“The Secret Life of Lele Pons,” set to premiere May 19, is a five-part docuseries following the internet personality, comedian and singer as she builds her music career while struggling with Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series also will feature Pons dealing with the challenges of family dynamics and internet backlash.
“I have struggled with OCD, Tourette syndrome and other mental health conditions since I was a young child,” Pons says. “I was embarrassed for a long time but I eventually realized I needed to come out with the truth to live the healthiest life I could.”
Pons says she has gone through “heavy therapy” and that she’s now ready to go public. “I made this docuseries in the hopes that my story can be one of hope to people looking for it and help those who have the same conditions I have,” she says. Pons is affiliated with production and management firm Shots Studios; about two years ago she reached out to co-founders John Shahidi and Sam Shahidi about moving forward on the project.
“The Secret Life of Lele Pons” will roll out weekly over five weeks on Tuesdays, beginning May 19. Like the rest of YouTube’s originals, it will be free to watch and include ads (unless viewers subscribe to YouTube Premium).
The Pons show is part of YouTube’s upcoming slate of originals, which the Google-owned video platform has reshuffled to focus on connecting and entertaining audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content.
“I find with creators, it’s a process of finding the right creator with a strong voice and a story to tell, and the right time to tell it,” Daniels said. “Lele Pons’ story does feel like the right time – right now, people are quarantined and feeling fearful.”
Born in Venezuela, the 23-year-old Pons — fluent in English, Spanish and Italian — first rose to fame in short-form Vine comedy sketches. Today, she counts more than 16 million subscribers for her YouTube channel and has over 40 million followers on Instagram. She’s appeared in several music videos, including Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” and released her first solo single, “Celoso,” in 2018. Pons also has done work in the modeling world and hosted TV specials.
“The Secret Life of Lele Pons” is directed by Alicia Zubikowski, an Emmy-winning producer and director whose credits include Showtime’s “All Access” series and HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and “24/7” series. In association with Shots Studios, she produced “Vai Anitta,” the 2018 Netflix docuseries on Brazilian entertainer Anitta.
Shots Studios’ John Shahidi said working with Pons on the YouTube series has been an eye-opening experience. “I’ve learned that OCD really impacts a person’s way to function in life. I hope that those with OCD who watch this, especially those with crippling and disabling thoughts, know that they are not alone and that there is professional help out there.” Sam Shahidi added that he was proud of Pons for trusting the team and “allowing us to show intimate moments to create an incredibly powerful docuseries to shed a light on these conditions and to help others.”
Separately, Pons last year inked a deal with Spotify for a reality podcast covering pop culture, social issues and her personal stories.
Watch the trailer for “The Secret Life of Lele Pons”: