Elena Jdanova was born in Moscow, Russia (USSR back then), graduated from Moscow State University with a B.S. Degree in paleontology, and now resides in California, USA.
Her resume already includes experiences as an Indian dance instructor, ceramicist, massage therapist, and an author of two books.
Now, at the age of 62 years and as a loving grandmother to a couple of grandchildren, Elena has decided to start a new journey – she is creating ASMR videos on her new YouTube channel called Grandmother’s Tales.
So what do you get when you combine a Russian grandmother and an ASMR content creator? Someone who has a lifelong understanding of positive personal attention (also called “doting” in grandmother-speak) and communicates it with a delightful Russian accent.
In my interview with Elena she explains her inspiration to create ASMR videos, how being a grandmother influences her content, her challenges encountered so far with creating ASMR videos, and reactions to her videos from family, friends, and strangers.
Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, and links to her ASMR video channel, gardening video channel, and published books.
When did you first learn about the term ASMR?
My first introduction to ASMR videos came in November 2018 from a young Russian friend here in California, who’s been an ASMR fan for quite a while, and a faithful follower of the Gentle Whispering ASMR channel.
My friend pointed out to me that I naturally and easily create feelings and states in her, similar to what she’d experience watching her favorite ASMR hosts. Of course she got me interested in that ASMR phenomenon.
What inspired you to create ASMR videos?
I could see how positively my friend was affected by watching her favorite ASMR videos, how she benefited from having a relaxing, re-charging time watching them. And I thought that that’s what I want to create for people out there – a possibility to feel good, to feel connected, cared for, loved. I feel that the world we live in can use more of all that. I felt that the ASMR community provides this exact opportunity.
By then I already had another channel going about gardening . Gardening for me is a nurturing, caring interaction with an environment that pays back generously and nurtures you in return. I resonated a lot with the nurturing aspect of ASMR, I loved that slow pace and a soft voice are normal for this format – I felt that it allows both the creator and the viewer to get closer to their own essence.
Nature always helps me soften up and feel better (and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way with nature). Nature is slow – you don’t see flowers or trees running around. Now I use natural scenes and materials in my ASMR videos a lot.
Mindfulness and presence are the main spiritual practices that I value above all. Right away I saw that ASMR format will allow me to share that aspect of human interaction.
So, I can say that my friend’s enthusiasm and the easy way nature offered itself into my videos, plus my long standing practice of mindfulness, were the three main things that got me started and still keep me going.
What experiences and perspectives as a grandmother do you think will be reflected in your videos?
The grandkids remind me of how precious is kind, supportive, loving personal attention, that one human being can offer to another human being. No matter the age – everybody, all of us have this little baby inside ourselves, that’s constantly looking to be re-affirmed that he or she is all right. That affirmation can come from beautiful (or expensive) things, but nothing, nothing beats the personal kind nurturing attention received from another human being.
At my age, I look at young people and see beauty. I love them for the simple fact that they are young and full of potential. I did not see it this clearly when I was young myself. I so understand now how human essence deserves and needs love and admiration, how it thrives upon receiving that.
The grandkids teach me about the preciousness of simple things – a colorful shard of glass on the sidewalk, a piece of rock off the driveway. So, I want to remind the viewers about the beauty and the grace around us. I want to be able to point it out in such a simple thing as a fallen leaf of a tree, a minute gesture of a hand, in a piece of plastic pulled out of recycle.
It frightens me, how fast the modern socio-economic world is spinning, consuming, cutting down forests, and trashing the planet. As an older person, I have less tolerance for such speedy living. As a grandmother, I worry about what kind of world our grandkids will live in.
From this perspective, I gladly join the slower speed of ASMR format… I think I’ll start adding #slowliving hashtag to the titles and/or descriptions of my videos.
And I want to find ways to close generation gaps, to build bridges across generations, to have a conversation with younger people. These are very big aims, but I hope I’ll find little acts that would point there. I have a few very young friends in my life, and I cherish our relationships, that are re-affirming to both sides. I wish I can bring that forward in my Grandmother’s Tales channel.
Right now I’m working on a video based on the tale I wrote – a tale about the little cave boy who figured out how to make fire work for his tribe. I hope this tale will be teaching how good things can come out of ordinary or even “bad” things. I want to encourage little boys and girls to discover good things for themselves.
What challenges have you encountered so far with your first videos?
One big challenge for me is technological. Just think about it – there was no TV when I was growing up! I vaguely remember my parents excitedly bringing home our first black and white TV set.
The modern generation, it seems, is born hard-wired into their computers and cell phones, navigating thru the social media as easily as breathing air. They are amazing! For me – it’s a learning curb, to teach myself to communicate through the format of a video uploaded on YouTube. But, as I said earlier, I already had some experience as a YouTube content creator with my gardening channel.
With my ASMR channel the biggest challenge was psychological. The format of an ASMR video is quite personal, intimate… I have to dig deeper into my own essence to bring myself fully present into the video, to bring out my best qualities that I want to share with people – attentiveness, kindness, supportiveness… and love that is behind all that.
