How often do you find yourself scrolling through funny Nepali skits that are so relatable to your own life that you just can’t ignore them? If you are one of them, chances are, you have watched one of Elena Don’s comedy-filled short videos.
Twenty-two-year-old Elena Tika Gurung, aka Elena Don, has gone from posting funny skits for her 200 Instagram followers to building a fanbase of more than 84,000 people.
Raised in Buddhanagar, Kathmandu, Elena was the life of her neighborhood, a tomboyish girl who walked around with her cousins beating up bullies. “My friends started calling me ‘Elena Don’ because of my dominating and confident personality,” she laughs. “It has stuck with me since, and, funnily, it became my stage name.”
Her flustered and restless energy has been with her since she was a child, yet Gurung never imagined she would one day become a content creator making funny videos. “I always jumped around from one dream to another, but I did nothing for too long,” she says.
It all started in 2014 when 15-year-old Elena’s love for drama and caricature led her to make short videos for Instagram with the support of her older sister. Little did she know that she would find herself falling in love with the whole process of writing scripts out of her daily life experiences and turning them into videos.
“I discovered there are many people who relate to my videos, creating this unique bond between us,” she confesses. Back then, there were only a handful of female content creators. However, with one new follower after another, eventually, Elena Don soon became somewhat of a household name among young audiences.
Gurung took her content to YouTube in 2016 as she wanted to explore longer formats.
What started as fun has progressed into a process of discovering herself and the causes she believes in.
Gurung likes to take mini-breaks when what she does starts to feel like a chore, yet her creative pursuits always come first in her life. “I genuinely feel happy while making videos and sharing them with those who follow me,” she shares. “My creative process is in my control, and that is empowering”.
Spending so much time on social media came with consequences. As her fame grew, she had to deal with body-shaming and suffer from an eating disorder. This eventually ate into her self-esteem and took a toll on her mental health.
“Looking back, I wish I had someone I could talk to and help me make sense of my anger issues, anxiety and panic attacks,” she shares.
She had grown close to her followers and she opened herself up to the world about what she was struggling with. People consoled her with their own personal stories. Gurung found there were so many like her, desperately looking for a support system to help them cope with their mental health problems.
She wants to create that safe space for people who are lost in their own emotions—just like she had been; and to start difficult conversations about mental mental health. In time, she also wants to pursue a career in psychological counselling.
“It breaks my heart to see so many of us silently suffer,” Gurung adds. “We should be the ones to break that taboo on mental health, for ourselves and for future generations. If I learn and share more on this subject, I feel I can educate and take my followers along as I go.”
With a backpack full of ambitions to use her platform to promote what she stands for, Gurung plans on continuing to make videos even as she pursues formal education.
Despite the ups and downs in her life, she is still inspired by the same reason that motivated her to start making videos to start with: to make people smile. “If a 30-second video can light up someone’s day, why not! I want to give people a reason to be happy.”