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What drives Shehnaaz Gill’s popularity: We take a deep dive with her fan clubs and fans

On Shehnaaz Gill's birthday, indianexpress.com spoke to her fans and fan clubs to understand what drives her popularity and has sustained it years after her iteration of Bigg Boss ended.

Written by Sana Farzeen | Mumbai |
Updated: January 28, 2022 8:17:33 am
shehnaaz gill birthdayShehnaaz Gill is celebrating her 29th birthday today. (Photo: Shehnaaz/Instagram)

Fame is an ephemeral commodity — hard to achieve and much harder to sustain. Till a few years back, people found fame after years of hard work and with a wide body of achievements to rest the acclaim on. The digital age changed that. In the age of viral celebrities and overnight stardom, how do you gauge fame and, more importantly, how would you sustain it? Well, the jury is still out on that one, but there are a few who have managed to sidestep the low that comes after the high of public popularity, sometimes almost immediately. Shehnaaz Gill is one such example. Bigg Boss contestants don’t usually come with a long shelf life. They end up on Twitter timelines or YouTube viral trends on back of their nightly shenanigans on the show, only to vanish from public eye once the show gets over. Then a new set of ‘celebs’ take over your screen in a new season and the cycle continues.

For Shehnaaz, and Sidharth Shukla, the arc was different — they came, and they stayed. While Sidharth, with a long career on TV and films, was expected to outlast the Bigg Boss cycle, the longevity of Shehnaaz’s fame was surprising. So, on Shehnaaz Gill’s birthday today, we decided to speak to her dedicated fans to understand and chronicle her journey, and what helped her become the star she is today. First off, a personal disclaimer, in more than a decade of my Twitter journey, I have never received as many DMs as I did in a few hours as I did this story. This, more than anything, explains the online popularity the singer-actor enjoys.

Meet the fan clubs

Shehnaaz’s popularity is driven to a large extent by her dedicated fan clubs. Anything she shares goes viral with fans giving immediate love to her posts or a new piece of content. While there are many clubs dedicated to her, the most popular remain @ShehnaazGillTM, run by 19-year-old student Manjinder Singh from Punjab, that is also followed by Shehnaaz Gill. And so is another page (@ShehnaazShineFC), which is run by a 27-year-old academic professional from Delhi, who did not want to be named.

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So, what do they believe is USP of Shehnaaz? Manjinder calls it her ‘genuineness’. “Her innocence, kind heart, humour and even wit has made us love her so much,” he said. He said that even though she didn’t win Bigg Boss 13 — Sidharth was the winner — she still won hearts. “The fact that she didn’t hurt anyone on the show or tried any kind of gimmick has made her a true winner. Also, her growth has been organic and every fan continues to stand by her.”

For ShehnaazShineFC admin, the conviction to support Shehnaaz comes from the belief in the actor. When asked if they will continue to have blind support for her, they said, “I do understand why she does certain things, and what could be the results. However, being a true follower, if I ever feel that she is going wrong, I would pass my message to her personally rather than being vocal in a crowd.”

Given Manjinder is a student, it is tough to take out time to run the fan club, but feels ‘happy to hype Shehnaaz, as she is like family’. And what’s his take on her turning an Instagram influencer? “Well, she has a great reach and engagement on social media. It’s even better than a lot of Bollywood stars,” he said.

What is their response if there are negative tweets for Shehnaaz? “We like to react like Shehnaaz would in such situations,” the 27-year-old shared, explaining that they ignore all the negativity and only take good feedback ahead. “But when we really want to reply to them either we simply laugh out at them, or just say God bless, better days will come to you soon,” they added. The fan clubs have grown in the last two years, and these admins have even got a chance to interact with Shehnaaz virtually.

Many of her fans also sent messages explaining what makes Shehnaaz tick for them. The messages came from all across the world, with many identifying and connecting with her personality.

A student from Italy with the handle @_jatti_attitude shared, “Just like other celebrities, Shehnaaz also has to face hatred and abuses but what makes her stand out is the way she deals with it. Shehnaaz never responded to any hatred and instead always asked her fans to remain positive no matter what happens.”

Rashmi Sharma (@indiancore75), a 46-year-old homemaker from Chennai, shared that it was not just Shehnaaz but even late actor Sidharth Shukla who touched her heart. “As the season progressed I saw the strong-headed tough guy falling in love with this innocent pure soul. I changed as a person and started considering them my own. I joined social media only to support them. Be it Shehnaazian or Sidnaaz, both fandoms are organic and a lifetime connection.”

A teenage fan, Jannat Farhan from Bangladesh (@Fayad1Farhan) wrote a long note on her idol. A part of her note read, “She never tried to portray herself as a perfectionist. She knows that she has her own flaws and has the guts to accept them. She never tried to change herself. A true desi, she doesn’t bother about the trend of speaking English and continues to speak Hindi with a heavy Punjabi accent with confidence. We also got to see her forgiving nature on Bigg Boss 13 and how she never held a grudge against her co-inmates, who time and again put her down.”

Seeing a bit of herself in the actor, Simran Kaur Brar, a student from Punjab shared that every young girl can relate to Shehnaaz and her struggles. “And that the fact that she managed to overcome it all is truly inspiring. Above that, she also shows us that with hard work, dedication and determination, you can win the world,” she wrote, adding that ‘the Punjabi vibes and cheerful attitude just feels like home’.

An IT professional from Bangalore Anu firstly wished Shehnaaz Gill on her birthday. Going back in time, she revealed that her unfiltered self got the attention. Her confidence in herself and self-love became the force that helped her develop a strong bond with her. “She was body-shamed, taunted for not having designer clothes or poor English but she never played a victim card. It could have been so easy for her to cry and win votes but she faced all the atrocity with a smile.”

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