One of social media’s biggest stars is opening up about her struggles with mental illness.
Lele Pons, the 23-year-old Venezuelan star who boasts more than 40 million Instagram followers, opened up about her lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD and Tourette syndrome in her new YouTube docuseries, “The Secret Life of Lele Pons,” which premiered Tuesday.
In a recent interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Pons opened up further about her mental health struggles and secretly seeking treatment for OCD.
“I’ve been doing that for a long time, sometimes my fans don’t even notice when I’m gone,” she told “ET’s” Deidre Behar in a video chat. “I have things accumulated, like content, but I’ve been to a ranch for a month without anyone [knowing]. When it’s really bad or when there’s a really big project coming that might trigger a lot of my stuff, I go there to prepare myself.”
But she eventually grew tired of appearing “super positive” and as “someone else on social media.” Now that she’s “not ashamed or embarrassed about having OCD,” she felt it was time to reveal her story. “I thought it was time to let the world see my vulnerable side.”
Pons, who’s battled with OCD since childhood, explained that she gets paranoid and performs things in threes to prevent bad things from happening.
“I do a lot of touching, a lot of checking, I touch things, everything,” said Pons. “I talk to someone, but I repeat myself three times and they don’t notice. I touch something three times. Sometimes I even get nervous when I say [or] do something two times and I’m like, I need to go back. … Everything is so calculated, it’s insane.
“When it comes to thoughts, I have a fear of, ‘If I don’t do this three times, something bad is going to happen.’ And you really, really, truly believe it. It’s not normal, you know? Because I know for a fact that nothing bad’s going to happen, but the feeling is so there that you actually believe it, it’s just hard.”
But her OCD has also allowed her to be prolific.
“It has impacted my career in ways that are positive,” she said. “Like, I’m obsessed with hard work and I’m obsessed with making videos. People are like, ‘Wow, she makes so many videos,’ and I’m like, yup because I can’t stop.”
Pons rose to fame on Vine before the platform’s demise in 2016. She currently boasts 16.3 million YouTube subscribers, and her videos have been viewed more than 3.8 billion times.