Leon Ondieki

With over 700,000 TikTok followers, Leon Ondieki (under the handle @leon.ond) is known for asking people on the streets of Athens about pop culture topics through various games and short interviews. (Courtesy/Leon Ondieki)

Whether he’s asking students around campus if they’re registered to vote or giving a cash prize to a lucky couple in downtown Athens, University of Georgia freshman Leon Ondieki has found his way on the phone screens of thousands of TikTok users at UGA and beyond.

@leon.ond

tag someone you’d like to play this with!l @whatdoyoumeme ##doyouknowme ##partner ##GrowUpWithMe ##bekind

♬ original sound - Leon Ondieki

With over 700,000 TikTok followers, Ondieki (under the handle @leon.ond) is known for asking people on the streets of Athens about pop culture topics through various games and short interviews.

The Red & Black spoke with Ondieki about his experiences creating on TikTok and how he wants to use his growing social media presence.

The Red & Black: How did you first get into making videos for TikTok?

Leon Ondieki: I started as a joke one day in September 2019. My first video was a little fitness skit, which I made when we had some time left over in class. I posted the video and completely forgot about it. Then the next weekend, the video popped off. It went from 5,000 views to 10 million that weekend. It was crazy.

R&B: How do you come up with the questions you ask in your videos?

LO: I ask myself, “Okay, what’s something that’s going on right now that everyone can relate to?” Most of the time I have no idea what I’m going to say or what I’m going to ask [beforehand]. I usually come up with a question on the spot and just use it.

R&B: What is it like going up to random people? Have you had any especially memorable experiences?

LO: I’m kind of an introvert, so I started these videos to start talking to people. At first it was scary, but now I can switch on as soon as I go out there. As for a memorable experience, in the summer I would do a lot of “spin the wheel” videos where you can spin a wheel for a random prize. I played with one couple and filmed a video where they ended up winning $100. I didn’t think much of it, but after filming I came to find out that this money actually meant a lot to them. I liked being able to do something that impacted someone’s life.

R&B: I see you filmed a lot of videos asking students about the recent elections, which goes in a different direction from your usual comedic style. What gave you this idea, and how do you think social media impacted this major time in politics for young people?

LO: Knowing that the majority of my viewers are college students, I knew getting them to talk about the election would be important because it’s different hearing about [politics] from someone your age. I wasn’t providing my own opinion about the general election, so I was recording young people arguing their points and thinking for themselves. I was also trying to spread a message, to go out and go vote, so that people can start participating.

R&B: How do you want to use your platform in the future?

LO: I actually took a short break from TikTok and have been trying to answer that question myself. I think I want to start using my videos to do a lot more giving. I want to help people around campus and the local communities in Athens. That’s the end goal.

R&B: What is your advice for someone who wants to get into TikTok and make creative videos for social media?

LO: Don’t worry about views. As soon as you start caring about the numbers of views, likes, sponsorships and other things like that, it becomes more of a job. Do what you want. Do something that's fun for you.

The Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.