It’s hard to maintain a friendship these days with interests changing, social media making things so pseudo, and life just being what it is.
But Leo Camacho aka MrLeoZombie or just “Leo” and I have been in touch for over fifteen years not just by the power of friendship but nerd friendship. People know Leo for his Disney vids, his cosplay expertise and his super chill, welcoming vibe at the cons. I know him from high school when we were nerds (and it wasn’t as cool). Now, we’re grown nerds running L.A. portals.
This Finding Fandom convo is legit evidence of how fandoms can affect and carry people through life starting at an early age and also keep friendships on lock. Over a burrito bowl and the Sixth Street Bridge, Leo, and I discuss just where his nerd life began and where the TWILIGHT fans ended up:
NC: SO every year I bring my [TWILIGHT] Christmas ornament out and ask, “What the hell happened to the TWILIGHT fans?” Were you a TWILIGHT fan?
NC: So there goes my second question: Were you Team Edward or Team Jacob?
LC: But I can answer that…I’d have to go with Team Edward because he really put in the work. He was stifling his allergies for Bella, and Jacob was like “Yo, I’m gonna swoop up in here ‘cause I got swole.” Nononono, buddy boy. Take a step back. OK. we get it. You’re dreamy.
NC: So what happened to all of the TWILIGHT fans?
LC: I think they grew up and realized it wasn’t as sophisticated as they had imagined. Also, I think the universal disapproval of the TWILIGHT series as bad movies tends to silence people that want to be more vocal about it. So they probably segregated themselves into smaller sub-communities on the internet. It’s not as cool to talk about TWILIGHT as it is to talk about GAME OF THRONES. So you might be keeping to your own if you’re still into that fandom.
NC: So you think they’re a little bit more shy to talk about it?
LC: It’s a universal thing to be made fun for liking TWILIGHT, and it’s somehow OK. Honestly, overall, it’s NOT OK. You should never make fun of anybody for anything they love.
NC: Unless it’s universally OK!
LC: Yeah…Just like JAR JAR. You’re not allowed to like JAR JAR, and if you do…it’s OK for us to make fun of you. It’s signed…in the Declaration of Independence.
NC: Twilight for me, was the awakening for fandoms.
LC: I think it was the awakening for the mainstream non-nerdy people to embrace fandom. Because way back in high school, I was into the nerdy Gundam Wing fandom, but they only existed on Yahoo! Message boards.
LC: “FANDOM” means whenever you take any effort to explore something created more than its intended purpose. What I mean by that is, take LORD OF THE RINGS (LOTR), right, there’s LOTR movies. I can be a fan of LOTR because I went to the movie….enjoyed it…watched it. But that doesn’t make me a part of the LOTR fandom. As soon as I go home and Google LOTR, and I want to find out about LOTR, and I start following people posting LOTR on Tumblr just to see posts about LOTR…Now I’m part of the LOTR fandom because I’m starting to connect with people who share a passion for this thing. Whatever that thing may be. Or let’s say I play MARIO BROS. I’m a fan of the MARIO BROS. game but to be a part of the MARIO BROS. fandom, to know about all of the games, you’ve probably engaged in conversations about MARIO. It takes a little bit of extra effort to understand the subject a little more. As soon as you commit to that, you’re a part of the fandom.
At this point, Leo and I were sounding off SUPER MARIO quotes from new and old, and it only ended in high pitch laughter. If you’ve ever been to a friend’s house to marathon a TV show or play endless hours of video games, it was that kind of hilarity.
NC: How is fandom best expressed either as a community or individual?
LC: Uh…obviously by wearing T-shirts from HOT TOPIC, BRO! The only real way to do it!
LC: I know I joke about Hot Topic right? But it’s like, “Yeah, it IS a good way to express.” You’re showing the world you’re into this, but in another way it’s like “Are you just trying to prove to me that you’re into it, or are you actually into it?” ‘Cause now, there’s speculation like “This guy’s a poser…”
NC: Like people with their LAKERS flags?
