Is There Anything Lele Pons Can't Do?
Lele Pons had a very good 2017.
She was just featured prominently in YouTube's recent Rewind Video, an annual event celebrating the biggest YouTubers of the year. She was named the most watched Instagram Stories producer of 2017, putting her ahead of Justin, Selena, and The Jenner/Kardashians. And she even walked the runaways for Dolce and Gabbana.
She's also been doing more mainstream media, recently hosting the Miss Universe pageant. She's getting involved in music too, recently starring in a high-profile Camila Cabello video. It's rumored she will be releasing a single of her own soon.
She's more than a triple threat: She can sing, dance, act, produce, direct, sell, and make us laugh.
Is there anything she can't do?
I had a chance to sit down with Lele and talk comedy, inspiration, her career and her plans for the future.
Tom Ward: You immigrated to the US, from Venezuela, when you were 5. Do you remember it? What was that experience like?
Lele Pons: Leaving the culture that you grew up in and moving to a completely different one is scary. You don’t really understand a lot of what’s happening. It was also exciting to go to a new place where there are new friends and new things to learn and see.
Ward: Do you think that being an immigrant has helped you succeed? Like you had something to prove?
Pons: I think so. I saw how hard my parents worked and it made me want to work hard too. Sometimes I got bullied for my accent or being different. It hurt when I was younger, but it also taught me a lot. I’m proud of who I am, and where I come from, and I think we should all be nicer to people; even if they’re different than us.
Ward: What were your career goals when you were in high school; before you got famous?
Pons: I wanted to get into music and be a singer. I actually did a summer course at Berklee College of Music and had plans to apply there. It’s always been my goal to do something where I can express my creativity.
Ward: You got your start as a Viner, alongside people like Jake and Logan Paul, Amanda Cerny, King Bach, Cameron Dallas. Now you guys are huge. What did Vine teach you guys that helped you become so successful?
Pons: Vine was a good start for me creatively. I was able to meet a lot of awesome people through Vine as well. I think we all took away something different from the experience. It was where I started to learn about content creation, but I just outgrew it and turned to other platforms to keep building.
Ward: Is it amazing at looking at far you've all come? Like seeing Jake and Logan Paul buy these crazy houses.
Pons: For me personally, it has definitely been crazy. I’ve been blessed with opportunities that make life feel like a dream. I started doing videos for fun, but I’m happy to say that creating content that people love has become my life.
Ward: Why did you start out doing comedy? Were you always funny as a kid? Did you dream of doing standup or appearing in comedy movies?
Pons: I’ve always loved joking around and making people laugh. Even as a kid, I had a lot of energy and I was just trying to find ways to make people happy.
Ward: Talk about TJ Miller's quote a couple months ago that women aren't as funny as men. What funny women does she look up to?
Pons: I hope he really didn’t say that! Regardless, I could name 100 funny women that I look up to. Including Sofia Vergara, Inanna Sarkis, Hannah Stocking, Liza Koshy, Lilly Singh, Alissa Violet, and The Gabbie Show. Even Camila Cabello is really funny. If you don’t know what I’m talking about watch the Havana music video. She came up with that concept herself. Do you want me to keep naming them?
Ward: No! Laughs. Do you consider yourself a comedian? What you call yourself? Entertainer? Comedian?
Pons: I want people to think of me as an entertainer. I make comedy videos and dance videos. I can play different characters. I just make things that people enjoy and that are timeless. Eventually, I would love to show the musical side of me. Maybe it will be something you will see in 2018.
Ward: You've got 20m followers on Instagram, which is insane! Your posts on Instagram get over 2M likes each. That average is higher than most celebrities, including accounts belonging to Gigi Hadid, Katy Perry and Demi Lovato. Why do you get so much more engagement than most Hollywood celebs?
