How TikTok Star Nathan Apodaca Became the Feel-Good Story of 2020
He went from having $200 to his name to buying a house on the strength of a glorious Fleetwood Mac-soundtracked video. Here, the Idahoan looks back on his wild year.
In the final days of 2020, very few people can look back and say they’ve had a good time. (Dua Lipa, maybe... or soap wholesalers). One member of that fairly selective club is Nathan Apodaca, the TikToker known as @420doggface208 or just doggface208, who shot to viral fame over a video of him skateboarding, drinking cranberry juice, and listening to to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”
Through TikTok’s mercurial algorithm, Apodaca became a celebrity overnight, transforming from indie-vibe hero to brand sponsor in record time. When fans found an old tweet of his, from a time when Apodaca was living in a Walmart parking lot, they mobbed his PayPal with donations. In the weeks that followed, Apodaca got a free truck from Ocean Spray, proposed to his then-girlfriend, and bought a house. The Idaho Falls native nevertheless has a fairly wry view of his viral fame. He sees sponsorships as a means to an end. “I’m no puppet,” he said, “I still do what I like and what I want.”
Apodaca spoke to The Daily Beast, for example, after arranging for Boston Market to donate meals to unhoused residents of Los Angeles. Shortly after talking to The Daily Beast, Apodaca announced that he’d tested positive for COVID-19. He shared the news with a clip of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Two weeks later, he seems to be doing just fine.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On his viral video
Usually, my car drives, but it shuts off from time to time. I was heading to work and when I turned, it shut off. That’s when it usually shuts off: when I turn. I pulled over real quick, tried to start it, and it started clicking. When it clicks I know that it’s not going to start back up, unless I get a jump. It was either walk to work or wait for a jump and I was not going to order a jump. I looked in the back, grabbed my board. I usually have my board with me in case I run out of gas. And I had my juice with me. So I grabbed my juice, my board, and I started walking to work. On the highway, you have to go uphill, before you go down. So on the way up, I’m walking and looking at my favorites list. I came across “Dreams” inside my favorite list and I’m like, “OK, this is going to be the song.” I started going downhill. I’d seen that the road curves. I was like, OK, I can skate down that, get the video, and then be good. And then I started going.
I had less than, I think, five minutes to get to work by that point. So when I got down, I started reviewing it while I was going to work—walking, because there’s a gravel road back there. I felt the vibe from it, but I wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to. I almost didn’t post it. But like [inspirational speaker] Gary Vee says, you know, “Post your content no matter what.” So I posted it. After an hour, we had a break. It already had 100,000 views. My wife—that’s with me now—she worked with me. She was like: “That’s a lot. You think it’s going to get a million a day?” I was like, yeah, right. But fast forward to 12 o’clock lunch: It was at 400,000 views and then by 7:30 it was at a million views already. It was insane.
On his old job
I’ve worked out of a potato warehouse for 20-plus years. I’ve been working in and out of potato warehouses since I was 14. But the same warehouse I was at for over 20 years. I did a bit of everything. Being there for that long of a time, you basically kind of get a touch of everything inside. I was doing machinery, buttons—as far as starting machines and getting machines going—as well as packing and stacking and bagging. Labor, basically. Just real labor.
On joining TikTok
My youngest daughter got me to join in. I had seen her doing videos and she always asked me to join. I thought, “No way I’m going to do that.” But once, I saw her doing a dance video. And I knew I could do that. After that, I started doing videos with her on her own account from time to time. Eventually she said, “OK, you need to stop now. You need to make your own.” She made me an account and everything. After that, I did the “Get Up” dance. I just jumped on that train and did that trend. That did 1.2 million views in two days. It was my first viral video ever. I got like 60,000 followers. I thought, “OK, I’m done. I went viral. I’m good. I’m done.” But my oldest daughter said: “No, you’re not. You actually have people following you. Why are you going to quit? Just keep doing what you’re doing.” I was like, “Well, what am I doing?” And she goes: “You’re dancing. You’re being funny.”
On getting banned
On my first TikTok account, they banned me when I had 136,000 followers. I think it was because of the merch I was selling. I was doing everything by myself before the viral video. I was making merch on a sewing machine by myself. I was doing beanies and I bought the shirts from a different guy. But then the shirts didn’t sell as well for me. So I decided to go a new route and started selling beanies. I was actually making money off of that. So I kept it with that. I was embroidering my own beanies. But it had weed on it, you know. I represent 420. TikTok is very hard on that. They’d seen I was selling shirts with it. So they were like, nope, no more. They banned me.
Then on January 5 of 2020, I got my new account. I had to start from scratch, basically. I thought people would see me and then they’d all follow me again. But no, I had to start from scratch. A couple of people that followed me before saw me and realized that I lost my account. They shouted me out and then they got me back to where I was in like two months. I had 750,000 followers before the big viral video.
On getting a free truck from Ocean Spray
I never talked to Ocean Spray before that video for nothing. It was amazing when they gave me the truck. I thought it was just a truck of juice that they were giving me. I didn’t know the truck was mine, until I saw the paper that says, “Nathan da-da-da, congratulations Nathan.” I just drank the juice before. I didn’t know anybody. I still don’t know anybody from Ocean Spray. I thought after the truck, I was going to have to pay taxes, too. I’ve seen game shows where they’re like, “Yeah, you get all this stuff, but you have to pay taxes on that. If you don’t pay taxes on it, you don’t get it.” So I thought I’m going to have to pay something on this. But Ocean Spray took care of everything. It was just a free truck—a 2020 Nissan Frontier.
On buying a house
Before any of this, I had maybe $200. I didn’t have a bank account. I had a Bluebird card from WalMart that had maybe $200 on it or something like that. I was living paycheck to paycheck. But I started getting donations after the video went viral. It turned out I’d posted things on Twitter a long time ago, when I was living in a Walmart parking lot. I’d erased my Twitter because it takes too much space on my phone. Plus, who am I to tweet? Nobody ever listens to me, you know. So I left that alone. But when the viral video went viral, everybody saw my Twitter. They saw the situation I was at when I was living at Walmart. But I was at my brother’s at the time. I’d put my PayPal inside my Twitter, because, at that time I did need help. I was in a Walmart parking lot and I wanted to get an apartment or whatever. So people saw that. And they started sending me donations out of nowhere. That was crazy. I just started seeing the number go up. I was just showing my daughter and she’s like, “What are they sending them for?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I didn’t even put anything out there. I didn’t ask for money.” But I figured out that it came from my Twitter. I wasn’t starving or anything. I was always working. I didn’t want to be America’s charity case, you know? But I don’t think anybody’s seen it like that. They were just helping me out.
I started seeing it rise to where I thought, “This is a lot of money. I’ll be able to bless my mom and dad with that.” I did that when I got $10,000. I gave my mom $5,000. I got my dad a truck. After that, I thought maybe I just need to stop spending and see when this is going to stop. Finally, I was like, now I probably have enough for a down payment on a house, instead of just getting an apartment. My credit was messed up and everything. The only way that I could get into a house is if I paid for it. So I just saved, saved, saved. Me and my wife, we started calling realtors and then we came across this house. It popped up out of nowhere.
On giving away meals in Los Angeles
I want to give back. That’s the whole thing. I know the struggle and it sucks during the holidays. It sucks every day, if you’re in the struggle, anyway. I wanted to try to give back in some way. Boston Market teamed up with me because I did a commercial with them before. They always told me I could reach out to them if there was anything I needed. I told my management that I wanted to give something back to the community. I wanted to do it for Thanksgiving, but I kind of planned it a little too late. It worked out that after Thanksgiving I could fly to L.A. and then go and distribute 100 meals to the homeless. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. It’s a start. Hopefully bigger, better things come out from that. I want to try to do something in my community, somewhere out here. I got a lot of feedback like, “Oh, you’re doing it for L.A., but you can’t do it for Idaho.” That’s where the resources were. But hopefully we get something going on here in Idaho.