A nerdy convo with Fangirling hosts Dani Fernandez, Sam Maggs and Markeia McCarty


At Culturess, we know fangirls. We are fangirls ourselves after all, and enjoy nerding out over a multitude of fandoms — from movies and video games to beauty palettes and viral videos (the stranger, the better). Safe to say, we know how hard fangirls have it too. Old-fashioned stereotypes continue to plague the public opinion of what a fangirl is.

Thankfully, we have Fangirling — a show that slams the door on ignorant viewpoints, and opens so many more that lead to inspiring, hilarious and oh-so-nerdy conversations. Fangirling is in its second season on Alpha, Legendary Digital Network’s premium streaming entertainment service.

We had the chance to chat with Fangirling hosts Dani Fernandez, Sam Maggs and Markeia McCarty about the impact this show has had on female fandoms, as well as them.

Fangirling hosts Dani Fernandez, Sam Maggs and Markeia McCarty. Photo Credit: Legendary Digital Networks

Fangirling is undoubtedly something fangirls have craved. Why do you think it has taken so long for fangirls to be properly appreciated, or even appreciate themselves?

Dani: I would say that we’ve always been here. It’s just more that we’ve been forced to have to relate. I think of when I was growing up and my brothers were super nerdy as well. I was always forced to relate to more of the male characters because that was just more of what I saw and [what was] superhero culture. But I think that we’ve always been here. I just don’t think that our industry, Hollywood, and the world was necessarily ready to give us the opportunity, but it’s not like we weren’t trying. I think that women have been trying for a while to be noticed in this topic… in the last couple of years, the rest of the world and, more importantly, studios specifically in Hollywood, are like “Oh, that’s a good idea. Maybe that would make us some money if we did that, if we actually had superheroes for women.” I think there have always been nerdy women. It is just that society didn’t necessarily always allow them into the spotlight.

Sam: For a really long time, the word “fangirl” was used in a really derogatory sense where people would use it to conjure images of like hysterical female fans who couldn’t control themselves over the things that they loved. It was used in a way that made girls seem stupid or foolish for the things that they loved. Whereas if you fanboyed over something, you had an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek and it was admirable and people took it very seriously. You had your nerd cred… I think in recent years, especially after I published The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, that was part of wanting to reclaim that word and change it to make it into something more positive. Because the girls who love the things that they love so passionately are intelligent and are looking at the media that they consume through a critical lens, but they can still love things hard and without reservation. And I think that’s something to be admired.

Markeia: I think society just had to come to a certain point. Like Dani said, we have always been here. Women that are also fangirls, who are just as nerdy as men are… Males have been doing so much of the narrative. Male writers writing female characters, whether it’s movies, comic books, video games — only doing it from their perspective. I really do think it is a money issue now. I’m going to use the term “dude bros” — high-status dude bros found out that, “Oh wow, women are spending a lot of money on these things. They actually have things to say about their fandoms. We have no idea where they’re coming from because of the perspective has been ours all the time.” With this paradigm shift, now we’re able to get our Wonder Woman with Gal Gadot and the like.

It feels as if being a part of a “fandom” has been synonymous with men, and specifically white men. Fangirls have been the minority. And then you add in fangirls who are also a part of minority groups, that just adds to this feeling of not being represented or heard… How significant do you feel this show has been for the fangirl community? To see a diverse representation of what fangirls are?

Markeia: I was surprised and then also not surprised at how strongly people felt about Fangirling, and got our different perspectives with it… As you were saying, women of color and black women (well, the term is blurred), we haven’t had much voice when it comes to this. I mean we’re rising on our own, and it’s amazing how frustrating it is. It’s kind of like I’m shouting in a room and everybody still ignores you. But we’re here too. And to have people that have reached out to me to say that they love this show, that they love that we’re doing this… it is a type of validation for me this year in general, to be able to do my black female perspective on nerdom in general. With the background that I have — wrestling, video games — I’m a nerd in all realms. And having people appreciate my opinion and to actually be heard and respected, it feels amazing. And a lot of the people that I’ve talked to have said they share my views. So it’s like they’re being heard because we’re just being ourselves on our show.

