Is Embarrassed By Her Selfie

Deanna, who prior to the whole ordeal did not have a social media presence at all, couldn’t believe the reaction McKenna’s post had received. Although she now has a Facebook and an Instagram account, she wasn’t really all that well-versed in social media, or in taking selfies.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie


As McKenna explained, her mother almost never took selfies at all. Deanna, who never expected anyone to see the initial selfie, other than her daughter, was mortified. She wished that if she was to be repeatedly featured in the press, it would have been with a better picture. But McKenna had some tricks up her sleeve.

Being The Brunt Of The Joke

Deanna said that, “When your kids get older, you’re the brunt of their jokes and it’s fine and it’s fun,” adding, “I adore my kids so it’s all good.” But In every interview the Pilling’s did, Deanna couldn’t help but mention how embarrassed she was by the photo of her that had gone viral online.

McKenna and Deanna Pilling selfie


Of the experience, Deanna said that she didn’t realize how a seemingly small incident could blow up into something so big. So, when the interviewer from Chasing News came to the McKenna’s Morningside Heights apartment in uptown Manhattan to get the full scoop, the interviewer asked McKenna – what’s the secret to the perfect selfie?

How To Take The Perfect Selfie

McKenna, as a millennial, taught her mother and the journalist from Chasing News how to take a selfie and her tips were totally on trend. Her secrets? Use the filters on Snapchat – the dog ears are always a good one, and position the camera higher than face-level.

McKenna Pilling selfie

Facebook/Mckenna Larsen

Both McKenna and Deanna consider themselves do-gooders, and would have wanted the media attention to go to a cause. Fortunately, with McKenna’s newfound social media fame, her photo skills were actually about to be put to good use on an exciting trip she was set to leave for shortly after the last of the morning show interviews wrapped up. 

McKenna Is Off On Her Next Adventure

McKenna was going to be spending the summer in Romania as part of her education and do-gooder work she’d learned as a Latter Day Saint. McKenna, together with her best friend Maddy, was set to travel all the way to Iasi, near the border of Romania and Moldova, to volunteer at St. Andrei’s, a children’s orphanage.

McKenna Pilling


After the length McKenna’s mom had gone to surprise her daughter in Utah, and now faced with yet another separation so soon thereafter, there was one major question. Would Deanna do something big, and find a way to surprise her daughter in Romania as she had surprised her at school?

McKenna Receives Her First Mission

Deanna let McKenna do her own thing over in Romania, and before long she was back to school. Back at Utah State University, McKenna had some more exciting developments. She started coaching a special needs cheerleading squad. Not only that, but she also started seeing her boyfriend, Jordan. Still, even more changes were on the horizon for McKenna.

The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints


In October of 2016, McKenna got a special envelope in the mail. In i,t she was referred to as Sister Pilling — McKenna was being called up as a missionary of the Latter Day Saints. Before long she’d be embarking on yet another adventure, this time, to Las Vegas, Nevada. McKenna announced her plans on social media (of course), but there was one last exciting announcement to make.

Onto The Next Chapter

Today McKenna is no longer McKenna Pilling, these days she is known as McKenna Larsen! Two years after McKenna was assigned her first mission, she and her college sweetheart Jordan were engaged! The two were married on December 28, 2018, and of course, her mom Deanna was thrilled.

McKenna Pilling engaged


McKenna finished up her mission in Las Vegas, and is finishing up her schooling with her husband by her side at Utah State University. However, she makes sure to take loads of trips back to visit her family in Manhattan. And who knows, maybe one of those times she’ll be the one to take her mom by surprise!

Sources: todayyoutubebuzzfeednews


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