Ton Do-Nguyen, a soon-to-be high school junior from Pennsylvania, has received massive amounts of Internet love this week, thanks to his passion for Beyoncé and the sleeved blanket known as The Snuggie. After posting his recreation of Bey's "Countdown" video, filmed using an array of colorful throws, on July 8, he's amassed over 300,000 views on YouTube and gotten the glowing approval of The Queen herself. Popdust caught up with the proud member of the BeyHive to confirm this wasn't simply a ploy to receive free infomercial swag—he already has five Snuggies at home—and find out exactly how long it takes to create such a viral masterpiece.
POPDUST: The video is amazing. What has the response been like?
TON DO-NGUYEN: I know, this has been crazy! I'm just happy that it's all paying off and [the video] is blowing up so huge and so quickly.
When did you get the idea to recreate "Countdown," and how did the use of Snuggies come into play?
I had done "Love On Top" in January, but that didn't really take off. The Snuggie part, I don't even know why; I just did for fun. I love Beyoncé and I love "Countdown"—the music video is just awesome—so I was like, 'I'll try and do that for fun.'
How long did it take to film and edit?
I started in November, but then I had to start from scratch a couple months afterwards, so I spent months and months on it.
What was the most difficult element to recreate?
The part where there's 10 Beyoncés in a row and 10 of me in a row—it was just so hard having to get the 10 separate dances down, and then on top of that, trying to get everything in sync.
What's your background in video editing?
I just do it for fun. I'm self-taught.
Did you own a Snuggie before you made the video?
I already had that Snuggie, I have like five at home.
Yeah, yeah. Snuggies are fun!
What are some other things one can do in a Snuggie?
Well as you can see [from the video] you can do a lot of things, like dance. You can just chill in a Snuggie, if it's a little cold and you've got to reach for something, throw the Snuggie on. I don't really know about going to football games like in the commercial, though. But I love me some Snuggies.
How about a Forever Lazy?
Oh, I saw that! I have a weird thing for infomercials. They're all so funny, but it's not like I'm going around and getting everything.
Maybe those will be featured in your next video?
[Laughs] Oh my goodness.
Do you think Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Blue Ivy have Snuggies at home?
I don't know! They probably have high class Snuggies.
[Laughs] I love Beyoncé. She is my inspiration. She is definitely the one person I look up to.
Do you want to pursue performing after graduation?
I don't really know. Maybe I could do film editing or maybe acting. I don't have that figured out right now.
Are there plans for more Beyoncé videos?
More, more, more, that's definitely what I want to do. If I have enough time to get all her videos down... they're all so iconic.
She needs a video for "End of Time."
Yes! I love that song! Did you seen her perform it at Revel? I was like, "Dang, B!"
How did you hear about Beyoncé's response to your video?
My friend's dad texted her and then she told me, so we were both screaming, freaking out, and crying. Just Emotion Central.
She said you did it better than she did!
Well...[laughs]. Queen Bee is always Number One. I'm just so honored that she's seen it already and I don't even know what to think.
Can you go back to real life after you've been on Beyoncé's radar?
I'm scared to go outside. I'm just like scared to be recognized.
But this will give you something to talk about on the first day of school, right?
[Laughs] I don't know if I'll even be able to. I just hate 'look at me'-type stuff. I'm just going to want to hole up and do my schoolwork.
Have you bonded with people over your love of Beyoncé before?
I've been getting a lot Facebook requests from all these different people and a lot of them are in the BeyHive. I'm like, 'We've got to stick together!'
What does your family think about the video?
They're freaking out along with me. They don't listen to a lot of music at all, so they don't know much about it, but they're like, 'Oh this is great!'
Have you seen Beyoncé live?
No I haven't! Her tickets always sell out so fast and I get so pissed. I was just watching videos from her shows at Revel over Memorial Day weekend, pretty much making myself sad.
Well maybe now that she's seen your video...
Yes, that is seriously so crazy. I'm still speechless about it.
Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.