For 10 years, “Aunt Barbara” delighted Long Islanders, selling customers Tupperware with a side of 1970s sass and drag queen theatrics.
But the Tupperware party came to an abrupt end when the seller, Jennifer Bobbi, announced in 2015 she was transitioning from male to female, and customers stopped calling.
An ABC News documentary released Thursday, “Unsealed: The Story Behind Long Island’s Tupperware Queen,” follows Bobbi through a sobering few weeks, including a trip to bankruptcy court, an eviction and a new job.
“I guess I thought, ‘Well they accept Aunt Barbara, why wouldn’t they accept me?’ I’m just the person who’s behind Aunt Barbara,” Bobbi, 48, tells the camera in one scene.
In the days since its release, a clip posted to ABC News’ Facebook page received more than 300,000 views, and fans shared their support for Bobbi during a live interview on Facebook.
“Jennifer, you are an amazing person! Keep doing what you’re doing,” one person commented.
“Love you Aunt Barbara,” another wrote.
Bobbi told ABC she felt it was important for her to stop playing a character and start being herself, even at a cost to her business.
“We were drawn to Jennifer’s story,” Adam Rivera, producer of “Unsealed,” said in a statement to Newsday. “Her decision to transition was decades in the makings as was her skillful sales persona, but regardless of economic outcomes, she still decided to come out.”
Neither Bobbi nor Tupperware responded to a request for comment from Newsday.
Bobbi grew up in Freeport with five sisters, she told Newsday in a 2013 story before she transitioned. She and a friend created Aunt Barbara, a fictional, “brassy, tell-it-like-it-is broad” from Long Island, based on the personalities of the women around her in the 1970s, Bobbi said at the time.
Years later, she tried out Aunt Barbara’s sales skills on customers at her side job selling Tupperware. The results were staggering: She became one of the company’s top salespeople, making six figures a year at her peak, with a party booked nearly every day, she told Newsday.
But despite her success selling Tupperware, she realized she wasn’t happy.
“The truth is, you get to a point in your life where you say enough is enough, I’m going to be the person I was born to be,” Bobbi told ABC.
After Bobbi came out as transgender, she lost touch with friends and family, and parties were canceled. Eventually she took a lower-paying job, and the documentary shows Bobbi packing up her apartment to move into a friend’s home.
Bobbi told ABC she credits her positive attitude to Aunt Barbara. The character boosted her confidence to come out — a decision she doesn’t regret, she said.
“I look in the mirror and I may not like everything I see, but I can visualize it and see the person I was supposed to be,” she said.
“Unsealed” is available for streaming at ABCNews.com/Features.