“Fame is not a choice; it’s a calling,” as Elsa once joked. Little did she know the madness that’d soon follow. Hang on as we take you along the queen of Instagram’s journey - before the chips, before the shades, before it all...
You already know her face; her signature style; the contagious laugh; But what about before Elsa dominated our feeds, one chip at a time? How, exactly, did the 19-year-old teen go from struggling misfit to superstar?
Let's start at the very beginning: June 29, 2001, the moment Angel 'Elsa' Majimbo was welcomed into this world. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, to a family of 5, young Elsa's life would be far from easy, as she'd soon find out…
"I Was Always Kind of the Forgotten Child"
“Do you know what it’s like growing up with siblings?” an emotional Elsa revealed to YouTube of her troubled youth. You see, not only was the young girl soon forced to share her reality with 3 brothers and sisters, but she was propped directly in the middle of it all.
“I’m their middle child,” as she put it. What did that call for, exactly? “I’m not old enough to make decisions, but I’m not young enough to be the spoiled one... it sucks, it’s hard... I was always kind of the forgotten child,” Elsa admitted to Something to Say with V & K.
She Always Struggled to Fit In
But while the Majimbo household was a constant battleground for Elsa, as she fought to make her voice heard, the young girl's troubles were just getting started. In fact, the helpless middle child was met with an entirely different slew of demons from the moment she left her gated home’s compounds.
Or, as she called them, “People who were trying to impress others,” she explained to Vogue. With a society plagued by judging eyes and high expectations, where was Elsa to turn when her very own home - the one place intended to be her safe place - was actually the place she felt most alone?
Lonely Days Behind a Desk
What would you do if you were met with her fate? Who would you turn to? For Elsa, her lonely days at home soon translated into lonely days behind the desk, where the young student found herself with very few - if any - people she could call 'a friend.'
"I didn't have a lot of friends at school because some people would make fun of me," the emotional star revealed to Glamour of her darker days. Perhaps that's why, while most students' younger years call for budding romances and exciting schooling events, the Kenyan teen's were spent chasing a completely different thrill.
How She Spent Her Lonesome Time
Algebra equations. How did she put it? "Math never ends, and that's what I love most about it, it keeps your mind jogging - it keeps you running," the self-titled "geek" revealed to YouTube of how she'd spend her free time while at Strathmore University. "I'm also really shy and reserved."
But while Elsa's time behind a desk had her studying Journalism, she actually had her eyes set elsewhere. "Unfortunately, Kenya doesn't have advertising... degrees, so I needed to start [here]," she explained to Moziak. Soon, though, she'd put the textbooks down to pour her savings into her riskiest - and most rewarding - purchase yet.
The Story of Her Famous iPhone 6
Any guess what that might have been? Of course, we’re talking about the moment the struggling teen shelled out every last penny she had for her soon-to-be best friend: A rose gold iPhone 6, otherwise known as the place where all of the Instagram magic happens.
But don't think it was anything short of a challenge. In fact, it'd take almost a year before Elsa could get her hands on the expensive thing. "I worked hard and saved up for six months," she revealed to the NY Times of how she finally came to own her famous smartphone.
"And That's How I Started"
And so, with an iPhone 6 (finally) in hand and seemingly no one to talk to, the lonely teen had finally found someone that would listen: Us. “So I picked up my camera one day and started talking into it,” Elsa revealed to Vogue of the moment she decided to finally find her voice.
"It just felt so amazing… natural and raw." But that's not the only reason she found comfort in her newest' friend.' In fact, it was at this very moment that Elsa realized, "If I make fun of me when anyone else makes fun of me, it won't get to me [anymore]," as she revealed to Glamour. "And that's how I started."
Joining Unchartered Online Territory
So, what came next for the newly enlightened student? As the story goes, come June 12, 2016, the world would come to meet Elsa Majimbo, as she navigated her way through unchartered territory: YouTube - all from her pocket-sized smartphone, of course.
