By Minreet Kaur
Sunny Osahn, a voiceover artist from Alwoodley in Leeds, has gained a huge following on TikTok after using the platform to teach people about the Sikh religion and culture.
Sunny, 37, the father of two young children, first joined the platform to explore and share his voiceover work.
But after hearing stories of Sikh boys being bullied for having long hair, he realised he could use the app to address the problem. In Sikhism, kesh is the practice of allowing hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God’s creation.
Sunny started to post videos of how he ties his hair, how to wear a turban, and explanations of belief and the idea of God, and was astonished to reach more than 100,000 followers, with his videos being viewed eight million times.
The posts result in questions about the Sikh tradition, which he answers by sharing information on ideas and customs.
He explained why he felt he needed to use this platform: “There is a huge lack of basic knowledge about Sikhs in the UK, and globally. Children are still being bullied, tormented, and victimised just because they look different.”
When asked what makes him tick, he said: “Bullies and racism, because this is increasingly an issue for Sikhs and I want to raise awareness in the hope that education helps to make a change.”
He has had a positive response from people across the world, who are eager to learn about other cultures. His fanbase is 75 per cent female, of all ages. He believes most parents are showing his videos to their children.
The response has been “truly amazing” he said. His TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter followers have all watched his journey and he has been featured on the BBC, in the Yorkshire Evening Post and on UNILAD, a social video site.
“I have two young sons with beautiful, long hair that we’ve never cut as part of our faith and even at their age, they have had incidents of people laughing at them and calling them a girl,” he said.
“I would say 99.9 per cent of the global audience don’t know what a Sikh is or why we wear turbans. So many people have been astonished to find out many of us have really long hair, for example.
“One of the reasons I joined TikTok was because I was seeing some fascinating content, made by people who are my age, who were sharing their knowledge. There’s a huge lack of teaching about different cultures in our schools and it is not covered in the kind of depth that it should be.
“On TikTok, there are so many engaged users who are embracing learning about the different people who are on this earth. I think people often overlook this teaching element of the platform. The videos are about raising awareness about who we are and demystifying why we wear our turbans.”
Many young Sikhs have contacted Sunny to say they feel more confident after he has brought the custom to public attention. Healthcare workers from all over the world have told him that because they now understand the custom, they have been able to help elderly patients tying their turbans and combing their hair and understanding how important this is for their mental health and their overall spiritual needs.
“Touching the hearts of people from across the planet by using social media is absolutely incredible, and I feel completely humbled by every single one of these messages that I get,” he said.
The TikTok fame has helped his career. His distinctive voice has been complimented and he would like to branch out into acting and voicing over educational films.
Several schools have started using his videos in religious education lessons, with pupils impressed that the teachers are finding content on platforms such as TikTok, produced by people of the faith who can speak to children in a different way.