Influencer Leoobalys in Girl Gang: Child Labor, Hate and Loneliness

Summer 2022: Leonie Kollek (center, 1.6 million followers on Insta), as Leoobalys are called in urban life, surrounded by Alina Moor (1.2 million followers on Insta) and Sinan Movz (0.180 million followers on Insta).Photo:


The outstanding documentary “Girl Gang” accompanies an exemplary career today.

Simon Mayer
Simon Mayer

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Leoni drives people into addiction. For example her parents. Or Melanie. She’s a fanatical fan girl from Leonie. Melanie has four cell phones so she can be online twelve hours a day without battery problems, which was previously seventeen. In these twelve hours she chases Leonie, Leo, or Lobalis, as they are called as an influencer – the name was developed by a random number generator and is a cross between Leoni, her favorite football hobby and a few other components.

Christ hangs on the cross above the bed of Melanie, she lives in the countryside, Leo in Berlin. Melanie’s mother is a single mother, and Leo can always be seen on her channels with her parents. When Melanie has some money, she buys one of the products Leo promotes, like sticky finger nails. “The lion’s life is perfect,” Melanie says. Leo, the princess who has access to everything: fashion, cosmetics, and happiness. Leo is 14 years old and has half a million followers on Instagram.

The ultimate dream job

It was a few years ago and before the pandemic, German-Swiss director Susanne Regina Meurice decided to document the lives of Leo and Melanie. For three years, I accompanied the girls, especially Leo, and witnessed their rise, which is as charming as it is real.

“Girl Gang” movie trailer

Today, Leo is 18 years old, has 1.6 million followers on Instagram and 1.4 million on TikTok. This is an enormous amount for the German-speaking region. The omnipresent Kathy Hummels, for example, doesn’t even have 700,000 followers on Instagram. Leo and her parents earn an average of €15,000 per contribution. 86 percent of teens today want to become influencers, we learn from the statistics presented in the movie. 48 percent are sure their social media star understands them better than their friends.

Freedom vs Wealth

Leo’s Road to Olympus for Young Meaning-Makers is a very German road that begins in the German Democratic Republic. ‘How it was all different when I was young,’ says her father, ‘in the east, near the wall,’ and it seems to have been learned by heart, and is surely, ‘We dreamed of the West, it was something big, shining, so far away. We dreamed.’ We all want to get rich. No, we wanted to be free.”

Directed by Susan Regina Morris.

Directed by Susan Regina Morris.Photo: Frenetic Films

Sometimes one dream kills the other and in the rarest cases a dream that they are free victories. At the beginning of Leo’s career, there may still be a desire for independence from existing structures of work and dependency, but the new structures created don’t really look more trustworthy. But of course it is much more exciting.

The brand must shine

After parents unsuccessfully try to coach their 14-year-old daughter’s social media manager because he’s too critical, they take over the management themselves. Leo’s sleep at night lasts six hours, after all she has to go to school between the buds.

In the “Girl Gang” track, an overzealous girl turns into a stubborn and angry teenager who continues to elude his parents. An almost assured development. Because Leo is a completely different person on the outside. Leoobalys brand.

And Leoobalys have to score as naturally (arrangely as elaborately) and as lively as possible. Because Leoobalys is the kind of red-haired wind prodigy who dances in front of the camera, does funny things and frowns and lip syncs. Leoobalys is the purest possible antithesis to Melanie. In addition, it is large, radiant and very far, even if the mirror world of a mobile phone claims proximity.

Leo four years ago.

Leo four years ago.Photo:

Crowds and hate

Melanie keeps falling apart. Because Leoobalys don’t answer their messages. Because Melanie’s fan account for Leoobalys disappears from Instagram for a short while. There is always reason to be sad. Both girls have almost no friends. Leo’s father thinks loneliness is probably the only small flaw, otherwise he wouldn’t know what his daughter could lose: “If she needs balance, she’ll be in the wrong life.”

And of course the fans replace a lot. A crowd of screaming girls beat the Leo in a Vienna shopping center like a wall of hysteria. Girls like Melanie. It’s clearly an addiction, she says, “a blatant motive, now I’m pushing myself more.”

“Girl Gang” painfully enlarges cracks, which can only be seen throughout glam hop when police break up a Vienna fan event due to a lack of security. No one sees Leo’s hard work and exhaustion on the outside, and the sheer hatred exploding in messages like “You’re so filthy, die, I’ll find you, I’ll kill you” no one has to endure but her.

Nestlé is also one of Leoobalys’ customers.

The mother considers herself a prisoner

And the mother’s fear that this windfall would completely fade out again overnight only became evident through careful, trust-based work with the director. His mother says: “I am trapped in the world of Leo, sometimes I have a feeling that I have to get out of here. I am afraid of the future, I fear everything, including politics.”

Again she says, “My dreams are always about Leo, I don’t have dreams myself.” like Melanie. Just very different. Both depend on Leo. Leo of them. It’s a hell of a symbiosis that we see, a world that, in the case of the Leoobalys, begins with child labor and for years elevates narcissism to the sole commercial idea.

He didn’t know yet where he might end up. Leo’s parents are now influencers to be on the safe side. In the end, you have to be careful. And live your own dreams.

“Girl Gang” will be released in cinemas on October 27.

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