Titled Majimbo Daily the young entertainer's channel would go on to captivate viewers, even if most were those who already 'knew' her - sympathetic schoolmates curious what their quiet classmate finally had to say for herself; Unfortunately, it wouldn't last long.
Her Country's Expectations
You see, she might have been thrown into a society that forced expectations on her, but that didn’t mean Elsa agreed with them. In fact, she didn’t. “I would see all these people in Europe and the U.S. saying that university isn’t for everyone, and I was like, ‘I wish I could do that,’” she revealed to Vogue.
In other words? "In Africa, talent isn't valued without education," the discouraged student explained of her country's societal standards. Little did Elsa know, though, fate had other plans for her, and it'd soon steer her in an entirely different direction.
When Disaster Strikes
As the story goes - something we’re unfortunately all too familiar with - come winter of 2019 and Elsa’s reality, much like yours and ours, was introduced to COVID-19; Forget tedious lectures, the young student officially had much bigger things to worry about.
And, well, while she may have been met with a dark cloud, Elsa knew one thing for sure at this unsettling point of uncertainty: She was going to be that much-needed ray of light. “You deserve to be happy. That’s not a privilege, it’s a right,” as she explained to Vogue - and that’s exactly what she set out to make happen...
Her Father's Strict Ban
With troubling times on our hands and a burning fire in her heart, the aspiring entertainer put down the books and picked up that familiar camera, as she embarked on a journey to turn our negative thoughts into positives. Unfortunately, though, Elsa’s grand plans would soon be squashed.
What happened? Her Christian parents, who soon caught wind of her 'inappropriate' videos and forced that they be shut down immediately. "My dad was so angry... He just said, 'NO,'" she revealed to Moziak. Of course, as we already know, though, our wisecracking firecracker wasn't done just yet. In fact, she was just getting started.
So, what’d Elsa do? “I tried to explain that it’s meant to be funny,” the frustrated teen explained to the NY Times of the failed words her parents were met with. But while her loyal followers understood that much, her conservative father certainly didn’t - which left her with only one, very risky option.
What, exactly, was Elsa's only viable way out at this point in time, as she put it? To carry on in complete secrecy… and that's exactly what she did, as she set off to block her father and everyone he knew from her heavily forbidden social media endeavors. If only the Majimbos knew then what we know now.
The Upload that Changed Everything
"I did not expect [it], but it happened, and I am glad it did," Elsa revealed to CNN's Anderson Cooper of the moment her life as she once knew it changed forever. You see, with her father's disapproval weighing on her back and an unwavering urge to spread light during these trying times, Elsa's battle was far from over.
In fact, flash forward to March 30, and the ambitious teen would take to the ‘gram - and the now-10,000 followers it consisted of - for her latest upload, yet another dose of laughter for our healing selves; Only this video was nothing like she’d ever done before, she just didn’t know it yet.
The Story Behind Her Video
What happened? For starters, "It was [around] the time [that] we had just gotten into lockdown," as Elsa revealed to Anderson Cooper; "Everyone was telling me they missed me." For most of us - with our own families and friends, too, forced into their homes shortly after - we can relate, can't we?
As for the 19-year-old teen, though, her reality was actually nothing as it seemed. In fact, it called for a brutal truth, one that’d soon make national headlines. You see, as Elsa shamelessly joked in the clip, “Ever since corona started, we’ve all been in isolation… and I miss no one.”
How Her Famous Prop Came to Be
As viewers watched her shamelessly laugh - when she wasn't busy crunching on potato-chips, of course - Elsa's 30+ second clip would take her to places she couldn't even imagine; The most remarkable part? Her outraged father was partly to blame - thanks to "A fluke," caused by him, that'd put a spin on his daughter's growing feed.
"My dad had just come home [that day], and he brought a pack of chips," Elsa revealed to Something to Say with V & K of how her signature snack came to be. "And at the end of one take, I was eating the chips and hadn't pressed stop." The reaction? "Everyone was like, 'We love this.'"
So, what came next? Flash forward a few weeks to one fateful night in April, and young Elsa would be forced to see things from an entirely different lens, a perspective that went way beyond those $2 plastic glasses - purchased from a vendor outside her Nairobi-based university - that she soon began to sport.
