“It takes extraordinary talent to shine through a year of pandemic, protests, and a presidential election. But these rising stars did just that,” Teen Vogue wrote, introducing its Young Hollywood Class of 2021 star which includes Elsa Majimbo, Michael Le, Lil Yachty, Ziwe Fumudoh, and Charli D’Amelio.
As written by Jamilah King, Teen Vogue describes that 19 years old Elsa Mjimbo was just an “ordinary Kenyan college student studying journalism in the U.S. until her dry pandemic humour took the TikTok world by storm,” leading to global recognition from a co-sign from Rihanna to vacation with Naomi Cambell. Adding that, “the former chess champion has become a Fenty beauty ambassador, partnered with MAC, appeared on Comedy Central, made Anderson Cooper giggle on CNN, hobnobbed with celebrities, and has been nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award.”
The Kenyan comedian and social media star also talked with Teen Vogue about her newfound internet fame. Here’s a snippet of the conversation:
Do you remember a time when it kind of clicked for you, when you were like, “Actually I’m pretty fly.”
Yes, yes I do! I was seven or eight. I had just moved schools. I had moved from the local school to another school. I remember when I went there, there was this girl, she was white. This girl was like the whitest girl. And when we’d go out for recess like or when we were having lunch, every single girl in my class would follow her around. Every single girl. I started to ask myself, “What is the reason? Why is everyone following this one particular girl around?” And I remember I asked one of my friends, “Oh, what’s so special about her that everyone loves hanging around her because I just moved.” And then she was like, “Isn’t it obvious?” I was like, “No, it’s not. I don’t understand.” And she was like, “Because she’s white.” So I was like, “OK, and?” She was like, “Yeah, because she’s white.” And that’s when I realized.
I had had this bias that white people are better and they should always come out on top and they should always have the most. I realized that that had also been instilled in me. And I was just like, “No, this is very nonsensical.” I thought that everyone around me was very stupid for letting me believe that. Everyone. Everyone around me. My teachers, everyone. You should never let young girls think that’s OK.
What is the first video of yours that went viral that really made you think, “Oh, wow, this is real?”
I think it was last year during April. I was talking about how the pandemic sucks, but at least I get to stay away from people and that’s definitely a plus. And everyone loved it. Everyone was just loving it. I was like, “OK, this video’s doing really well.” So I slept. When I slept I was like at 500 retweets. I wake up, it’s at 4,000 retweets. I was freaking out. So I tell my whole family, I’m like, “Guys, I’m famous now. I’m famous now. That’s it.
I had no idea that you were like a chess prodigy. You said in that video that your career is like chess and that you’re always thinking about the long game. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Very rich. With a very heavy bag. Literally a bag that’s dragging me. Rich and successful in the industry and just in my career, very successful, still going on strong, still stunning, I mean still gorgeous. Just like I am now, drop dead gorgeous. Very happy.
In your videos, you make it a point to… at least in your interviews, you make it a point to identify as a dark-skinned African woman. Why is it important for you to talk about colourism?
I feel like growing up there was so much BS around me. Literally, from when you’re a kid, you’re just made to feel like first of all, there is the issue of white people being more beautiful and white people being more gracious. And if you’re Black, there’s just something a bit ghetto about you and you have to make yourself this acceptable person in the world. And even though I was really small, I can’t believe they ever caught me into thinking that for some time. I got over that when I was pretty young because I thought it was so dumb. Because I would look at myself and I’d be like, “You are flawless.” So I got over that pretty quickly. And then after that, I realized there was so much colorism. Lighter-skinned people would always be treated better and they would just … in school they would always be given more opportunities.
I feel like it’s so important to me to show, especially women, either dark skin, that there’s nothing wrong with being dark-skinned. Just because people want to make you feel like it, doesn’t mean there is. And you’re just as deserving as everyone else. And you need to go for everything, just like everyone else. Never let anyone bring you down just because you’re darker. It’s not it. I always say that just to remind people, “Yeah, that’s not a weakness. Don’t let anyone make you feel like it’s a weakness. It’s a strength.” So yeah, that’s how I always say it.
Photographer: Grace Rivera
Culture & Entertainment Director: Danielle Kwateng
Art Director: Emily Zirimis
Stylist: Michelle Li
3D Artist & Motion Designer: Berenice Golmann
Motion Designer: Natasha Smith
Designer: Liz Coulbourn
Retouching: Jinx Studios
Video Animator: Melanie Duran
Visual Editor: Louisiana Gelpi
Fashion Director: Tahirah Hairston
Read more on TeenVogue.com