Nicole Sanchez, known in the online world as Neekolul or Neeko, is a Mexican-American Twitch streamer and content creator who has capitalized on the livestreaming popularity boom playing video games, dressing up in cosplay, and cooking her favorite recipes while engaging with viewers by way of the chat function.
On the metrics side, Sanchez’s channel has a large following of 437K thousand, and she sits within the top .04% of content creators on the site.
For those unfamiliar with Twitch, it is an ultra-popular streaming platform for diverse content creators who host their own channels: from people like Sanchez who are in the realm of streaming herself playing video games and cooking (among other things), to political commentary, musicians playing live sets in their living rooms and basements, to even those that pull in thousands of live viewers playing chess and talking about popular culture; streaming allows people to share their talents and hobbies with the world, and the most popular on the site have enough charisma and talent to keep the millions of people who visit Twitch engaged.
Another facet of Twitch’s popularity is that it allows live interaction with these creators, by way of the stream chat function. Here people can donate money (called ‘Bits’) to show support to their favorites, and gain higher attention to the streamer, who can see who has supported them in their stream. Another way of support is by subscribing to the streamer, which grants the user extra perks within the chat and channel.
Now back to Sanchez, the new 12-episode season of her cooking show Noms with Neeko premiered on September 18th, and will continue to have new episodes every Sunday at 7pm Pacific, where she will tackle various Mexican comfort foods as well as other ethnic dishes and pop culture related recipes live, teaching her viewers all the ingredients and steps along the way.
Recently we had the chance to chat with Sanchez over her show, her childhood, and the negatives and positives about being a Latina woman streaming to the masses. Check out more of Neeko and her world at twitch.tv/neeko/.
To start off, how did you get into streaming? I think for me, the first time I heard about you was during the 2020 elections with that viral TikTok where you are wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and lip syncing to the Senzawa song exclaiming, “Okay boomer, whatever you say, boomer.” Was that was a jumping off point for you for becoming an online personality or was it beforehand?
I’ve been a gamer my whole life, ever since I was a kid I had interest in games, video games. And then growing up, I went through a lot of different phases. I played handheld video games and I played a little bit of console, and then I moved to PC and then I moved back to console. And then I met a lot of different friends on console from school and stuff like that.
And when it was time for us to head to college, every time they come back for the summers, we’d play. But then I was like, “hey, I want to do, like, content with gaming, but how do I do that? Like, YouTube?”
And then someone recommended Twitch and I was like, “oh, okay, well, let me figure out what this Twitch is.” And then from there, that’s how that started, my aspiring career to be a content creator, but not until, “Okay, Boomers” when it became an absolute, full time actual job. So it was obviously like a huge blessing because it was just more support that I had to make my dreams a reality, of making all this amazing content.
Even to the point where I am partnering up with Twitch to have a cooking show, which I never in a million years thought it would be something that would happen to me. And yeah, it’s been absolutely insane and I’m extremely grateful.
Can you talk about your relationship with cooking and food? And based on your own food history, how did that inspire you to do a cooking show?
So growing up, cooking was always kind of something that was very important to my mom to teach to me. It was more out of a necessity and need because my parents, they came from Mexico and that has its own set of struggles, and I would say like 80% to 90% of my childhood my parents were not home.
I would either be with a babysitter up until I was old enough to be left alone at home and my parents would always make sure that they’d have food for me on the stove. Eventually they did teach me how to make stuff, especially my mom.
During the weekends when she had time, she would show me how to make fideos or quesadillas as a way to feed myself while she wasn’t home because sometimes, she didn’t even have time to make food for me.
So it definitely came out of mostly a need. They were hard times, but they were also special times to me because there are some of the few times I did spend with my mom. And the fact that even [through] our situation, she still wanted to make sure that I was well taken care of, kind of stuck with me.
And even though sometimes she’d yell at me and be like, “you know, what are you going to do when I’m gone? Are you just going to starve?!” And I was like, “fine.” So I’d hesitantly go help her in the kitchen. But when I moved out, I was really surprised at how much I retained from all those times that I spent in the kitchen with my mom.
“I’m just someone that’s also learning with my audience & in that stream, I could easily just mess up a recipe. And I think that’s probably one of the relatable aspects of my cooking show, is that I myself, even though I know how to cook, I could also still mess up the recipe.”
And I started making my own food out of a different necessity, I was trying to save money because I was an adult now and I moved out briefly and I was trying to have more economically sustainable way of making food for myself. And then I just started making that into streams.
I started off with me showing my chat the stuff that my mom taught me. And then over time, it became different recipes, maybe even harder recipes that you wouldn’t normally make, like tamales, posole, things are more time consuming. But then I also started making recipes from a lot of other different cultures. Ratatouille from French cuisine, phở from Vietnamese cuisine, so stuff like that. And it was kind of like an adventure, you know, I was making these recipes, but anything could happen, right?
