YouTube star at 85

Helga Sofie Josefa has achieved cult status among young people as MarmeladenOma.  

Web Video Award 2017: Helga Sofie Josefa, better known as MarmeladenOma, with grandson Janik
Helga Sofie Josefa, better known as MarmeladenOma, with grandson Janik

Germany. Fairytales are actually not very suitable for children: they have dangerous animals, evil stepmothers and far too much violence. Nevertheless, the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and the Frog Prince continue to be passed on from one generation to the next. A fairytale hour only really becomes exciting with a story-telling grandma like Helga Sofie Josefa.

What makes MarmeladenOma (Jam Grandma), as Helga calls herself, so special is her media presence. The 85-year-old grandmother from Ettlingen near Karlsruhe does not only bring pleasure to her four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren with fairytales and stories of her childhood in German. Every Saturday she also reads aloud live on Twitch, the platform that young people normally use to play computer games.

The alternative programme is a hit: with over 190,000 subscribers on YouTube, roughly 44,000 followers on Twitch, autograph cards and piles of fan letters, Grandma Helga enjoys cult status among teenagers.

And this is the case although her appearances are anything but action spectaculars: “Welcome to the fairytale island with your MarmeladenOma and her grandson Janik,” says Helga when she greets viewers before opening a book at her cosy reading spot. With her kind voice and friendly face she becomes dear to viewers’ hearts after a few words, even when she addresses serious topics.

Island of calm

Helga Sofie Josefa does not only read fairytales. She invites her fans on a journey through time to her past. That goes back to the Second World War, to hunger and fear of death. Furthermore, MarmeladenOma reveals her difficult relationship with her own grandmother, but also many cheerful stories about her childhood. Viewers are allowed to ask questions and request their favourite fairytales. They reward Helga with affectionate comments, drawings and emotional letters. The senior citizen is a substitute grandmother and confidant, her reading corner an island of calm in our hectic digital age.

MarmeladenOma has been honoured with the Web Video Award 2017. Her success is due in no small part to two young people. Grandson Janik, who had the idea for MarmeladenOma, looks after the equipment and organisation, while YouTube star Gronkh, who normally discusses computer games with his four million subscribers, made the fairytale hour famous overnight. “Oh, she’s so nice,” he commented about Helga’s channel. The result: a flood of new fans made the stream crash for a short time and, when everything was working again, put a radiant smile on Janik’s und Helga’s faces.