ANAHEIM, Calif. — A Latino TikTok star from the Bay Area is using his platform to promote body positivity through viral comedic videos.
Ricardino "Rico" Alvarez didn’t want to be known as a TikToker initially, but after his first posts gathered some attention, he kept going — eventually amassing more than 2.7 million followers and more than 100 million likes. Now known for flexing his pectoral muscles and dancing shirtless, Alvarez wants people to do what makes them happy, regardless of their weight or size.
'I didn't want to show my torso'
Growing up in Livermore, a city east of San Francisco, Alvarez, 20, recalls wearing a shirt in the pool because he felt self-conscious about his weight. After a couple of friends poked fun at him, he decided to shift his mindset.
“I didn’t want to show my torso,” Alvarez said. “I quickly realized, regardless, they’re going to judge because I had a shirt on or a shirt off, [I] might as well have fun doing it.”
He applied that thinking to his daily life and that eventually translated to his TikTok videos, as well. Alvarez now uses the platform to share reaction videos and funny moments he captures involving his family, all the while encouraging people to be their true selves in the process.
“It’s a blessing to at least help one person feel happy,” Alvarez, who goes by the username ricombnm or tuchiquitobombon, said. He said he’s received messages from people who say that they are “tired” and “depressed” but that his videos made their days better.
“For some reason, an idea came to my head to take off my shirt and just start vibing,” Alvarez said. “A lot of people liked it so that just kept me wanting to keep going.”
Despite all the positive feedback, he acknowledged that he also gets negative comments relating to his weight but said he doesn’t let it break his confidence.
“Those don’t affect me because they don’t know me, I don’t know them,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes they’re just funny and I cannot help but laugh.”
Alvarez, who currently weighs 285 pounds, is looking to get back into powerlifting, hoping to drop down to 250 pounds.
“I want to lose a little bit of weight because it’s not that like I hate my body. I just never experienced how to lose weight and I want to experience [it] at least one time in my life,” said Alvarez, adding that he can bench press up to 335 pounds, deadlift 475 pounds and squat-lift 460 pounds.
Although being visually “chubbier,” he wants to remind people that skinny people are also self-conscious of their weight, which is why he tries to include everybody in his content, he said.
“Don’t listen to what other people say,” Alvarez said. “You do you … being yourself can make good things happen,” he said, pointing to his TikTok popularity as one example.
On his TikTok fame
After Alvarez posted a “silly” video of himself dancing, his friend Luis Garcia, 24, saw it and told him he had “the potential to be something,” Alvarez recalled.
The turning point for Alvarez was when the Instagram page so.Mexican, an account with more than 6 million followers that shares Hispanic and Latino content, reposted one of his videos, earning him 700 new followers.
Now millions of followers later, Alvarez wants to work a regular job, to both earn a steady income and make sure his online fame doesn't change him.
"I still see Rico as Rico, my annoying brother," Edgar Alvarez, 24, said about his younger brother's popularity on TikTok. "It's just kind of weird seeing a lot of people fangirling over Rico."
Before TikTok, everyone loved to be around his younger brother at family gatherings because he's funny, Edgar added.
"He just makes people feel welcomed into it. And then it's pretty much just a larger audience now than what he used to do before," Edgar said. "Even before TikTok he was always shirtless around the house."
“It’s weird because you look at 2.7 million on the screen. But obviously, there’s no 2.7 million people in front of me,” said Alvarez, who occasionally gets recognized in public from his videos.
Alvarez also likes to incorporate his family into his videos by capturing candid moments. His parents, who are both from a small town, El Rosario Toñala, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, have even gone viral through his videos.
Alvarez describes his relationship with his parents as serious at times but mostly consisting of jokes and poking fun at one another.
"Like that bond you have with friends. Either way, you roast each other and stuff, but at the end of the day, you just love each other. It's never a toxic environment," he said.
"I get a lot of, 'I wish I had parents like that and that’s why I love watching your videos,'" Alvarez said. “That’s why I like to incorporate that into my TikToks because I realized that a lot of people don’t have that."
At first, his mother, Guillermina Landeros de Alvarez, didn't believe he had a large following until one of her co-workers at a senior citizens' home where she works showed her a video of her 4-year-old son dancing to one of Alvarez's videos.
"That's when she realized, like, wow he's actually making even kids happy," Alvarez said. "I wouldn't want them to change just because of TikTok. What I do on TikTok and how I am in person, it does not change."