Yahoo India

by Jugal Mody for Grist Media. Excerpted from Yahoo India

Poonam Pandey first started tweeting in February 2011. She was 20 and had been a model for three-odd years. In the first few weeks/months, she tweeted links to wallpaper versions of her on Santabanta.com – India’s favorite source for glossy desi celebrity desktop wallpapers. Then, for the next few months, she tweeted corny jokes, riddles and images from her bikini shoots – dedicating the pictures to her “tweethearts”, the name she says she coined for her Twitter followers and fans.

In September of 2011, Pandey first tweeted a selfie – one in a black, full-sleeved, V-neck t-shirt that displayed some cleavage with a caption that said, “Love Clicking Myself.. :P”. However, experts might only recognize the one that came a month later as a true selfie.

Poonam Pandey

Over the last three years, Pandey’s selfies have been a particular combination of cheek and circumspection, and the subject of much conversation and social memes – from her World Cup campaign promising to go nude for the Indian cricket team if they won to her tweet welcoming the PMO to Twitter. By 2012, she was arguably one of the first people in India to crack the social media celebrity angle – armed with the power of selfies and the wit to caption them.

Pandey has 642,000 followers on Twitter. This after having started on Twitter as a non-famous person; Poonam Pandey is a social media celebrity in the true sense and she knows it. To place this in context, Sunny Leone started on Twitter a good two years before Pandey. She had already been an adult entertainment star, director and producer in the US; she’s played the lead in a Bollywood film three times and has been a participant on Bigg Boss, a primetime reality TV show. Leone has around 840,000 followers.

She takes all her selfies herself – there is rarely any planning involved and most of them are spontaneous. Unless, of course, there’s a campaign on (like the recent ice bucket challenge series of tweets), or “if I am doing it in a bigger way, say if we plan a concept.” A ‘concept’ is when there is a theme to a series of pictures or videos like the ones she tweeted – bedroom secrets, bathroom secrets, mirror acts – in 2011. Or, if they’re “doing a controversy”. In either cases, there’s a full professional team behind it.

Read the entire piece at Yahoo India.

Copyright (C) 2014, Yahoo! News India. Excerpted with permission.