When Linda Dong started her YouTube channel, LeendaDProductions, in November 2011, she never thought she’d reach 127,950 subscribers with more than 12 million views.
She made her first videos just to share with her friends, but two months after starting, her sixth video about women and breakups attracted hundreds of views. Since then it’s received more than 115,000 views.
“I thought my mom must be clicking on my channel or my friends spamming it,” said Dong.
The passion for storytelling and acting began early for Dong. She played with her father’s camcorder when she was young and took theatre in high school, acting in many productions. The 21-year-old communications and design student today has also done background acting for locally filmed shows Mr. Young, Arrow and Continuum.
Dong likes to poke fun at awkward experiences from her own life with videos like “What Do Girls Do On Their Periods,” one on overenthusiastic teammates for ultimate Frisbee (“Don’t Be That Guy”) and another based on individuals ogling and pestering her mixed-ethnicity friends with naïve questions (“What Kind of Sexy Half Asian Are You?”). She grabs friends and has even cast her two sisters in her projects.
Other topics include the city’s dating scene, university life and stereotypes of girls from various Vancouver neighbourhoods, taking jabs at Commercial Drive’s preoccupation with the used and vintage as well as “going broke” if a guy was to date a girl who shopped in Yaletown.
Many of Dong’s videos are also based on growing up with strict, Vietnamese parents. Dong thought some viewers would relate to or enjoy watching her struggles, such as hiding a boyfriend while attending high school, complete with wary handholding and being dropped off in the alley behind her house.
Dong doesn’t think exploring Asian heritage is common in media.
“When someone does it it’s very like, oh gosh, what is this video about?” she said.
Dong likes to sneak in the casual consumption of bubble tea in her videos to publicize the Asian community. “You don’t see it in the mainstream,” said Dong, “and people do drink bubble tea.”
But being a female comedian isn’t easy, said Dong. She was made fun of growing up for her sense of humour and, in a reality of the Internet, has received negative comments on her channel. Dong learned to accept the feedback (“Haters gonna hate,” she said), but it was important for her to receive the approval of her parents.
“I was supposed to go into business and work for some company in a suit,” said Dong, who wants to pursue her passions.
The turning point was March 2013 when Dong won the award for best student video channel at the Vancouver Social Media Awards.
“Them seeing me on stage winning that award and talking in front of everyone, that’s when they believed in something I liked doing.”
Her father, Nha Dong, likes to repeat “good job and high five” whenever she reaches a milestone. “We like that she’s doing OK and she’s very happy,” said Nha.
Her channel hit 100,000 subscribers earlier this summer, with the number still climbing. Last month, she visited Los Angeles to meet with YouTubers ISAtv,
WongFuProductions, FungBrosComedy and AnnaAkana – all with massive followings nearing four million combined.
Dong has a few ideas for her future, inspired by YouTubers who have become entrepreneurs after building a brand online. She believes the connectivity and ease of uploading content allows anyone to dream big.
“I love the fact that I’m able to imagine something in my mind and bring it to life,” said Dong.
To see Dong’s YouTube site, go to youtube.com/user/LeendaDProductions.