Pons: Because I am consistent with my posts. When it comes to Instagram, I don’t really think about what I am going to post before I do it. I am also very engaged with my fans. I DM my fans. I comment them back. I go on Instagram Live with them and this may sound crazy, but sometimes I give some fans my phone number and FaceTime them. At the end of the day, I am myself on social media and people can relate to that. I am just myself. That’s it.
Ward: What advice do you have for younger aspiring influencers who are trying to grow their Instagram?
Pons: The best advice for anyone trying to grow on social media is to be real and to be consistent. People will connect more with you if you stay true to yourself and who you are. Create a schedule where you have a balance of pictures and videos that people will love. Just have fun with it and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Ward: Talk about your creative process. You write, direct, casts all of your videos. What's your process from story idea to finished posted video?
Pons: I take something from my life and I just make it bigger and sillier. I’m lucky to have super talented friends, and my team at Shots Studios, that help my videos perform even better. It takes about three days to create a great YouTube sketch. The first day is dedicated to creating the concept, writing the script, and finding people that would fit the character roles. Then, I try to shoot in a day or two. And then it takes a full day for editing.
Ward: You were recently a judge at the 2017 Miss Universe Competition. What was that experience like?
Pons: It was an honor and I was glad that I was able to be a part of history, watching Miss South Africa win. It was a dream that I never thought would come true. Never in a million years would I ever think I would be there! I’ve been a fan of the competition for years. I am so grateful for their team and my team for putting it all together. It turned out great!
Ward: How do you go from looking gorgeous on a runway for a fashion show and then throw on a sweatshirt and appear like a "normal girl” in your videos. Is this becoming relatable harder to do?
Pons: Most of the time I am wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts. More recently, I’ve been putting on makeup and dresses for events, but underneath it all, I’m still the same person. I think everyone likes to play dress up from time to time. As long as I’m always myself, my looks don’t matter.
Ward: What are yours plan as you get older? You can't play the same role 10 years from now. Where do you see your career headed?
Pons: Well, no one is the same person they were then years ago. People grow and change, and do different things. My goal is to just keep learning and evolving. I want to be a better me in 10 years.
Ward: What is the end goal? Music, movies, etc.
Pons: My primary goal is to always focus on what I’m doing right now. I love setting goals for myself, and eventually I will create more styles of content that’s different from what I’m currently creating. I want to always evolve as a content creator.
Ward: What about getting a TV show?
Pons: Obviously, I want to create as much content as I can on YouTube and Instagram right now because those are big platforms for me and that’s where I am currently focused. Most of my Instagram videos inspire my YouTube videos and I strongly believe that my YouTube videos will eventually evolve into a Netflix or YouTube Red show.
Ward: I see you're doing some brand deals, but they're very strategic and on-brand. I'd love to hear about how you work with brands.
Pons: I only want to work with companies that share the same values as me. I wouldn’t say I have gotten bad pitches; just ones that I don’t feel are right for me. Basically, brands let me create fun stories and scenes around the product in a natural way. Being a COVERGIRL ambassador and working with Snickers were amazing opportunities. I hope to continue to work with brands like them.
Ward: Who do you look up to in entertainment?
Pons: I love Shakira so much! Not just because she’s beautiful, but her music is timeless. I’ve been listening to her since I was a kid. She inspires me to make timeless content.
Ward: I saw that you, and other big influencers, were heavily involved in the Puerto Rico hurricane relief. It was really good to see. Talk about your charity work.
Pons: Seeing what’s happening in places like Puerto Rico and Mexico is heartbreaking. I think creators with big followings have to use our platform to help when we are needed. As for myself, I try to find ways to stay involved in causes that are important to me. And I’m really looking to be even more involved in 2018.
Ward: You truly are an amazing success story. Do you have any words of advice for the young girls who aspire to be a famous creator like you someday?
Pons: For young girls who want to become creators, I think it’s important to work hard and stay patient. You don’t get millions of followers overnight. You just have to focus on putting out consistent and relatable content and then everything else will follow.