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How a Grandma’s Accidental Thanksgiving Text Became a Netflix Film

  • Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench have been spending Thanksgiving together since 2016.
  • They met after Dench accidentally invited Hinton to dinner, thinking she was texting her grandson.
  • Their friendship, and Thanksgiving saga, is now the subject of an upcoming Netflix film.

Since 2016, the friendship between Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench — two strangers who met when Dench meant to text her grandson to invite him to Thanksgiving, but accidentally contacted Hinton instead — has captivated attention online.

Six years after the first Thanksgiving, the pair are still meeting up to spend the holiday together, and their friendship is now the subject of an upcoming


film called “The Thanksgiving Text,” Variety reported.

Hinton and Dench first went viral in 2016, when Hinton tweeted a screenshot of their first text conversation. Since then, their Thanksgiving reunions have gone viral online every year.

Here’s how the friendship and viral saga that inspired the film unfolded online over the years.

In 2016, Dench accidentally texted Hinton instead of her grandson

The Thanksgiving saga began when Hinton tweeted a screenshot of he and Dench’s text exchange on November 15, 2016, with the caption “somebody grandma is coming in clutch this year!! Ayee!!!” The tweet, to date, has 141,000 likes.

The texts show Dench inviting who she thinks is her grandson to Thanksgiving dinner. Hinton asked who she was; she replied that she was his grandma and sent a selfie. 

“You not my grandma,” Hinton, 17 at the time, replied, sending a selfie of his own. “Can I still get a plate tho?”

“Of course you can,” Dench replied. “That’s what grandma’s do…feed every one.”

And, as The Arizona Republic reported in 2016, Hinton did come to spend part of Thanksgiving with Dench at her home in Mesa, Arizona. It wouldn’t be the last time.

Hinton joined Dench’s family for Thanksgiving in 2017, 2018, and 2019 as well

In 2017, The Arizona Republic reported that Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela Grubbs, joined Dench and her family for Thanksgiving dinner that year and that the pair had kept up their friendship since the original viral moment, chatting around once a week.

“For him to continue with the relationship, I’m just really pleasantly surprised,” Dench told The Arizona Republic in 2017. “We’re more of extended family and, best of all, friends.”

On November 23, 2017, Hinton shared photos of him and Dench in 2016 and 2017 on Twitter, where the post received 191,200 likes.

The pair spent Thanksgiving together once again in 2018, and Hinton posted a Q&A video on YouTube with Dench showing them spending the holiday together.

By 2019, it was a full-on holiday tradition, with Hinton and Grubbs joining the Dench family once again for Thanksgiving.

“We don’t watch TV or anything. We just sit at the table for a couple of hours and talk the whole time and tell stories and see how we’ve been,” he told Time in 2019. “Time kind of just flies, we don’t even realize how long we’ve been there. They’re really good company.”

Hinton and Dench celebrated an early Thanksgiving in 2020 after the death of Dench’s husband

In 2020, Hinton and Dench spent their first Thanksgiving together without Lonnie, Dench’s husband of 43 years, who died in April of that year from complications caused by COVID-19, Insider previously reported.

That year, they spent Thanksgiving together with Hinton’s girlfriend and Dench’s daughter and grandson, celebrating a week early so that everyone could get tested for coronavirus and spend the holiday with their families, CNN reported.

“I wasn’t looking forward to it at first because Lonnie wasn’t going to be there. The past seven months have been so difficult, but this was really important to me,” Dench told CNN. “I can’t even explain how much joy I had, having good food with my favorite company. We laughed, we had a great time, we reminisced about the past. It was so good for all of us.”

That year, Hinton shared a photo of the group on Twitter that included a framed portrait of Lonnie.

“Thank you @wandadench for such an amazing celebration! You are such a blessing to this world. We miss you Lonnie,” he wrote in the caption of the tweet.

The pair celebrated Thanksgiving together once again in 2021, ahead of the Netflix announcement

In 2021, Hinton, Dench, and Hinton’s girlfriend Mikaela celebrated Thanksgiving together once again. On Twitter, Hinton shared a photo of the group together, along with a framed photo of Lonnie and a painted canvas showing the four with a halo over Lonnie’s head.

He had previously announced their plans in a November 14 tweet, showing Dench’s invitation to Thanksgiving over text as well as a photo of Dench, Lonnie, Hinton, and his girlfriend. The tweet has been liked approximately 1.2 million times.

The movie announcement came on Thursday, a week after Thanksgiving.

“We are excited to share our story with the world,” Dench and Hinton said in a joint statement to Variety. “We hope it inspires more people to reach out and make connections that they wouldn’t ordinarily make. We are so blessed to find a genuine friendship brought together by God from a mistaken text message.”

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.

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