Heroes of 2020: Nathan Apodaca

Since he posted the video of his improvised commute, his life has entered the realm of fantasy.

Nathan Apodaca/Tik Tok; Mother Jones Illustration

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Like many of you, I was inside a home I’d spent far too much time in when I first saw Nathan Apodaca rolling into the pantheon of good vibes. Being too old in spirit, but apparently not in age, for TikTok, I assumed he was an outsider who’d hit on something genius, not DoggFace, the Idaho man who’d been dancing and lip syncing for years. 

A year before, the Latinx culture site ReMezcla had dubbed Apodaca, whose mom is Northern Arapaho and whose dad is of Mexican descent, Tío TikTok for his renditions of old hits on a platform dominated by teens. He’d been on Instagram since 2016, where he started out posting photos of his daughters playing with his dog or practicing viola. When they weren’t around, the posts—a photo of edibles for a 2 Chainz concert in Denver, for example, using the hashtag #420Souljahz—skewed stoner dad.

After his daughters introduced him to TikTok, he found his niche with videos that used the potato warehouse he’d worked in for nearly two decades as a stage. His general philosophy comes through in a post of him putting together cardboard bulk bins to System of a Down with the caption “work sucks sometimes but o well SMILE.” He hit 1 million views with a post that was just him dancing to Doja Cat. 

Apodaca was only skating down the road in September because he kept a longboard in the back of his Dodge Durango. It had more than 330,000 miles on it, and he knew to expect mechanical difficulties. So when the battery went out on his way to work, he started skating, the New York Times explained

Since he posted the video of his improvised commute, his life has entered the realm of fantasy. Ocean Spray and an Idaho car dealership gave him a cranberry-red pickup with a juice-filled bed. He moved from an RV without running water to a five-bedroom, two-story house. The experience of having one floor for sleeping and another for living has been a revelation. As he told People, “We have a whole house underneath us.” On a trip to Las Vegas, he proposed to his girlfriend, Estela Chavez, whom he met at the potato warehouse, by trying to sing Adam Sandler’s “I Wanna Grow Old With You” in her native Spanish. (She said yes.) During a visit to a Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist, he got veneers.

The subtext is that Apodaca wound up with running water, space for his daughters to visit him, and a truck he can count on because he managed to maintain immaculate vibes without those things, not because he was doing a job we’ve been at pains to praise as essential. And since this is 2020, the latest news is that Apodaca and Chavez have tested positive for COVID-19. He’s still dancing. Now to “I Will Survive.”

Noah Lanard

Heroes and Monsters 2020

The staff of Mother Jones is highlighting the year’s heroes and monsters. Find them all here.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate