You’ve probably seen her illustrations come to life in malls around the metro or her YouTube series How To Be Basic. We caught up with Winnie Wong, the art teacher and illustrator behind the YouTube channel Penelope Pop. Read about how she got started on YouTube and how mindful living has inspired her How To Be Basic series.
How did you get started on YouTube?
“Originally, I posted illustrator tutorials for my students on YouTube. Then I wanted to post videos just for personal purposes. I never had the intention of creating a channel. My original intention was to create videos that would share information I knew in the shortest and best way possible. There are so many YouTube videos where they blabber on for 30 seconds to a minute and you’re trying to skip to the part where they actually share the information or the 'how to.' Eventually, I wanted to approach creating videos in a different way. I wanted to share or teach things I knew about or am learning about and share it with others. I don’t like saying that I am a 'YouTuber' because I still find it weird!”
Were there any YouTube creators you were following who inspired you to start a channel?
“I think I never did the subscription thing. The way I use YouTube is different than my students. I feel like they watch YouTube like they would watch a series. I learned that my students watch weird things. I mean they’re willing to watch videos of something like layering nail polish! I usually watch videos when I want to find out how to use something then occasionally, I enjoy meme-like or random videos. In college, I enjoyed watching Niga Higa and Jenna Marbles, but I wouldn’t say I watched any YouTubers religiously.”
What was the inspiration behind your How To Be Basic series? Which one was your favorite to film and which one was the most requested by your followers?
“How To Be Basic series started because I want to get people to try not to hoard. I feel that we are in such a high consumer culture that people just mindlessly purchase things because we want it at that moment. We never think about the long-term purpose or how we will use the products. I remember buying different lotions, shampoos, and never actually finishing the bottles. I eventually realized how wasteful it was. Not only that it created clutter in my living spaces. Eventually, I built a mindset of making sure I used up each item to its fullest potential, hoping that other people start shifting to this type of mindset and attitude. Quality over quantity.
"My favorite to film was my How to Be Basic - Work Bag edition because it was the easiest to film! I definitely use all the products mentioned and they are still in perfect condition! I actually have a funny story. One of my students asked if I had a phone charger, but I didn’t feel like lending it to her because I didn’t want her using her phone, but then my other student called me out and said ‘but in your How To Be Basic video you said you had a charger in your black pouch.’ I thought it was so funny, so I lent it to the other student and we had a good laugh because they caught me lying and I did actually have a charger.
"‘What’s in my Bag’ the non-work bag edition was heavily requested, which I eventually made one for my ‘everyday bag.’”
Being an educator, was it natural for you to create videos that teach people whether it’s how to pack, how to organize your closet, or even make milk tea? What is it about being a teacher that helps you create content for your channel?
“Being an educator definitely helps me understand how I can break down information so that it's short and sweet. It definitely is quite natural for me to explain and organize the video content. I’ve learned how to consolidate information so my students don’t get bored! Students have helped me understand what is important and what isn’t—their attention span is short—so I’ve got to share what they need to know before I lose them!”
You’re an illustrator, too. How did that help when you were building your channel? Do you do all the graphics for your videos?
“Being an illustrator is the best because I get to create the images I want. I have hired a multimedia assistant, Jash; he does all my video editing and some of my graphics. I can’t do it all! I only have 24 hours in a day! [Laughs]”
What’s the story behind the name Penelope Pop?
“I’m a huge fan of Gary Pepper Girl. When I wanted to create my illustrating brand, I wanted to create a quirky name like hers so I decided to use a word scrambler and get help from my friends to suggest different names. Then eventually Penelope Pop was the best of them all! My mom hates it, though! She thinks it’s hard to say.”
Based on one of your latest uploads, you’re a supporter of sustainable living. How do you plan on promoting this lifestyle through your videos?
“I want the Philippines to start adapting a more sustainable lifestyle. We are kind of wasteful, and it's only because a majority of the people aren’t educated or think it's too hard. So the best way for me to support the lifestyle is to implement it myself and share my journey. People often won’t attempt to try when they see that the person has it all figured out and seems perfect already, but if you share your journey and process and implementing things one at a time, it is easier for people to absorb and adapt, as well. I want people to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’ll be making mistakes and figuring out ways that are easy to implement and sharing my journey.”
What can your subscribers look forward to from you this year? And why should people follow your channel if they aren’t already?
“Look forward to my journey of living with less, more sustainably, and also trying to enjoy my life even if I have a job. I want to motivate others to do pursue a side thing even if they have a nine to five job. Don’t forget about the aspect of thinking about yourself. #Treatyoself”