From dating mishaps to living with small breasts, YouTube sensation Linda Dong's hilarious take on her life as a Vietnamese Canadian
The aspiring actress decided to make her own opportunities while in-betweeen auditions and now has more than 650,000 followers
In her YouTube videos, Linda Dong doesn't mind you laughing at her. With more than 650,000 subscribers and 86 million hits on her channel since 2011, the 22-year-old from Vancouver has ambitions of going places as an internet celebrity.
The short skits on the LeendaDProductions channel talk about life as a young Asian woman - from parodying the different kinds of men she has dated, what it's like to be flat chested, making fun of Korean soap operas, and hiding a boyfriend from strict parents while dating in high school.
The Vietnamese Canadian not only writes and directs the videos, but edits them too, uploading a new video each week. Credits roll at the end complete with outtakes that are just as funny. "YouTube is such a blessing. It's a platform that's so easy for any creative to express him or herself. It's pretty awesome," she says during an interview on Skype, as she sits in a Vancouver coffee shop.
"Usually what happens is that I'll be talking with my friends and something funny comes out of the conversation. When I voice the concept out, a whole script comes to my mind. I write the title of it on my phone and then when I go home I write the script on my computer," Dong explains.
One would have thought the vivacious actress would cast fellow budding actors, but in reality most of those starring in her videos are her friends from high school and college. There are also lots of comments online asking how she gets so many handsome men to act in her skits.
"Vancouver has a lot of good-looking people," she says with a laugh. "I meet a lot of people through friends. There are some actors and models in my videos, but most of them are amateurs. I'm so blessed to have friends who are willing to put up with my crazy ideas and shoots," she explains. "I'll have a script idea and I'll say, 'Can you do it tomorrow?' It's very spontaneous."
Despite mostly being amateurs, Dong and her friends are naturally funny and don't mind making fun of themselves on camera. She usually tells them on the day what the storyline is and the rest is improvisation. "I don't really have a certain script because I find that people are more genuine when they talk [naturally]."
She thinks her videos are popular because she gives a hilarious take on life as an Asian, an ethnicity that isn't portrayed much in the media. "Most of the videos are from my own experiences and I don't see an Asian voice online so I want to showcase that more," Dong says. "Growing up and being Asian are experiences that I deal with and I can't always relate to what I see on television."
Her first foray in front of the camera came when she was a child, when her father gave her a camcorder to play with. She enjoyed it so much that she went to acting school and afterwards hoped to get roles in film and TV. While waiting around for the next casting call, Dong thought she'd occupy herself by producing her own videos and uploading them on YouTube as a way to get noticed.
However, while making them, she has enjoyed being in control of the whole process and has so much fun - garnering millions of fans along the way - that Dong has even postponed finishing her communication design degree at Simon Fraser University to further her popularity as a YouTuber.
When she was studying, Dong's parents - her father an artist, mother a part-time chef in a Vietnamese restaurant - had hoped their daughter, the youngest of four, would go to business school, but their expectations were pushed by the wayside. When she won the award for best student video channel at the Vancouver Social Media Awards two years ago, Dong's parents realised not only was their daughter lauded for her work, it was something she enjoyed doing.
"They always knew me as the silly one in the house so they were accepting of what I was doing. I love performing and showcasing my work," she says. "They could see I have a passion for it."
Her goal is to follow the path of Wong Fu Productions, a trio of Chinese Americans who started making parodies of music videos and now have more than 1 million subscribers on their YouTube channel. They have also made some short films - the latest one, called After Us, was released in June.
Another person Dong looks up to is Michelle Phan, a Vietnamese American who Dong says was the first YouTuber to hit mainstream. Phan started blogging about make-up in 2005 and then began posting how-to videos online two years later. She now has more than 7.9 million subscribers to her channel, which has led to Lancôme making her the brand's official video make-up artist, and to L'Oréal launching a cosmetics line called em by Michelle Phan.
Dong plans to build her popularity by continuing to create more content for her channel and hopes that when she has enough subscribers she can start touring around college campuses to do meet-and-greets with students.
"I used to go to lots of them when I was 17 or 18, idolising those people, and thinking one day I'm going to do that, too," she says.
"When colleges start asking me to come out, then I would feel that's my big break."