Gurdeep Pandher, Yukon's famous Bhangra dancer, now on YouTube billboards
'They recognize that the videos, the content I've been creating, it's helping people,' Pandher says
Gurdeep Pandher, Yukon's Bhangra-dancing online sensation, is larger than life. Literally.
An image of a smiling Pandher, dancing before a mountainous Yukon backdrop, now towers over a downtown Vancouver street. He's become a poster boy for YouTube Canada.
"Taught people to dance. Moved the whole country," the billboard ads read.
Pandher, who lives outside Whitehorse, is arguably the most famous living Yukoner right now. His online videos routinely go viral, and he's been featured in news media around the world as a beacon of joy and positivity in a stressed-out, pandemic-weary world.
Still, he was surprised when YouTube Canada rang him up and pitched their idea for an ad.
"Like, I totally didn't expect them for doing this, creating this billboard," he said.
"They recognize that the videos, the content I've been creating, it's helping people. So that was the main reason."
Thanks, Canada, for that much love 🙏🏽<br>If you are passing through Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal, or any other major Canadian city, make sure you recognize your Yukon friend and click a photo! <br>Huge thanks to YouTube Canada for these nationwide billboards! <a href="https://t.co/e4NGFr9bYX">pic.twitter.com/e4NGFr9bYX</a>—@GurdeepPandher
Bhangra is a type of folk dance from the Punjab region, and it draws from Sikh folklore and culture. It's an energetic workout with a celebratory feel.
Pandher's most popular videos often show him dancing in a Yukon landscape, sometimes in a forest, or on a frozen lake with snowy mountains off yonder.
He said YouTube initially suggested he come to Toronto for the ad photo shoot, but he wasn't able.
"I told them that in the Yukon we had pretty great landscape, why we don't use the Yukon landscape? And they instantly agreed," Pandher recalled.
Alyssa Whited, a spokesperson for YouTube Canada, told CBC News in an email the ads will be seen "from Vancouver to Halifax, Toronto to Winnipeg" as part of a nationwide campaign that features a handful of other artists, creators or channels.
"Creators like Gurdeep use YouTube to spread positivity across the country, especially during a time when we all needed a dose of joy," said Whited. "We want to demonstrate the positive impact that the Canadian creator ecosystem has had in Canada, both online and offline."
Luiza Staniec, another spokesperson for YouTube Canada, said in an email the campaign will run "for the next few weeks."
Pandher couldn't be happier about it. He feels that his videos are not just entertainment — they perform a social service. Many people are struggling with mental health issues these days, he said, and sometimes a bit of sunshine can go a long way.
"We've got everything. We got fancy cars, we got fancy dresses, we got everything. But ... we do not work enough to find joy in life — that is missing," he said.
"So I'm happy that with my videos that I'm adding some doses of pure joy into people's life."
He's also coming to terms with his fame. His humble rural home outside of Whitehorse keeps it in perspective, he said.
"I still feel that I'm just simple Yukoner living in a cabin without running water," he said with a laugh.
"Like, every week I go somewhere in Whitehorse and I find a tap to fill my blue jug. And I think back in my mind, 'am I a celebrity?'"
With files from Dave White