In an age of woke celebrities, there’s Tirsana Budhathoki—an internet sensation famous not for her work or her societal views but for being unabashedly herself.
Photo via Facebook
Tirsana Budhathoki has never acted in a movie nor has she been actively covered by mainstream media. Yet people know her. They talk about her, even make fun of her, and follow her religiously on social media, particularly TikTok. She’s part of the growing culture of new-age internet celebrities in Nepal, but she’s made her mark very differently from the rest of the herd.
A former model, singer, and dancer, Budhathoki’s social media posts are deemed ‘unacceptable’ or ‘ostentatious’ by many. And she is well aware of this fact. Why then does she continue posting such content? They are vehicles of self-expression for me, she says. “I upload videos because making videos makes me happy. When I see people having a fun time because of something I do, and I see them smiling, I feel that I have done something good,” says Budhathoki.
Budhathoki’s story is one of a typical small town girl wanting to make something of herself in a city. Originally from Dhading, Budhathoki came to Kathmandu in 2011 after clearing her SLC exams. After applying for a few jobs here and there, she got an offer for a music video in 2013, which became her first step in making a career in the Nepali entertainment sector.
“I always loved dancing and singing and participated in various programmes and contests in my hometown. I just thought that I should give it a shot as it would be a new experience for me,” says Budhathoki.
Beyond her social media fame, Budhathoki leads a regular life. She is a successful entrepreneur currently living in New York, USA. She runs Tirsana Suppliers, a store where she sells Nepal-made products. But on the internet, she’s sensational, with viewers—mostly people back home—ranging in the thousands.
Her first encounter with being famous had come in 2013 itself, a little later after the release of her first song. After her debut, she received an offer for a photoshoot, which attracted quite a few eyeballs. “In the photos I was donning a cricket jersey, as there was a cricket tournament going on,” says Budhathoki. It was a “glamorous shoot” she says, something that hadn’t been published much in the papers, which was why many people talked about it.
She then tried her hand at a number of other things. She pursued a career in music, appearing in music videos as well as singing/writing various songs—from folk songs to even rap. Yet she has always been in the eyes of the media for her ‘provocative’ dressing style and her outspoken nature. Many times YouTube journalists have asked her uncomfortable questions about her personal life, sometimes even declaring her immoral and questioning her character and integrity.
“In Nepal, I was often lambasted for my choices. My YouTube channel was also blocked because many people reported it, saying that I was polluting people with my ‘indecent’ videos,” says Budhathoki, talking about a YouTube channel where she posted her songs.
Despite all the online shaming, her fame has only surged over the years. It particularly rose after she went to settle in New York, in 2017, when she started interacting more with her viewers while doing various hands-on jobs. “I was alone and far from my country. Going live and interacting with people kind of helped me to deal with homesickness,” says Budhathoki.
But it wasn’t until in 2018, when she started making TikTok videos, that her popularity rose sharply. Through the platform, more and more people got the opportunity to watch her content, making her a household name among Nepali TikTok users.