This is the story of how one Miami girl turns her everyday life into a slapstick comedy routine, entrances and entertains millions, and becomes one of the biggest stars of her generation.
Stassi dress, $895, by Sachin & Babi at Neiman Marcus, Shops at Merrick Park
Thirty million followers on Instagram, 12 million YouTube subscribers, 140 million views of her single “Celoso.” The numbers are staggering. This is the math behind Lele Pons.
And to think that just a few years ago, she was merely posting six-second videos online on the now-defunct Vine app—for fun. A high school hobby, if you will.
That hobby has turned into a digital authority that rivals and, in many cases, exceeds the reach of many Hollywood stars. Her comedy skits about exaggerated real-life situations—where oftentimes she is the butt of the joke and uses her body for laughter much as Lucille Ball used to do—are viewed millions of times daily. She posts elaborate dance routine videos, boosting the popularity of the songs she chooses, which makes her a recording artist’s dream. She is now doing the same with her own music.
I first met Pons four years ago at a social media conference, and since then, we’ve had professional moments in front of cameras and less-than-professional moments slouching on beanbags, talking about everything and nothing all at once. When people find out I am friends with her, they want to know what she is like off camera. My response is always the same: She is a normal girl who works extremely hard—and just so happens to be followed by more people than the population of her home country of Venezuela.
Telemundo invited me to introduce Pons in her first televised performance of “Celoso” at the Latin American Music Awards. I bumped into her backstage moments before, gripped her hand and said, “La vas a romper.” Pons looked like a bona fide singer, wearing a pop-star leotard and a dramatic ponytail, but more importably she was deep in concentration and focused on the choreography that was to come. Prince Royce rushed over to wish her luck and Becky G calmed her nerves by telling her she would be fine.
She was more than fine.
Pons’ performance was undoubtedly a top moment during one of the biggest nights in Latin music.
Velvet sequin dress, price upon request, by Brandon Maxwell at Neiman Marcus, Bal Harbour Shops
I met up with Pons the morning after the awards show in Los Angeles at Shots Studios, management hub to social media celebrities and music acts alike. I’ve never written for a magazine, but if Pons can try new things, so can I. She looked up at me: “What are you doing here?”
I am interviewing you for Ocean Drive! This will either be brilliant or a complete disaster. Speaking of disaster, we look terrible. I still have hairspray in my hair from the show.
LELE PONS: Look at me! My eyes are still on. I still have my makeup on.
Huge accomplishment making your official debut last night. I’m so proud!
LP: I was really nervous because it was my first time performing live at an awards show. People think I don’t get nervous—oh, but I do.
One of the themes last night was women empowerment and, as one of the most recognizable faces in social media around the globe, you have a part in that.
LP: It’s a responsibility because now everyone is looking at us, and we need to represent all women who can’t or are afraid to speak. It can be overwhelming. There are so many things I want to say.
Your single ‘Celoso’ says a good amount. How important was it to be that voice for girls across the world?
LP: Huge. When you hear it, you can definitely hear the tone.
You’re making the transition from social media star to music. Was that always in the works?
LP: I see a lot of people on social media doing it because it’s the next big thing to do, but I would have done it regardless. There’s an album coming next year, and I have a collaboration with Alesso, which is the best because he is a good friend of mine.
This wild ride took off when you were in high school. The now legendary story goes that you started posting videos to make people laugh.
LP: I did! I still do it to have fun and make people laugh. I sometimes look at the things I’ve done in my skits and I can’t believe it.
Many of your friends from back then have graduated from college. Is that something you feel you missed out on?
LP: Not really. College is fun, but once that’s over and you step into the real world, it’s hard to figure out what to do. I don’t regret anything.
How often are you without your phone?
LP: Only when I have big projects. Like my performance or a big shoot.
Are you constantly checking numbers?
LP: Not numbers. I look for feedback. I check to see if people like what I’m posting. Stuff like that.
Alphabet gown, $32,350, Versace, Design District
The tough part about social media is you take a break and you’re forgotten. Here today, gone tomorrow. When will you live and take some time off for Lele?
LP: Oh, I do live, but nobody notices because I accumulate content. I’ll prepare seven videos and for those seven days I’ll be on an island or in Italy and post.
LP: Yes. Italy. [laughs]
How is living in L.A.? What do you miss about Miami?
LP: My family. My dad lives there. I miss the relaxation that Miami has. Everyone just goes with the flow.
You are the host of Mexico’s version of The Voice, which is in Spanish, but your content is primarily in English. How is that?
LP: It’s tough, but at the end of the day, I have to understand I am never going to be perfect. I speak three languages: Spanish, Italian and English. I try my best. In the end, trying is what counts.
What are you trying next?
LP: Maybe a series or a movie. I haven’t done that yet.
How’s your love life?
LP: It’s great. I have a boyfriend. He has nothing to do with this world and he lives in Italy.
That’s what I was getting at before...
LP: You know all of this! You texted me about it.
I know, but it wasn’t for me to reveal!
LP: Yeah, it’s fine. He’s really cute. I love him so much. He’s adorable. He doesn’t really do social media. I get mad at him sometimes because he has no idea what’s going in my life.
You are now friends with the stars you have looked up to.
LP: For me, that is the craziest part. Daddy Yankee especially. He’s like, ‘Hey, Lele, bella,’ and I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? Why do you know my name?’
Madeline vest suspender, $505, Agent Provocateur, Bal Harbour Shops; Marni bodysuit, $150, Cosabella, Three Lakes
How was it to finally meet your No. 1 idol, Shakira?
LP: She’s on another level. I see the video of when I met her and I’m like, ‘I’m good.’ Now it’s so easy for me to meet anybody because the only person I ever wanted to meet was Shakira.
You are very proud of your Venezuelan roots.
LP: The country is going through a hard time right now. It’s a big country with so much talent. I feel like nobody knows Venezuela as much as people know Mexico and Colombia and other places, so I like to represent.
Biggest misconception about Lele Pons?
LP: People think I take everything as a joke. I care a lot, and I don’t think people know that.
Cool, that’s it.
LP: That’s it? That was fun.
Pons immediately grabs her phone and I ask her what she is looking at. “I need to post about yesterday,” she says.
That Instagram post raked in more than 13 million views.
Photography by Mike Rosenthal; Styling by Jacqueline Zenere; PHOTO ASSISTANTS: MORGAN DEMETER, JOE BECKLEY, RAYME SILVERBERG; STYLIST ASSISTANT: DANICA KALMBACH; Hair by Gilbert Muniz at Cloutier Remix using Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by José Figueroa