Dani: I feel like we have fans of all ages, which is really cool. I’ll sometimes have parents who will send us like pictures of their daughter watching the show or watching it online and then also hearing from people that are older than us, which is cool because they’re really on board with us, you know, having to do their time to pave the way for us to even have what we have. It’s such a cool platform for us as fangirls. We ourselves are fans. I feel this show, in particular, doesn’t try to silence us at all. I have been at other channels that will and that is really important. Like when you’re talking about things such as whitewashing in films or problematic things in our fandoms and franchises that we love and that we want to address because we love them, and we know that they could do better. I think that’s so important that when you ask for women to be on the show, that we’re not just hosts that are expected to smile and dance, that we’re allowed to have our opinions and everything that we’re passionate about and that’s so important to us. That’s another thing that I think is really cool about the show, that I feel not a lot of other shows are doing. We are fangirling, but a part of that is also talking about some of the things that need to change. Like you said, it has largely been white men who have been in control of this, and so I’m glad that we’re allowed to have the platform for that discussion.

Right now, what do each of you think is something positive going on in pop culture?

Dani: My favorite thing in pop culture that has been going on for a while but has exploded over the last few years is Comic Con. Not only San Diego Comic-Con, which is like the OG con, but like everywhere. There’s something about seeing each other face to face. I would say it removes all of the negativity and it’s just fans being fans. One of my favorite things that I remember from San Diego Comic-Con this year was SyFy had a huge marching band go down the street. Fans were in the street just dancing and eating and drinking and just having fun together. This is why we became fans, this beautiful nostalgic thing that we love, that we’re passionate about it.

Sam: For me, the most positive thing I see is a real surge in the number of female characters that we’re seeing on screen, on the page, in movies and video games and comics. To Markeia’s earlier point, we’re starting to notice that companies are noticing women are half of the purchasing base [maybe more so]. So they really want to reach out to that, which is really cool. We’ve got Captain Marvel, we’ve got Wonder Woman. At E3 this year, there were more games with swappable male or female player characters, which is really cool.

Markeia: I really love how recently women of color cosplayers, men of color cosplayers, cosplayers of different shapes, they’ve always been there… but they were ignored. Whenever you saw “Top 10 cosplayers at Comic Con,” you always had a certain skin tone or body type that would make that list. With how huge cons are, there are all types of people there and all playing their favorite characters or obscure characters. And it was so frustrating for me to not see that be reflected whenever it would be advertised in the media. That’s controlling the narrative. So I’m so glad that we’ve had more cosplayers of color and more different shapes that are being represented. I think that’s a huge turning point, showing people that aren’t able to go to these cons that nerds come in all shapes and sizes… and to pump the brakes when you try to say a character can only be portrayed by a certain type of person. These are fictional people and anybody can portray them if they feel strongly enough.

And what is something you’re still wanting to see happen, or want to see more of?

Dani: I would say the negative are things like social media and the anonymous nature that has happened in fandoms where people think that they can say whatever they want to you. And especially us, I think a lot of times they forget that we’re people. I’m a human being. I have a heart. I can see what you’re saying. Like, I grew up in this fandom with you. I think people see us on TV and they’re like “They’re not real.” No, I also was bullied for this growing up. I also did my time. And so that’s why I love cons because nobody’s doing that. Everybody is face to face. You would never say that to a person, to their face. I feel it reinvigorates your fandom to be face to face with your fellow fans.

Sam: What I think we still really need to improve upon though is while we’re seeing more women on the page and on screen, we’re not seeing more women behind the page or behind the screen.  In video games, there’s only about 20 percent of creators who are women. The numbers for the people who are telling these stories and are women is still really low. When you get into women of color creators, those numbers are even lower, and when you get into queer creators, even lower. I would love to see more people being allowed to tell their own stories… and I think it is critical that we make everyone make their stories as diverse as possible. We have a disproportionate amount of stories being told by people who are writing outside of their experience and we need to equal those numbers out. So more women, more people of color, more queer people writing games, comics, movies — we’re only going to get a more diverse set of experiences from which these people are writing from, which means we’re going to get a more diverse set of stories, which benefits everybody in the end.

Markeia: I think Sam and Dani hit the nail on the head with women of color. You’ll have [a show] with all of these episodes directed by women. How many are directed by women of color, zero or two out of the entire season. So yeah, that was the number one thing that stuck out for me.

What is the most rewarding aspect about being a part of Fangirling?

