The new reality of Nepal’s virtual celebrities
Four years ago, Lemi Tamang was just another fine arts student in Kathmandu when she started posting her makeup photos and videos on Instagram, just for fun.
Her fresh, dewy looks got more attention than she had ever expected. Before she knew it, she had become a professional makeup artist with studios in Kathmandu and Mumbai. “I decided to change my passion into my career,” says Tamang who now has 277,000 followers on Instagram.
Tamang has worked with her dream brand Faces, teaches makeup in Nepal, and travels all over the globe on work assignments, and credits her success to social media. “No question about it, my work got noticed and I got assignments because of social media and it is my work portfolio,” she says.
A new brand of celebrities called ‘influencers’ now propel themselves to fame through social media, and the phenomenon is also turning the traditional advertising industry on its head. And the trend has arrived in Nepal.
Consumers no longer need television or newspapers to listen to songs, watch videos, laugh at comedy, learn fashion, makeup, or cooking tips, or even get the news. They are fed what they like online through algorithms or friends, and have no need to go beyond this circle of aquaintances or interests.
All this has created a new brand of celebrities whom people trust and follow. These influencers typically get people to click on their content because of their talent, and they no longer need to be profiled in mainstream tv and the press to become famous.
Nepal's changing social media landscape, Sharecast Initiative,
Hashtag revolution, Tsering Dolker
Social media musical sensations like Bipul Chhetri, Bartika Eam Rai, Sushant KC, Sajjan Raj Vaidya, Neetesh Jung Kunwar, Swoopna Suman have all burst in Nepal’s cyberspace like supernovae. Comedians like Rupshi Basnet and Binayak Kuinkel, and dancers like Cartoonz Crew have gone on to great fame. Nepal has several world-famous makeup artists like Promise Tamang, also known as the ‘human chameleon’.
Reshma Ghimire, who goes by the moniker tigerreshma on social media, used to enjoy the app Tiktok, where you can act and lip-sync to all kinds of background music, from songs to Bollywood dialogues. Her antics got her 98,000 followers, and offers for music videos (she accepted 2).
“I love appearing on screen, and am considering movies as well. But I hope I can still continue my nursing profession,” she says.
Khusbu Gauchan started a fashion blog eight years ago as a hobby, but then was flooded with offers of collaboration from international brands. She started receiving packages of clothes and was asked to model them in her blog. “And I got to keep the clothes, I didn’t have to shop after that,” Gauchan says, laughing.
If you admire Sisan Baniya’s leather jacket or want to grab a bottle of Pepsi like Reshma Ghimire, it may not be pure accident. Companies approach influencers who have 30,000+ followers with placement offers. Elena Don, known for her funny vines, recently endorsed Somersby, Livon and Tuborg in her social media feed.
“It is good pocket money, and I might turn audio-visual production into a profession,” says the liberal arts and science student.
Social media and democracy, Sahina Shrestha
Social media as political player, Ashutosh Tiwari
But influencers agree that success is not easy, and it is hard to convince parents that there is a future in it. Aneel Neupane decided to plunge full time into photography after he dropped out of accounting school. “My parents were aghast that I was leaving a dependable career and putting all my eggs in an unreliable basket,” recalls Neupane, who now has a film production company.
One of the earliest Nepali social media celebrities was Lex Limbu, who attained fame through his news blog site. He says there are pros and cons: “Ten years ago, there were fewer Nepalis who made vlogs or YouTube skits and when they did, people would often wonder why. Today, a majority feel that their stories, voice and views deserve a space online and everyone has the ability to generate an instant mass following. It has really helped some but also shown how difficult it can be to stand out among many.”
Influencers agree that while starting out is easy, standing out is the difficult part, and consistency is key. “There may be so many others out there who are better than me, but they are not as famous,” admits Sisan Baniya, one of the most popular Nepali vloggers. “The key is to work hard and keep producing quality content."
All over the world the relationship between traditional and social media is being remolded every day, and Nepal is no different. But the death of the mainstream media may be greatly exaggerated.
“At some point, social and mainstream media complement each other,” says Information Technology expert Aakar Anil. “For many virtual celebrities, social media is a stepping stone into mainstream media. And mainstream media increasingly uses social media for everything from scouting for talent to promoting products. In future the two will likely go hand in hand.”
Face to face with facebook, Nepali Times
Online violence against women, Sahina Shrestha
Social Media celebrities“There used to be a time when I used to reply to every negative comment trying to make people understand, but now I don’t care.” Khusbu Gauchan Fashion Blogger
stylescrap-khusbu.blogspot.com 20k views per month
Claim to fame: Modeling clothes on blog
Team: Makeup artist and Photographer
Fame led to: A new package of clothes waiting at home almost every day
Other careers: Restaurant, airbnb, hospitality“You cannot always be creative, so all your posts are not the same quality. But if you lose quality, people lose interest.” Aneel Neupane Photo Manipulator
aneel.neupane 10k on Facebook
Claim to fame: Quirky photo manipulations showing miniature people in dream locations
Team: Started alone, now has team
Fame led to: Career in audiovisual production
Other careers: CA dropout“Your social media portfolio is like your shop window, you have to present the best of your work, well photographed and edited.” Lemi Tamang Makeup Artist
__lemii__ 277k on Instagram
Claim to fame: Fresh, dewy makeup videos and tutorials
Team: One woman army, plans to hire video professionals
Fame led to: Makeup for the entire website of Faces, and work with GQ
Other careers: Former fine arts student“So many of our youth abroad are frustrated. They talk to me and I tell them it’s possible to make it in Nepal.” Sisan Baniya Vlogger
Paradygm TV 175k on YouTube
Claim to Fame: funny videos on paradygm tv, and personal vines and travel vlogs
Team: up to half a dozen editors
Fame led to: more fame and promotion of audio-visual production house
Other careers: Restaurant, garments, production house“Sometimes you just want to have a normal day, you don’t want to do anything. But you feel like you owe it to your supporters, so you make content anyway.” Elena Vine Maker
elenadon_ 52k on Instagram
Claim to fame: Funny and relatable vines
Team: One woman army
Fame led to: Endorsement and music video offers
Other careers: Hoping to learn script writing and move to YouTube“It’s a very strange world because no one tells you what to do if you become famous. You just have to figure out by yourself.” Reshma Ghimire Tiktok Video Maker
TigerReshma 98k on Instagram
Claim to fame: Dramatic expressions and on-point lip sync to Tiktok
Team: Selfie phone
Fame led to: Two music videos, film offers, model coordination stints
Other careers: Currently studying for nursing degree“Sometimes I worry when I see people whose only goals are to be well known, who do everything just to amass attention.” Lex limbu Blogger
lexlimbu.com 113k on Facebook
Claim to fame: most reliable and fast source for news about Nepali celebrities
Team: One man army
Fame led to: credibility as news source, collaboration offers
Other careers: working for Red Cross