It was “The 15th of April; Elsa “Was just chilling at home,” when suddenly, a notification popped up on her iPhone 6, a message that’d change her life as she once knew it: “Someone sent me a screenshot… people in South Africa going crazy over my videos,” the shocked star revealed to Sowetan Live.
Becoming a "Professional Bragger"
And just like that, in the blink of an eye - or more like, with the flash of that smartphone camera - Elsa Majimbo went from lonely misfit to “Professional Bragger,” as her now-viral Instagram bio reads; A famous face with a newfound confidence - and almost 845,000 followers to show for it.
And to think, all of this started with an outdated iPhone camera and a crinkled bag of chips; "I was just doing my own thing, having fun and all of a sudden, I had thousands of likes and views," she revealed to the Sunday Times. "It was all so crazy. Even today, I still wake up and [have to pinch myself]."
The Day Her Dad Found Out
But while the Kenyan teen was busy making waves across the globe, how would those on the flip side truly feel? How would her strongly adamant father feel about his little girl’s blatant disobedience - and the international mayhem it soon called for?
Well, as fate would have it, all it took was a piece of recycled paper to inform Mr. Majimbo on his daughter's little 'secret,' as he stared at Elsa's face, smiling back at him from his morning paper. Since his discovery? "I've had really great support from my family. They really trust me [now]," she proudly revealed to Moziak.
Not Everyone Got the Joke
Sure, Elsa's loving parents soon welcomed their daughter's playful ways - and the constant demand for potato-chips that it called for, of course; But as for those that existed beyond the Majimbo's gated compound? "It's funny that my comedy has garnered more fans outside my own country," she revealed to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
How did Elsa explain it? "The comedy scene here is quite different," the misunderstood comedian explained. You see, while "Most of the jokes [in Kenya were] in Swahili and about tribes… that's not my comedy - mine is all about what's happening [beyond borders]." Perhaps that's why she was met with the backfire that soon followed her.
Defying the Odds
“It’s so sad… you have to be super smart about how you’re gonna play the game,” Elsa revealed to Something to Say with V & K of the struggles that soon followed. You see, for us, the idea of making a name for ourselves online might sound realistic - almost a cliche, in today’s digital age. As for a 19-year-old girl from Kenya?
"You're not supposed to have an international audience… to be interacting with the crowd I'm interacting with," Elsa explained of Kenya's entertainment scene; But that doesn't mean it's gonna stop her: "I'm going to dream… to reach for the stars… go above and beyond for what I want," she gushed, flashing her pearly whites.
The Online Bullying
Of course, though, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and in Elsa Majimbo’s case, she’d soon learn that the hard way; Because, after all, when your face is being plastered on screens around the world, it’s only a matter of time before public ‘opinions’ are morphed into hateful comments, haunting your feed one post at a time.
"I get bullied literally every single second of every day," the emotional star revealed on Instagram. "For being a woman; For being black; For being from Kenya. People just attack me." From her hairstyle, dubbed 'the Majimbo hair' by online bullies, to being told she's not funny, the poor girl has heard it all. "It's horrible."
Handling the Hate
But if there's one thing the Nairobi dreamer has taught us by now, it's that nobody - aside from Elsa herself - can dictate how she's going to live out her life. "Everyone seems to think they can have an opinion on your life… so I've learned that most people's opinions are just unnecessary," she explained to Etalk.
Sure, she may "Have been bullied a lot," told she'll never amount to anything as a 19-year-old girl from Kenya, but Elsa's done letting strangers' words cut deep: "I never let it get to me," the teenaged firecracker revealed to The Trend. After all, at the end of the day, "What I think about myself is all that matters to me."
Only Up From Here
Safe to say, "The fact that here I am, my 19-year-old, young, dark-skinned self… able to do it and make people happy — I feel like it's a chance to show other women in Africa" a life-changing lesson: "That they can do it, too," as the young influencer gushed to Vogue.
