It started with a camcorder her dad bought her when she was 11 years old. Vietnamese Canadian actress Linda Dong, 22, who has garnered 590,000-plus subscribers and 78 million views on her YouTube channel, LeendaDProductions, since she started uploading videos in 2011, has been filming herself performing long before she started at- tracting viewers that extended past her close friends and family. Though as a child, she’d be singing to Celine Dion and recording on videotape, nowadays, she shoots, films and edits a combination of comedic vlogs, skits, short films and parody music videos that are relatable to young girls everywhere.
Her most popular videos are “If Your Period Was a Person,” “My Boyfriend’s Hot Best Girl Friend” and a cover of Frozen’s “Let It Go,” with the lyrics re-written as “F-ck It All,” a senti- ment college students can relate to when it’s cram time for final exams.
Growing up in Vancouver, Dong remembers being inspired by Asian American YouTube stars like Wong Fu Productions and KevJumba. “I had a huge crush on KevJumba,” she says, laughing, referencing his “Girls Are Like M&Ms” video as being particularly memorable when she was younger. Like many performers who find success on YouTube, she was tired of waiting for auditions, so she decided for write roles for herself.
She first created her YouTube channel when she was 19, and after only two months, she started gaining traction after one of her videos, “Sh-t Girls Say After Break Ups,” became a hit online. Though her family encouraged her to pursue a career in business after college, she asked them for four months to concentrate on building her YouTube channel. She was determined to prove to them that she could be successful. Just one month later, she was nominated for (and later won) an award for Best Student Video Channel at the 2013 Vancouver Social Media Awards.
Two years later, she’s become a pro. “Sometimes, I’ll write [the script] at 10 p.m., and we’ll shoot it the next day at 1 p.m.,” says Dong, who often makes videos with her friends. “It’s a lot quicker now than it used to be. I take notes on my phone, and I tell myself I need to put up a new video every week, because that’s what I [promise] my audiences. So often when I’m shooting this week’s video, I already have three other video ideas and know what I’m going to do for next week.”
Earlier this year, Dong took a trip out to Los Angeles (“The land of YouTubers,” she jokes), which she documented on her channel. “I went through a breakup, and it was one of those things where everything in Vancouver reminded me of him,” she says. “So I wanted to get out, and I thought, ‘What have I always wanted to do?'”
She had previously collaborated with the Fung Brothers on a video called “Asian Canadians vs. Asian Americans.” So during this trip, she made videos with Anna Akana and Philip Wang (“Are They Dating”), Wesley Chan (“Should I Say Hi?”), Peter Adrian Sudarso and Ludi Lin (“The Accent Challenge”) and The Fu (“I Want You To Know” Zedd cover, “Celebrity Impressions Challenge”), just to name a few. And she did a musical parody of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” titled “Dear Hot Guys at Runyon Canyon,” an ode to one of Los Angeles’ most popular hiking spots.
She credits Dan Matthews, the hiphop artist also known as DANakaDAN, for connecting her with other popular Asian American YouTube personalities. He had reached out to her years ago when she had first started her channel. “When I first came across her videos, I knew there was something special about her,” says Matthews, who admires Dong’s ability to be simultaneously relatable, funny, grounded, curious and humble. “There’s a real need for young, up-and-coming artists in our community, and Linda is arguably one of the fastest growing talents.”
This past June, the Asian American digital content platform ISATV, where Matthews works as the director of productions and development, launched a lineup of eight new shows, including “2 Girls, 1 Lab,” where Dong and co-host Gina Darling try weird Asian trends.
The first episode, a $10 Daiso challenge, focuses on the girls testing out discount Japanese inventions, including a lightup ear picker, a neck point roller, inflatable boobs and an inflatable swan wiener. The second episode has the girls testing the trend of marrying anime characters, and one of Dong’s favorite episodes to shoot involves the two of them trying bizarre Asian foods.
Looking forward, Dong wants to create more travel vlogs for her fans and showcase her passion for style on her channel. “I’ve been attending fashion shows since I was 16,” she says, “though I haven’t really shown it in my videos.” To that end, she’s currently working on a T-shirt line, just one of her many projects that she hopes will be “inspiring for artists and creators.”
This story was originally published in our Fall 2015 issue. Get your copy here.