Lilach Chen’s YouTube channel boasts 24 million views and 15,000 subscribers. Yet all those viewers don’t see any part of Chen aside from her right hand – the talented five-fingered limb that break-dances for global clients including Sony Ericsson.
Others have since tried to imitate the 24-year-old Israeli’s digital dance moves, but nobody else can say their fingers starred in a commercial that went viral. Sony flew Chen to Prague to film the bouncy ad in February last year, even bringing in a Czech hip-hop dancer to plan out the choreography.
“I used to be a dancer,” Chen tells ISRAEL21c, speaking by phone from her home in Holon. “When I was 16, one day I was break-dancing and also playing the piano, and I tried the moves with my fingers and it looked really funny. So my sister and I filmed a video for our friends and family. YouTube didn’t exist yet, but a year later we uploaded the video to YouTube and it got really popular.”
That’s a bit of an understatement.
Chen became quite a sensation. She was invited to a Google conference along with other “most viewed” Israelis on YouTube, where she hobnobbed with YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. She’s been interviewed on Israel’s top news programs and has performed her finger break-dances on Channel 2 and on Israeli children’s television.
In December 2007, producers in India flew Chen to Mumbai to film a commercial. That led to an assignment in London, two in Istanbul and finally the plum Sony Ericsson gig in Prague.
Banking on her fingers
Once Chen’s fingers got the thumbs-up from the pros, requests began rolling in from all kinds of companies looking to promote their products in a decidedly different and fun way.
She’s filmed her fingers for businesses in Los Angeles, Germany, Australia and China, among other places. One of her clients was HandVibes Rings, a company started by the former CEO of Topps candy and trading cards. The rubbery novelty rings were just begging to be publicized by dancing fingers, and Chen was happy to oblige.
Chen runs her business from home, taking classes at Israel’s Open University to learn how to edit video as well as how to film and direct on a more professional level.
“I am trying to see if I can make a living at it,” she says.
Chen studied art history at Tel Aviv University and would one day like to lead groups of Israelis on tours of Italy’s art scene. “I went to a course to become a tour guide, but I’m still not confident enough to take 40 Israelis abroad,” she says.
In the meantime, her superstar right hand gets no special treatment – no rich lotions or fancy spa treatments. Like the young woman attached to it, the hand thrives simply on responding to the beat.
“I love all hip-hop and rap music, but especially Mary J. Blige,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “I can hardly listen to anything else.”