Here's What Happened To The Real Little Debbie

Little Debbie may be one of the most recognizable brand mascots in the country. Her smiling face adorns the boxes of a wide variety of snacks and treats, from Oatmeal Creme Pies to Swiss Rolls and everything in between, though Little Debbie's Swiss Rolls are actually a knock-off. But Little Debbie is much more than a mascot; she was actually based on a very real person. And not only is she real, but she is also still an active part of the company to this day.

It turns out that Little Debbie's real name is Debbie McKee, and she's the granddaughter of the company's founders. Back in the 1930s, O.D. McKee and wife Ruth launched their company out of the trunk of their car, traveling around the country selling snack cakes for five cents apiece as a way to make money during the Great Depression (via All Recipes). In 1934, they purchased a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and not too long after, they decided to make it a family affair. The couple's two sons, Ellsworth and Jack, also joined the company, eventually assuming leadership roles themselves. It only makes sense then that Debbie would become a businesswoman, too.

Debbie McKee-Fowler still works for the company today

In 1960, the McKees started to think about rebranding their snack cakes. They were now selling family-sized snack packs but couldn't come up with a catchy name for the new product. It was their packaging supplier, Bob Mosher, who suggested using the face of their adorable, then four-year-old granddaughter, Debbie McKee, the daughter of Ellsworth and his wife, Sharon. They took his advice, commissioning the pin-up artist Pearl Frush Mann to draw the logo based on a picture of Debbie wearing a straw hat, per Today I Found Out.

However, they apparently didn't think to consult Debbie's parents, who didn't find out that their daughter was the new mascot until they saw her face printed on the product, according to Little Debbie. But the new mascot was a hit. As a child, Debbie would even appear dressed in her straw hat to serve snack cakes to customers, and she has remained the face of the company ever since. 

Today, Debbie isn't so little anymore. As someone who grew up helping her grandparents' company, it might not come as a surprise to learn that she also joined the family business when she grew up. Now Debbie McKee-Fowler, she joined the company's leadership team and works as its executive vice president. Moreover, she serves on McKee Foods' board of directors.