Dani: For me, I got to interview Aimee Carrero who is the new voice of She-Ra. She’s also the voice of Elena of Avalor. She’s first Latina princess. So that’s really cool because I didn’t get to have any Latina princesses growing up. Two years ago, for my niece, I got her all Moana stuff because like this is the closest thing we have. And then when Coco came out, I flooded her with Coco stuff… And having Amy voice She-ra? I feel like there are so many women of color that are really paving the way for others. She [Amy] is so excited and she was just a really passionate person and it’s just so nice to see yourself in someone else. You know, we didn’t really have anything, like we had Carmen Sandiego. So, it’s really cool that I got to interview her. I also got to interview Myrna Velasco, who plays an Ace fighter pilot on Star Wars Resistance, Doza. And typically the fighter pilot role goes to the men. She plays a cocky fighter pilot who gets to have swagger and all the things that like Han Solo gets to have, but it is a woman of color. It’s neat to see the possibilities and to feel like I see myself reflected in m niece.

Sam: I love the fact that the show encourages debate, but in a positive way. I think that a lot of the time in nerd culture when people argue, it comes from a really hateful place sometimes for some folks, or it can feel really negative and argumentative and challenging — like in the sense, they’re challenging your nerd cred. But I think on Fangirling, we can all have different opinions, and we can do it in a way that is friendly and good. It is possible to think different things about pop culture without being really toxic and negative. I think that’s something that fan culture should be trying to embrace more in general. So I really love that about the folks who watch and participate in the show.

Markeia: I think the super rewarding thing is like the intersectionality of the fandoms that we cover. Like for this one show, I’ve gotten to interview Viola Davis for Widows. By the way, I cannot talk about Widows enough. Everybody needs to see this movie. But just like being able to get real with Viola Davis about representation and being able to be a sexual sensual being. For women of color, it is like we’re to the side — we’re either oversexualized or desexualized. There’s no middle ground. To have her be this character who is a normal person with a full range of emotion, and to go through that conversation with her, is one thing.. and on this same show, I got to interview WWE’s Lana. I am such a wrestling nerd — and that interview is going to be coming up. To think that I do not have to be on a wrestling-specific show or just a movie-specific show. That is so rewarding, and rewarding to me because literally, the sky’s the limit. What are you interested in? We’re going to try to make this happen and then we nerd out about it and then other people know about it or they don’t. But now they are aware. I just find that so incredibly rewarding because, you know, we’re not just nerds in one area. We’re a little bit of everything and I love that.

Finally, with the holidays in full swing, we’ve got one final question for you three. Which famous person (fictional, non-fictional) would you have over for the holidays and why?

Markeia: Shuri! To have this techmeister warrior, where she’s arrogant and it’s cool, like this woman literally, when T’Challa was incapacitated and comatose, she goes through the trials, takes the heart-shaped herb, makes it to the panther god, and the panther god goes “No, you’re too arrogant. I’m not going to bestow powers upon you.” And Shuri is like “That’s cool. I’m gonna do it anyway.” So that rendition her… plus Letitia Wright. That bubbly optimism? Yes, I would love to have Shuri over for the holidays. We’d talk tech stuff, nerd stuff; she’d trick out my electronics for me. That would be a dream come true.

Dani: For me, Wonder Woman, for so many reasons. She’s so funny. Like I loved her in the comics, she’s hilarious there too, but [in the movie] I loved her fish out of water moments. I feel like she’d be like what are you doing with the turkey. Why are you putting your hand in it? I love that aspect of it. But also she’s like this beautiful, strong ass Amazonian woman. I want her to lift me, help me put the star on the tree or something. I would be in awe of her… She’s my favorite superhero of all time. Plus I think like she’d be a good wing woman. In my family, I’m single and everyone else in my family is all boo’d up so you know.. I might hit the bar later and it would be great to hit a bar with Wonder Woman. She would be like, “No don’t go home with him.” Oh and she could use her lasso of truth, so… She would be my holiday pick to hang out with.

Sam: My answer, 100 percent truth, is Jeff Goldblum. If anyone has his phone number or anything, tell him to hit me up. That’s all I have to say about that.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to watch new episodes of Fangirling every Thursday at 10 a.m. PT on Alpha. Alpha is Legendary Digital Network’s premium streaming entertainment service that gives members access to new and exclusive shows and immersive community-based interactivity.

You can also watch Fangirling on Facebook.com/watchfangirling.