The Many Faces of Pashyn
Growing up, funny girl Pashyn Santos knew she wanted to be an entertainer but wasn’t sure how that would happen, especially living in Hawai‘i.
Well, thanks to technology, she’s become a global social media sensation, with her hilarious one-woman show videos where she portrays multiple characters. She has about 110,000 followers on Instagram, and 140,000-plus on Facebook. Some of her You-Tube videos have gone viral, including Pidgin Siri, which at last count has been viewed more than 4.5 million times.
More recently, she released a children’s book, My Mom and I, inspired by a 2-year-old baby girl she and wife Wendy were foster parents to.
“We had her when she was 2 weeks old, and she just got reunited with her mom, but we’re still full-time aunties and babysitters,” shares Santos. “She loves books, and I’m such a huge Dr. Suess fan, so I always knew I wanted to do something fun like that.
“One day I sat down and started writing a poem, and it was what I wanted her to realize and what kind of message I wanted her to have in a book form. There are so many books out there, and a lot of them teach you colors and ABCs, but nothing that I found was there to teach the importance of being present with each other and being grateful and being aware.
“She does that so well, like all kids do; they’re just living in the moment. But as adults we get so caught up in the todos and future goals, so it’s not just a reminder or lesson for her but also for me to pause, and that’s how the book came to life.”
Santos, who was born and raised in Wai‘anae and Kahuku, describes herself as the clown in the family, but the introvert nerd in school.
She worked as a dancer at Polynesian Cultural Center, and graduated from Kahuku High in 2005. She then spent three months in Tahiti, learning about the culture and dancing, thinking that was what she wanted to do. When she came home, she was hired by Tihati Productions, dancing hula and Tahitian on the cruise ships.
Then, she took a change of course in her career path, and became a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, but left after about a year.
“I could not make up my mind; I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she says. “YouTube was becoming a thing, so I started making videos, and it was everything you could possibly think of, from random funny music videos to tech reviews.”
Eventually, she got a job at Apple and worked there for almost five years, gaining more experience in making videos. Then, she discovered Vine — and the turning point toward social media stardom.
“I got started after my grandmother passed away,” she recalls. “My cousins and I were in the room together while the adults were outside planning for the funeral. We were watching videos on Vine; it just brought joy and filled the room with happiness during such a tough time.
“So, I made videos to keep in touch with my cousins and continue to make them laugh, and it blew up. We went from a few hundred followers, mostly family and friends, to 40,000 followers in a few months.
“I think it was because the comedy that I was doing was relatable. It was about moms and difficulties that locals face. Real difficulties, but super lighthearted. That’s how I got started, and it sparked the passion in me that this is what I was meant to do.”
Now the multi-talented content creator is busy building her YouTube channel and vlogging. She also writes content for other influencers, and recently was hired by a private company to do her first stand-up comedy show.
“Everybody always asks when I’m going to do stand-up, but I love that I get to provide free content and the ability to put it online and leave it there so it’s convenient for when they’re ready to watch it,” says Santos. “That’s really what I want to do.”
She’s also shifting some of her comedy from relatable content to focus on personal development and education.
“Somebody told me that 80 percent is retained more when they’re laughing, so the self-development for myself is to help understand the best way to create a funny skit or funny content that could help people.
“I remember all the lyrics to any song, but I can’t remember why I went into the kitchen.”
Santos describes her comedy as calculated, and finds inspiration for her content from everyday people. She does the acting, filming and editing, and has developed popular characters such as Local Maddah and Local Braddah.
“A lot of the younger kids always ask me, ‘Where do you get your content?’ and I tell them this is what I do: I put my phone down and talk story with people,” says Santos.
As for the dream, she lists doing Saturday Night Live, writing her own movie and script, and ultimately to have Local Maddah as the next Madea.
“Local Maddah is a collection of a whole bunch of women that I grew up with — it definitely took a village for me,” she explains. “I grew up with so many different types of strong female characters, from my mom to her sisters to — because we moved around so much — all the different women that were neighbors.
“So, I took a little bit of everybody. One day, there’s my mom as an influence; another day there’s the Samoan lady that used to live across the street as a kid and the Filipino that lived across the street. I think that’s why it’s a little more relatable because everybody’s like, ‘That’s totally my mom.'”
When she’s not busy making videos, Santos enjoys searching for books at Goodwill, reading (her favorite is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson), watching MMA (she grew up doing tae kwon do and kickboxing), hanging out with family and going back home to Hau‘ula (she now lives in town). She also likes to clean, and her favorite comedian is Bo Burnham.
“When she’s happy, she cleans, when she’s mad, she cleans, when she’s bored she cleans — it’s the Portuguese in her,” says Wendy, a Wai‘anae High graduate and current business manager at Apple.
And if you ever see her around town, Santos says don’t be shy, say hi.
Also, don’t be surprised by her size.
“People tell me, ‘Oh you’re the funny girl,’ and the biggest thing I get after that is ‘I didn’t know you’re that short,'” notes Santos, who is 5 feet tall. “A lot of people message me afterwards, ‘I saw you and I really wanted to say hi but I didn’t want to bother you.’ Say hi please, it really makes my day knowing that people are just as crazy to watch my craziness. It makes me feel great.”