I’m just someone that’s also learning with my audience and in that stream, I could easily just mess up a recipe. And I think that’s probably one of the relatable aspects of my cooking show, is that I myself, even though I know how to cook, I could also still mess up the recipe.
So yeah, it’s kind of like a ‘learn with me’ almost. And then at the end of each episode there’s some delicious food to consume. So it’s a win for everybody.
Could tell me a bit about how you get the inspiration for the recipes?
So definitely I want to show people stuff that they haven’t seen before. I want to also do themed recipes. So, for example, although we had a little bit of a rough start because there’s a lot of things that you miss when doing a whole production by yourself, our first recipe was Adventure Time [characters].
It was Ice King Chicken Nuggets. And then Tree Trunks Apple Pie, there was like a themed show. But there’s also going to be really interesting recipes that, for example, the Halloween episode is going to be a black chicken. The chicken has black skin, so it’s the way that the chicken is, I guess, raised, it’s a naturally black chicken.
So I’m going to be cooking that on stream and I’m pretty sure most people have not seen a black chicken or consumed a black chicken. So I’m very excited to have that for my Halloween stream along with other goodies I’m going to be making on that stream as well.
There’s going to be a World of Warcraft themed stream. There’s going to be a seafood stream where we’re going to be making sea urchins. So there’s a lot of really awesome stuff that is coming. So either based on it being themed, on things I want to eat, and also showing things that my audience has probably never seen before.
And since it is Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to ask you about the specific Mexican recipes. Can you touch on those?
Yes. So this next recipe I’m going to be making, I actually have a linked recipe for the chat if they choose to make this, but I actually called my mom and wrote down all the ingredients and steps that it takes to make menudo.
So I got the recipe from my mom, but obviously not everyone could go and call my mom. So I’m linking a similar recipe in the chat. So in my stream you could put “!menu” and the recipes will pop up of what I’m making.
But of course, like I said, my recipe is based on my mom, but I provided a similar dupe for the audience if they choose to make it at home. The following cooking steam after that is part two of Hispanic Heritage Month on Noms with Neeko and it’s going to be sweets. So we’re going to make pan dulce among other delicious Mexican desserts. I’m also going to be making arroz con leche.
As a Latina who does streaming and content creation, do you find that there are or were any barriers or difficulties in starting out in this venue of entertainment? And if not, what are some positives in your experience of being a bilingual Latina streamer?
So of course there’s a lot of obstacles. I feel like there’s already like a precedent of mostly having white people in media. So that was the norm for a really long time, just media being predominantly white.
And I think when it comes to the past, I want to say the past couple of years where we’ve seen more diversity in a lot of aspects of just pop culture in general, I think that being part of the beginning of diversifying media and showing a lot of huge internet personalities, content creators, even in traditional media, like actors, et cetera, I think it’s really important.
But yeah, it’s definitely hard being the first for anything, right? Especially in the gaming space, which was predominantly white and male for most of its existence. So yeah, it comes with its own share of trolls, harassment, racist remarks. So it’s an unfortunate reality of being a person of color in content creating.
But there’s something very gratifying about being the first wave of people in this industry, specifically, and being someone that inspires other women of color to be a content creator in this space.
Like honestly, if at the end of my career I just hear one person say, “Hey the reason I started content creation…,” or “the reason I kept going…” or “the reason I began to have an interest in it was because I saw Neeko,” that in itself would have been worth it. It would be worth all the trolls. Would be worth all the harassment.
I think just being a woman just in general is hard and I think being a woman of color also makes it even harder. The positives are that hopefully I’m inspiring people and I hope that people find some connection with me being who I am and with my background.
The negatives are that it is hard being the first for just anything, the first wave of women to be on Twitch and then on top of that, a woman of color. So it does come with its fair share of obstacles.
And this is my last question. What do you hope that people take away from your cooking series Noms with Neeko, and from your efforts to educate people of your culture, recipes and food in general?
So, of course, number one for me is that I hope they enjoy it. I hope they enjoy watching me mess up, and I hope they also enjoy watching me make something extremely delicious. I hope on top of that, they see the representation I’m trying to present.
You know, it’s one thing me representing or attempting to represent my culture, my background, but also that they take from that, and that they’re more familiar with a Mexican content creator showing them, “oh, this is a food that we eat menudo, this is a dessert that we like to eat, arroz con leche.”
So I hope that it’s also a learning experience. And lastly, I hope they have fun with all the themed recipes, with all the interesting new stuff we’re going to be making on stream, the sea urchin, the black chicken.
I hope they find all that really interesting and that they all find it delicious looking. So I’m really excited to see what people take from my stream, but that’s what I hope that they take from it.