LC: Yeah…But I would never look at that and say “Yeah, you’re so fake.” Any level of expression is a cool expression. I think the best way to express it is simply to support it even if no one else sees. You can express it to yourself. If you’re going to vocalize about it, being positive is the best source of expression for a fandom.
LC: Pffff…Uhh…When I was born! I remember being a kid and just being obsessed with DISNEY movies. It was just captivating to me. It inspired me to start drawing, and I remember loving the movie ROBIN HOOD, my first Disney jam. He was the coolest role model I could ever ask for. I remember being a kid and begging my mom to make me a Robin Hood costume. She was like “There’s no Robin Hood costumes…” I was like “I know. I want you to make it for me. Like, I need it to exist in some way shape or form. Manifest it in front of me so that I can dawn the likeness of Robin Hood. She did her damn best. She made me a costume. It wasn’t even Halloween, but I just wanted to do it. I look back at that now and I’m like “Yeah, that was cosplay!” I remember always just trying to create my fandom and do something new with it so that I can have it in my life.
Some of Leo’s earliest memories involved drawing MARIO, LEGEND OF ZELDA, TMNT, and doing anything it took to craft and create his favorite characters and scenes during a time when merch and fandoms were virtually non-existent unlike today. What’s cool is that while most kids outgrow these or eventually consider them childish, Leo cherished them and now incorporates them in his lifestyle.
NC: What are your TOP THREE Fandoms?
LC: STAR WARS is probably my number one. Funny, because that came a little later in life. I didn’t really get into Star Wars until I was in eighth grade…sixth grade? So, STAR WARS, DISNEY…and probably NINTENDO. Obviously, since I can’t stop talking about it. It just holds a really nostalgic place in my heart.
NC: How do you express your fandom to show what you love?
LC: My platform, my social media is just a personification of my actual life, an extension of that. So I don’t want to be fake. I want it to all be genuine especially in this genre, this subculture. If you’re not legitimate then what are you doing? I try to incorporate it in my clothing a lot, in subtle ways so that it’s not overbearing. I’m a nerd, and if you notice then you understand me. If you don’t notice then I just showed you how effortlessly mainstream it could be…like DISNEY bounding. DISNEY bounding is personifying DISNEY characters through fashion, color-blocking and embodying who they are. The person who doesn’t know what DISNEY bounding is would never think twice about what you’re wearing, but the people who do know, look at you, and it’s just like FIGHT CLUB, they just nod their head like “YO! We’re in the same club!” Then other people here are like “Wait what’s going on? I want to be in the secret club.” It’s not a secret. You wear it out publicly with pride. Also, cosplay. Cosplay is huge. I literally show my fandom by being the character.
LC: I feel it’s most important so that others know that it’s OK to feel what they feel. Humans are a herd-y, pack, race. We are encouraged by the presence of others. If no one is supporting what you love then you’ll never know that it’s OK to express that. Creating a welcome, warm environment where people are free to think how they think and talk about what they want to talk about is the greatest gift you can offer humanity. Acceptance. Talk about what you love without fear of negative feedback. Create a place where everybody can hang out. That’s what we all want to do is just hang out.
I agree. Hanging out is great. Talking about what you love and hanging out is better. That’s what I’ve been able to do with Leo every time we’ve kept in touch for nearly two decades now.
What I loved about catching up with Leo this time was learning how his fandom roots from even before he was schooled have made a lasting impression on his lifestyle now in such a positive way. He grew up with video games and cartoons, and embodied them. Today, he’s living the childhood dream as a responsible adult while inspiring others to do the same. And the nerd community appreciates authenticity like that. Definitely no faking the funk.
How can you tell? You can Google: Leo Camacho and see his following, or you can just click on the links to keep up with the million things he’s doing in the pop culture world:
What are you earliest memories of fandom?
How has being a nerd made an impact on you and your social life this far? For better? For worse?
Leo said his social media is an extension of his nerd lifestyle. What outlets are you currently using for expressing your lifestyle?
Leave a comment below, and let Leo know how you felt about his story!