Internet fame may have found Malinda Herman, but it is absolutely not why she started making covers of her favorite songs. To the 69-year-old, singing brought joy and confidence back into her life after a tragic accident turned it upside down.
From Poland to America, the self-identified “hipster grandma” won hearts all over the world when she posted her rendition of More Than I Can Say online about a month ago. In the now-viral video, her tiny Chihuahua shuts its teeny eyes and leans against her cheek, smitten by the song, while a kitty can be heard attempting to harmonize in the background.
For Herman, however, singing has never been about seeking internet fame. Speaking to Coconuts Bangkok from her home on the outskirts of Bangkok this afternoon, she explained the key role music has played in her recovery from a devastating car accident two decades ago.
“I got into an accident about 20 years ago where my car flipped over. The impact from the collision damaged my nerves and the left side of my face became paralyzed,” Malinda said. You may not notice it at first in her videos, but if you look closely, Malinda said you can notice the paralysis.
“I felt really terrible after the accident. For about two years, I didn’t let anyone see my face, I was ashamed,” she said. “It was all bent out of shape and my eye left couldn’t properly close. I could speak but not well. I couldn’t chew food or anything.”
Doctors told her the only way for her to make a full recovery would be to undergo surgery, which she refused.
After the accident, Malinda started doing daily vocal exercises to recover some movement in her face.
“I did the boring A-E-I-O-U exercises for years, until one day, my son bought me a guitar and recommended I tried singing, because he knows I’ve loved to sing ever since I was young,” she said.
That was a turning point for Malinda, who said her face started to gradually loosen up again after she started singing. Moreover, facial exercises no longer felt like a chore, but a part of her day she started to look forward to. She finally started a YouTube account doing covers in 2016.
Today, Malinda estimates her recovery at about 75 percent.
Her beloved Chihuahua “Jiw Jam,” which basically translates to “Small & Pretty,” came into Malinda’s life about two years ago, shortly after her previous dog died.
“I was very, very sad and my hair salon noticed. Since they had a bunch of puppies, she offered me one,” the hipster grandma said. While she had originally decided on another dog, little Jiw Jam kept following her until she finally picked her up. That’s when she knew they were meant to be and took Jiw Jam home instead.
One day last year, Malinda started playing guitar with the doggo on her lap, and to her surprise, Jiw Jam loved it. The little fur ball closed her eyes and seemed to drift away to the music, she said. Since then, everytime Malinda’s picked up a guitar or starts singing, Jiw Jam runs over – sometimes even climbing onto her lap – to listen.
Malinda said she never expected to go viral with last month’s upload, but is “happy to bring joy to people’s lives,” as that’s all she set out to do.
“People are so stressed nowadays, I wanted to do something that could help them relax and feel better,” she said, adding that she will keep making covers as long as people keep tuning in.
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