There's no doubt about it, Elsa Majimbo has defied almost every odd, but that's exactly why the world can't get enough of her. From M.A.C. endorsements to celebrity superfans, including Kenyan's very own, Lupita Nyong' o, the 19-year-old has experienced it all. But there was one exchange that'd soon take her full circle.
Becoming a Fenty Goddess
“I remember the first time I received a message from [them],” an emotional Elsa revealed to Etalk. You see, long before she was the crisp-eating queen of Instagram, Elsa Majimbo was busy fangirling over somebody else: Rihanna, as her Instagram feed will happily remind you - only the roles were about to be reversed.
"'Hey, everyone at Fenty is in love with you,'" Elsa explained of the words she was soon met with by her very own idol. But that's not all. "'No pressure though, but just let us know if you'd like to work with us,'" the DM read; And just like that, the 19-year-old teen went from "geeky" superfan to Fenty goddess.
But with swanky endorsements and celebrity super-fans propping her front and center, Elsa’s ride to the top was far from over. In fact, on November 9, the queen of one-liners took to the ‘gram for her biggest announcement yet: She had just made history.
"We won!" the emotional star revealed. Sure enough, at just 19-years-old the Kenyan entertainer landed herself the tile of E! People's Choice Awards' 2020 "African Social Star." It was all so surreal. Only her reality was about to met with another remarkable dream... literally.
Landing a TV Show
“Bedtime with Elsa:” On October 18, along with her plastic shades and potato-chips, of course, the Instagram star took to her famous stomping grounds to share some major news with a million+ eager fans. What did Elsa have to say for herself, exactly?
"I'm so excited to share my first interview series called, Bedtime with Elsa, taped right before I sleep!" the excited star gushed to her followers. Her first move as a celebrity insider? Chatting with a different superstar, Jorja Smith. As for who she's got next on that A-list roster? Your guess is as good as ours.
She's Still the Same Elsa
Sure, her new reality calls for an army of entertained fans - 1.1 million of them, to be exact - but if you ask Elsa? Well, nothing's really changed. In fact, as she put it, "Back at home, I'm still the same old Elsa," she revealed to Drum. But what's really going on behind closed doors?
Still living under the same roof as her brothers and sister - who, believe it or not, don't find her funny ("Tragic.") - the 19-year-old star and her celebrity status end the minute she steps foot inside the Majimbo household: "They expect me to cook and clean," a horrified Elsa joked to Vogue. "I still wash dishes."
Of course, though, when you’ve got record-breaking nominations, DM’s from RiRi herself, and big-name brands lining up to work with you, one’s got to wonder, well: Where exactly does Elsa turn to for inspiration, aside from the store, for another bag of chips, of course?
For starters, we've got two names to thank for Ms. Majimbo's unapologetic self: Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart. That's right, she may be heading down the path of Hollywood but not without the help of her two idols along the way; How does she put it? "For me, it's about spreading the joys, spreading the love…" she told Expresso.
Where Does She Go from Here?
Make no mistake about it, in the span of a year - mere months, to be exact - Elsa Majimbo has been thrown on one whirlwind of a ride. But while, sure, "A lot of things have changed," as she'll happily remind you herself, there's one thing for sure that's come out of these times of uncertainty.
"I've been able to find myself in a way I hadn't before," a giddy Elsa gushed to Anderson Cooper. As for what the future has in store? Well, actually, we can't tell you. You see, if you ask her, "I don't have any dreams or goals," as she told Moziak. Why? "Dreams and goals are meant to be 'realistic...' I want to [go] above and beyond."
“I was told so many times, you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” as Elsa once revealed to Etalk: From lonely, bullied misfit to leading the world of Instagram, one chip at a time, Elsa Majimbo has seen more highs and more lows than we’ll probably ever imagine. But if there’s one thing she wants you to know, it’s this.
"Always aim higher," as she told Sowetan Live. Behind the plastic shades, behind the overexaggerated laughs, the 19-year-old teen from Kenya is so much more than just a funny distraction: She's living proof, that while you might not have a say in where you come from, only you can determine what to do with that.