Sunday, May 8, 2016

Died (Laughing) on the Vine

by Drew Martin
I saw an article about Lele Pons last week in Adweek that quickly had me looking into her videos as one of her 11 million followers on Vine, where her friend-sourced six-second clips have been looped more than 8.3 billion times. The most ever viewed on Vine, where she coined the phrase Do it for the Vine! She has another 5.4 million followers on Instagram. 

From pictures/stills, such as this one here, it would be easy to explain this phenomenon based solely on her looks as a young buxom blonde but watch her videos for a few minutes and your attention quickly switches to her often goofy athletic performance, and social commentary.

While there have been great queens of physical comedy such as Lucille Ball, Lele takes it to a whole new level and channels her inner Buster Keaton. On one of her stunt-driven compilations there is a caption that she is surprised she has not broken any bones doing the videos, and you are thinking the very same thing as she runs into walls, dives on friends, flings herself off of bridges, and gets dragged down the road by a car.

Lele's full name is Eleonora Pons-Maronese and she was born (1996) and lived her first five years in Venezuela. Her Latin heritage is a big part of her material, which she trades with friends from other backgrounds to comment on cultural differences, such as how one might act when breaking up. In a spoof of the shower scene from Psycho, to show the Latin horror film alternative, the knife-wielding stalker is pelted away with handfuls of beauty products thrown by Lele as she screams him off. 

My favorite video by Lele is one titled Latin Mothers. It shows four guy friends walking in the door of her house and passing her Venezuelan mom who is doing dishes. The first three are "all-American" boys and they greet her as they walk by: "Hey" "Hi" and the third yells excitedly at the top of his lungs "Hi there Mrs. Pons!!" For all three, she doesn't bother to turn around, only half-heartedly raises an arm to acknowledge them. But then the fourth and last one walks in and politely says "Hola!" and Mrs. Pons spins around with a look of ecstasy. The boy, to answer her surprised look, says "Mexico" and they hug and start dancing together while Lele and her three other boy friends look on in awe, saying "Hola?"

The amazing thing is that this all happens, like most of Lele's videos, in six seconds so they have the efficiency of a cartoon strip, the slide-splitting humor of a classic silent film, and she tackles issues of race and gender through teenage micro-dramas. It is also remarkable that, despite her inherent (and inherited) good looks (her aunt was Yajaira Vera - Miss Venezuela in 1988) she can flip her beauty switch off and make herself as unattractive as she wants for the effect she desires. It's in those moments of self-judgement and self-humiliation that she gains the strongest allies in her fan support.

The boobs out shot of Lele here is the perspective and envious stare of a flat-chested girl friend, whose two bosom buddies come to her aid with falsies made with party balloons.

Lele has recently released her book, Surviving High School, to help kids cope with the frustrations of puberty, dating, and parents.