Anyone listening to the radio in the late '90s probably remembers the Backstreet Boys, but the pop boom that made them superstars eventually fizzled out, even though they're still making music today. The life of a pop band after the peak of their fame is explored in the new documentary "Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of," but what's it like for those who remain fans?
Fan Nadia Vazquez is one of the fans that's kept the fire alive ever since, with more than 15 years of devotion. It's different being an adult fan of the group, she told KPCC.
"People make fun of me way more," Vazquez said, laughing. "I think now that I'm an adult, it's a little weird for some people to hear that I'm going to see the Backstreet Boys with my mom. But I don't really mind, because I know what I like now. And maybe it's just because I'm getting more set in my ways and stubborn, but it's something that I like in a time where people like things so ironically."
She first discovered the Backstreet Boys in second grade, when she heard them on the radio and the sound grabbed her.
"I had money that I would save so I could get singles, because that is what I could afford at second grade, and I got the 'Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)' single. And it came with postcards of all the boys in it," Vazquez said. "And I memorized every photo of them, and I thought, like, wow, these aren't Boyz II Men. This is a whole different group, and they're really cute!"
The seed was planted, and Vazquez's fandom grew.
"We didn't have cable growing up — my parents are immigrants, so we didn't have quite a lot of money until maybe I was in high school, enough to go to concerts and things, so I would go over to my friends' houses and watch their MTV and record them on a VHS tape, and then take it home and watch it."
The group became a bond between Nadia and her mom.
"It was before the Internet, and before Craigslist, so if you wanted to get tickets to a sold out concert, you'd go in the newspaper. And my dad was the newspaper guy — he still reads the newspaper — and found tickets for the Backstreet Boys from a guy who worked at a vacuum repair shop."
Her dad bought the tickets, but when Nadia and her mom got to the show, they found themselves going up... and up... and up, until they were in the stadium's very last row.
"My mom is a really tough lady, and she said 'No. This is unacceptable. How are they selling this?'"
Nadia's mom took her and talked to different ushers, before finally talking to the box office — which printed them new tickets.
"So we go in, and it's on the floor, at the very back of the standing room section. So these are great seats, and we look behind us and there's this really big target in the middle of the stadium, and I'm like, well, what is this? And then I think, 'Oh my God, the Backstreet Boys are going to be right behind us!' And they were! They came out from this target, and did the whole flying thing, and they were just right there. And I was like, 'Mom, it's so close! I can see Nick Carter's pimples!'"
Nadia and her mom still go to Backstreet Boys concerts together.
"Now I'm starting to be more independent financially, so I got us both in the fan club, and I buy her tickets to the shows now. So it's kind of like my mom was with me all this time, and now I get to take her with me, and she gets to have fun," Vazquez said.
So far, Vazquez has had up close and personal interactions with three of the Backstreet Boys. She saw Kevin at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" after getting into the green room through a friend when the group was playing the show.
"Kevin from the Backstreet Boys came in to get a beer. And like two thoughts were going in my head, and one was, 'Kevin drinks beer!' And the second one was, 'There's a Backstreet Boy in front of me!'"
While she didn't get the courage up to say hi to Kevin, she did say hi to Howie at Disneyland — on his way to the bathroom. But her peak Backstreet fan moment came when she was chosen as a huge Nick Carter fan to meet him on daytime talk show "The Doctors." She was told that Nick was on tour, but that she would be able to ask him questions via Skype.
"They said 'Oh, well, it's too bad you couldn't be here, Nick,' and he said, 'Well, let me see what I can do about that,' and then he stepped out from behind the wall and he was there. And oh, it was just so awesome, and I didn't know what to do with myself, and when I watch it, I don't really remember. I was so hormonal," Vazquez said. "I took a screenshot of myself hugging him, and just my eyes were wild, and he was very uncomfortable, and it's one of my favorite photos of myself ever." (You can see that photo above.)
Watch the video of Nadia meeting Nick Carter on "The Doctors":
The Backstreet Boys also helped form a bond between other members of the Vazquez family. When Nadia's eldest sister was deployed to Afghanistan, Nadia's nephews, then 2 and 3 years old, were inconsolable.
"And it was really hard to get them to just calm down, and I actually had just gotten the Backstreet Boys music video DVD, and I played it once, because I was like, maybe they will help. And I played 'Shape of My Heart,' and they were completely silent after crying all day. And the video was over, and they said 'Again! Again!'" Vazquez said.
"They brought a lot of calm into that house where it was really stressful. It's stressful to have someone overseas in the military and have these small children in the house, and the Backstreet Boys were a really good way to calm all of us, really."
Vazquez plans to keep being a fan, and she doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
"It might not necessarily be the cool thing to like, but why not like something if you like it, you know? I'm tired of saying something is a guilty pleasure. I don't believe that that is real anymore. If you like the Backstreet Boys, like the Backstreet Boys! Do what makes you happy."
She can also be an easy fan to spot.
"I remember buying a lot of merchandise and not using, because I didn't want to waste it, so now I'm using it as an older person. So I walk in with a Backstreet Boys notebook sometimes to work, and people are like, what are you doing? It's my Backstreet Boys notebook! It's great."
If you want to see the story of the band that's inspired this fandom, "Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of" opens this weekend.