Annie Korzen: Becoming An Accidental Influencer, Living Life and Simple Recipes

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 28
October 26, 2023
Phil Cass Photography

Octogenarian Annie Korzen never expected to become a TikTok sensation. The actor, writer and humorist has more than 400,000 followers on TikTok and more than 2 million likes.

“I thought my target audience was people like me: urban, Jewish … intellectual, educated women over 50,” Korzen told the Journal.

She was wrong.

“My audience is young people of all colors and all religions,” said Korzen, who discovered that “young people are looking for someone who’s honest and authentic and has some wisdom to share.”

Korzen, who turns 85 in November, is the author of “The Book of Annie: Humor, Heart, and Chutzpah from an Accidental Influencer.”  Her decades-long career in TV, film and theater include a recurring role on “Seinfeld,” a center-stage spot touring with The Moth and years as an essayist.

“For my life and my career, I’ve been told that I’m too Jewish-looking, and, as a woman, that I’m too opinionated and I’m too outspoken,” she said. “And now I have a whole new audience who tells me that I’m beautiful, which I’ve never heard before, and that my opinions are meaningful and inspiring.”

She adds, “Everything I’ve been criticized for … is bringing me to a whole new audience and a whole new kind of success.”

Korzen believes her secret to success is her philosophy of saying “Why not?” to any opportunity that comes her way. It’s also how she ended up on TikTok.

When Korzen mentioned to her 30-year-old friend Mackenzie Morrison that she’d like to find a larger audience, Morrison said she belonged on that platform.

“I thought, ‘Me on TikTok. What a ridiculous idea! No one wants to see this little old Jewish lady on Tiktok,’” she said.

Morrison told her, “Trust me, you will go viral.”

Korzen said, Okay, why not?

“I discovered you never know what the consequences are of any action you take,” she said. “The only thing you do know is, if you don’t take any action, the consequences are zero.”

On TikTok and in her book, Korzen talks about how she sees the world. She covers relationships, marriage, motherhood, food, thrifting, the list goes on and on.

“The greatest remark I got from a follower was, ‘I do not understand how I relate so closely with a Jewish woman from New York who is in her eighties. I am an Afghan boy of 16,’ she said. “That just thrilled me.”

It’s especially gratifying, since there’s been so much traditional disrespect for Jewish women, between the yenta, the naggy wife and the Jewish mother.

“We’ve become an unfairly defined stereotype,” Korzen said. “There is a lot of dignity and value in Jewish women in being warm and nurturing and opinionated and curious about the world.”

When asked what she hopes people get from the book, Korzen said she would like to inspire others to be themselves and to be open to other kinds of people and cultures.

“I was born in the Bronx, where the motto was, ‘Stick with your own kind.’ And I’m very happy that I disregarded that,” she said.

When you reach out to others, there are all kinds of riches to be discovered.

“We can’t just keep in our own little world.”

In addition to her philosophy of “why not?” Korzen says “living life” is a way to get out of any problem.

“I’m at an age where I experience a lot of loss and change,” Korzen said. “I deal with that by reinventing things in my life, finding new friends, finding younger friends who are not gonna leave me as quickly as the ones my own age.”

She adds, “You have to be proactive and again, say, ‘yeah, why not?’ to anything that’s suggested. … If you can be your honest, authentic self without hurting anybody, then that’s the only way to be.”

Korsen, who explains that she is obsessed with food, prefers simple when it comes to cooking.

“One of my things is salsa for everything,” she said. “Think about what’s in salsa: it’s tomato, chilis, garlic, onion, cilantro. You have all those flavors.”

Some of her favorite recipes are:

Meatloaf: Combine one pound of ground turkey or ground beef with a container of salsa. Put it in a loaf pan. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

“You’ll have the best, tastiest meatloaf ever,” Korzen said.

Gazpacho Soup: Take last night’s leftover salad, put it in the blender with a container of salsa, and you’ve got perfect gazpacho

“What’s in your salad? Lettuce, cucumber, tomato: all the kinds of veggies that you put in when you’re making gazpacho for real,” she said. “Whip it up, and you’ve got a great, cold, nourishing and healthy, vegetarian soup.”

Quesadilla: Take the taco-sized soft tortillas you find in the supermarket. Put in salsa, American or any other orange cheese, a piece of sliced turkey and sauteed onions. Fold it over and stick it in the oven.

“Five minutes later I have the most delicious quesadilla ever,” she said. “And simple, simple, simple.”

Read more about Annie Korzen. Follow @akorsen on TikTok.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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