MU student gains YouTube fame with help of 3-year-old "modern woman"

Thursday, December 22, 2011 | 7:03 p.m. CST; updated 3:59 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 24, 2011

COLUMBIA — For a final class project, MU student Kelsey O'Briant wanted to capture a day in the life of the modern woman, with a unique twist.

That woman would be 3 years old.

The result, a two-minute short titled "The Modern Woman," has become a YouTube sensation, in no small part because of the performance of Lua McDowell. Since O'Briant posted the video to YouTube on Dec. 14, the video has attracted more than 400,000 views and been featured on such blogs as The Daily What and The Huffington Post, as well as on "Good Morning America."

O'Briant said the response has fulfilled a dream that began years ago.

"When I was in high school I used to make little YouTube videos. I just kind of gave up on that," said O'Briant, now a sophomore in the Journalism School.

The project was born out of O'Briant's desire to feature Lua, the daughter of friend Danni Turner.

"She's always had so much personality," O'Briant said.

Turner said she wasn't surprised her daughter performed so well in a leading role.

"She's always been a super quirky and witty little girl; she has the exact same sense of humor as her dad (Johnathon McDowell), me and all my friends," Turner said.

When given her final project assignment, for which there were no creative requirements, the idea of featuring Lua in a tongue-in-cheek approach to the modern woman came to O'Briant naturally.

"I didn't think it was that original of an idea," O'Briant said. "It would just be easy to make, and her being in it would just make it cute."

The entire video was shot in a day at the home of co-star Cameron Dawson and co-writer John Wood and at the MU Student Center. O'Briant said Lua's natural talent made filming a breeze.

"She was incredibly easy to film. She's a natural," O'Briant said.

That talent included ad-libbing moments into the script, such as Lua's heavy sigh while typing at the computer.

Turner was on hand for the filming but didn't see the finished product until it was already up on YouTube.

"It turned out a lot cuter than I thought," Turner said.

O'Briant originally posted the video so friends could see it. From there, the video went viral, appearing on popular blog The Daily What on Monday. When the video hit "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, O'Briant received an excited email from her class professor, Leslie Dickinson.

"She said, 'I saw your video on 'Good Morning America,' and I spit coffee everywhere,'" O'Briant said.

Despite this, O'Briant said Thursday she still hasn't checked to see what grade she earned for her project, but she's confident she did well.

"This was my masterpiece of the semester. I'm hoping I got an 'A,'" O'Briant said.

Although Lua was excited to see herself on TV, Turner said Lua doesn't completely grasp its significance yet. Lua said her favorite part of the video was herself.

"She doesn't understand how big of a deal it really is," Turner said.

O'Briant said she'd liked to see her video hit 500,000 views by the end of the day Thursday, or at least by Christmas. If any money is made on the video, O'Briant said she would like to see that go toward a college fund for Lua.

"She's so talented and has so much ahead of her," O'Briant said.

Turner said she's proud of her daughter, and she'll continue to support Lua's acting.

"We'll let her be herself. As long as she's having fun with it, and we're having fun with it, we'll keep going," Turner said.

For now, O'Briant plans a sequel to be filmed the second week of January. Lua said she was excited to be in another one of O'Briant's videos.

"We're going to try to make it a New Year's-type party. It'll be a party-type atmosphere. That's all I want to give away right now," O'Briant said.

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