The Secret Life of Lele Pons

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Secret Life of Lele Pons TV Poster Image
Powerful portrait of mental illness and social media fame.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Mental illnesses are taken seriously on this docuseries, sending a powerful message of inclusiveness and acceptance. Millions of people in the United States struggle with OCD and it can be "severely disabling." Viewers see Pons struggling with her symptoms -- in one scene, we see her repeatedly turn off the water in the shower. We also see therapeutic sessions, though it's not clear exactly how much the therapy is helping. This series could be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media, or a portrait of one woman who struggles, depending on your viewpoint. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pons is honest and forthright about her struggles and how she copes. Not all of her coping methods are healthy, and parents should point out the behaviors that seem to compound her symptoms. Pons' family members love and accept her; her family is close and supportive, and Pons shows intense appreciation for them. 

Violence

Pons admits to suicidal thoughts, saying "Sometimes I just want to end it." Many of Pons' videos involve her falling or being hit by something, and Pons admits to doing take after take to make them "perfect," risking injury. 

Sex

Many of Pons' social media videos are about dating and romantic complications, and we see brief excerpts from them. Pons is frequently seen in bikinis, and we also see a photo of her as a young girl shirtless with her mom's arms covering her chest. 

Language

Language is infrequent and includes "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Secret Life of Lele Pons is a YouTube docuseries about a social media star who appears to have a perfect life yet behind the scenes suffers from OCD, ADHD, Tourette's Syndrome, and depression. The series and Pons herself, as well as her friends and family members, are admirably honest about her mental illness and how it's affected her life. We hear reminiscences and see Pons doing things like repeatedly turning shower water on and off due to her OCD. We also see Pons crying and admitting she sometimes thinks about suicide and undergoing therapeutic treatment. The series draws connections between social media and Pons' illnesses, showing how she obsessively compares herself to others and is unhealthily concerned about making her videos "perfect." It also depicts the effects of negative online comments. Pons' family and loved ones are supportive and accepting, and Pons talks about how grateful she is to have close family members. We see excerpts of Pons' social media videos, which often show her in bikinis or other clingy/revealing outfits. They frequently revolve around stunts in which she falls or is hit by something, or satirize romance and dating. Language is infrequent and includes "hell."

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What's the story?

Social media star Lele Pons has amassed such a huge online following that she appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records three times. But behind the scenes of what looks like a charmed life, Pons suffers from OCD, ADHD, Tourette's Syndrome, and depression that makes many of her waking hours misererable. In THE SECRET LIFE OF LELE PONS we meet the real Pons, a young woman whose charm and humor has granted her an existence that many can only dream of, but who struggles each day to do ordinary things others take for granted. 

Is it any good?

As an unfiltered portrait of a social media star whose public persona is, quite literally, obsessively filtered, this docuseries is affecting and powerful. Viewers who've come to know Pons, after a fashion, from her YouTube videos and Instagram posts, see her in silly, giggling, happy flashes; The Secret Life of Lele Pons shows us that there's an entire iceberg of issues that lurk beneath. "People think I have the perfect life," she says at the opening of the first episode as we watch her scrolling through her past posts, a blur of gorgeous aspirational images. On social media, she continues, "you show that you do." The fact that social media personalities are intensely curated is not a new idea, but The Secret Life makes a devastating connection between social media and Pons' mental illness: she started her social media feed because her real-life awkwardness made her desperate for friends, yet the pressures of the medium have only exacerbated her problems. 

Pons admits to obsessively scrolling through social media, comparing herself to the trumped-up images of others. "I'll see this one girl and it's like 'her mole is bigger than yours,'" she gives as an example of the tiny problems that loom large in her mind. "It just drives me crazy." Indeed. Pons' friends and family members tell tales of how posting on social media took up great gulps of Pons' life, affecting her schoolwork, her social life, her sleep. Possibly worst of all, Pons tells us, is that she started on social media to distract herself from the OCD symptoms that consumed most of her waking moments. It worked, far too well, and now her social media habits reinforce her insecurities and illnesses, and have handed her a host of other problems, too, like the nonstop stream of criticism she receives from commenters. The Secret Life of Lele Pons is a powerful cautionary tale about social media use gone wrong, and a portrait of one woman struggling against her inner demons. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fame has shaped Lele Pons' life. Social media stardom has meant she doesn't have to get a 9-to-5 job. Has this been positive for Pons? How is her fandom a double-edged sword? How is she affected by those who criticize her online? Why does she seem unable to ignore tthe negative things people say? How has social media exacerbated the symptoms of her mental illness?

  • Why does our society have such an obsession with famous entertainers? Why aren't leaders in science or education treated the same way? Are famous people role models? Why should or shouldn't they be? 

  • Documentaries generally attempt to portray truth, but many argue that the mere act of being recorded changes people's behavior. How close to the truth do you think The Secret Life of Lele Pons is? Social media tends to show a blend of reality and artifice. How real is Pons' social media feed? How real does it seem when compared to this series? 

TV details

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