Age, unfortunately, taught me to be good at hiding myself and my most vulnerable feelings, to keep a “cool” and an “appropriate” public face. Not to mention all my wrinkles and saggy cheeks, all the signs of aging – there is a self judgement and a well-trained “controller” I have to by-pass, in order to reach in, bring out and share my awe of the miracle of every human being: you – the reader of this interview, the viewer of my videos, and of the amazing beautiful aspects of the world we live in.
There are lots of stressful, dark and hurtful things and happenings in this world as well, and as an older person I’m all too familiar with losses and disappointments, and exactly because of that it is important for me to crack the old defensive crust of negativity, to join the effort of giving attention to the good, the beautiful, the intimate and delicate side of public interaction within the ASMR format.
Another challenge I could mention here is my English. I have a pretty good English, I would say, but Russian is my first language, and when I’m nervous, my accent comes out more, and I forget words I wanted to say.
Somewhere on this site I read a feedback from some ASMR viewer answering your questioner about what makes them tingle. This person said “a simple explanation made in broken English”. I laughed – that comment up-eased my nervousness about my accent. Really, I should throw out the “second language” challenge out of the window!
And saying or writing things in a simpler way sounds good to me! But I do need an editor if I’m to follow a more strict narration. Fortunately, I have one who is consistently helping me with my writings. We started to collaborate on my “Guide to Surviving Loneliness” book project, and she is my “go-to” person ever since.
Do your family and friends know about your ASMR videos? Their reactions?
At the beginning I was building my ASMR channel without telling anybody, except for my close friend who turned me towards ASMR. She was, and still is, my supportive test-viewer, who always believed I’m a “natural” at ASMR, but didn’t hesitate to say what does not work in the video.
Gradually, I opened up to my other family members and friends. I find lots of support in them. Every little “like” is a confirmation that they consider my creations worthy – and that means a lot because my family and friends have really high standards of “worthy”.
One friend mentioned she had to watch my videos twice, because she’d fall asleep before the end.
Another feedback was the most powerful experience of tingles all over the head watching my Lichen video, just from the movements of my hands touching lichen.
Some of them do not hesitate to tell me what’s not working for them in my videos. (Lol, I know they are trying to help, and them saying these things means they do want me to improve!) But so far I hear more positive feedback than “what’s there to improve”.
I feel they are proud to find me in this creator role, and that encourages me.
What type of feedback from people you don’t know have you received so far?
One feedback I got on Facebook is that I’m a good writer. I think they related to the narrations that are the background of my Rain Sleepy Awake and The Ocean Myths videos.
Another feedback in a conversation with a friend of a friend was about my eye for nature – that I’m able to capture an impactful natural scene, or a single feature of a leaf, for example, and make the viewer see the beauty of it, and feel uplifted or relaxed or at ease, because this is something that is so close to them, so close to our everyday existence.
I heard someone said I have “very alive hands”. Well these are hands of a trained massage therapist, energy worker and a dancer… They are alive!
What do you enjoy the most about creating ASMR videos?
I enjoy the craftsmanship of putting together a video, where visual and audio flow and content work together gracefully and meaningfully. Putting together any video would satisfy me in that way.
Making ASMR videos in particular, though, allow me to grow in a very powerful way. There is a myth that once one is a “grown-up” – then that’s it, no need to grow anymore. The fact I’m learning, again and again, is that there is no limits for growing and learning, and that every age presents possibilities of making somebody else out of oneself, while remaining that same self at the core.
I feel that in the process of making ASMR videos I’m finding my voice in a new way, and learning to be a grandmother not just in relation to my grandchildren, but in relation to every person who’d watch my video.
I enjoy making meaningful content and delivering it in an un-hurried, relatable, yummy way.
How do you want your videos to help others?
I want to make videos that help people slow down, and allow themselves to feel awed at the grace and delicacy of their aliveness, and the comforting beauty of the world around them. I believe that’s where tingles come from, from that relaxed and at the same time excited feeling. I hope that it’ll help them feel good in their own skin, feel more at peace, feel more balanced and centered after a video.
I want my videos to provide curious or helpful information about things around us, and about ways to relate to those things. I hope to deliver that education in a fun, cozy, simple ways.
I want my viewers to be entertained with stories and tales I tell in the videos in a kind, funny and meaningful ways.
I hope to make videos that move people – sometimes in their bodies with tingles, sometimes as the tingles of the mind or the heart.
I hope my videos will help people feel more alive, relaxed, at peace, and at ease with themselves and the surrounding word.
And I hope my videos will encourage the viewers to pass that fun, easy and curious feeling on to their friends, family, co-workers and strangers.
I want to contribute to the world being a friendlier place to live in.
Enjoy Elena’s ASMR videos and books:
- ASMR videos: Grandmother’s Tales
- Gardening videos: Authentic Gardening
- Fables for adults book: Tales of Hank
- Inspirational book: The Pocket Guide to Surviving Loneliness
More resources related to this topic:
Learn more about ASMR:
- Website: ASMR University
- Podcast: ASMR University Podcast
- Book: Brain Tingles
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