When TikTok star Pierre Amaury Crespeau and his boyfriend Nick Champa get to Italy this year, they have one big goal, to do what other TikTokers before them have done: recreate a pivotal love scene from the Pixar film Luca.
“They’re doing the dialogue between those two boys as the sound, and so people are recreating it,” says Champa of the folks heading to the Italian Riviera where Luca’s fictional town is located. “I was like, ‘We need to go do that. We have to do that.’”
Luca, director Enrico Casarosa’s animated film about a couple of young sea monsters and their adventures on the coast of Italy, is so completely evocative of the region — with a story that speaks to queer people everywhere — that you can imagine seeing this cute couple as the titular character and his new “friend.”
Crespeau and Champa, better known as Nicky Champa and Pierre Boo on TikTok, where they have 22 million followers — a lot of them LGBTQ+ youth, tween girls, and their middle-aged moms — who love their 15-30 second videos of goofy pranks, jokes, challenges, skits, and viral dances. Both men eschew gay labels; they consider themselves to be fluid in all aspects, including their sexuality. And their audience can’t get enough of the unconventional, free-spirited pair who first met at a movie audition in early 2017.
Both were aspiring actors, which is why you can easily imagine them performing Luca scenes — in Italy, France (where Boo is from), upstate New York (Champa hails from Syracuse), or any of the places this globetrotting couple loves to visit.
“They’re mermaids,” Boo begins explaining Luca to the uninitiated.
“No, they’re sea monsters,” Champa interjects. “They live under the water, but then come out, and they turn to humans; human is their mask. So, these two monster things…turn into boys in a gay relationship. It’s very fluid. Like, there’s no label, they don’t kiss or anything. But you know that there’s a deeper connection and it’s just like the evolution of that relationship.”
Champa and Boo, now 25 and 30 respectively, appreciate the film’s symbolism — the allusion to, as Champa calls it, “hiding your sexuality, blending into the world. And when you’re caught, you say, ‘No, he is. I’m not!’ And the town that was so fearful at the end of the day…[admit] they hated them so much, because they were afraid of them. Then they actually embraced them. It’s so touching because it’s so representative of what we all have to [go through]. And the fact that it’s not only a Disney movie, but it’s also taking place in Italy, and it’s just so romantic and gorgeous.”
“It’s very, very beautiful,” Boo adds.
Boo and Champa began their social media presence a year after they met by posting about their relationship on Instagram. The response from fans was immediate and more powerful than they’d anticipated. When TikTok emerged, the creators embraced the new platform’s potential and produced even more forms of content. Their audience skyrocketed.
But when they first met, Boo, now 30, admits he was a bit guarded about starting a relationship. “I was coming out of a tough break-up and after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 heartbreaks, I lost the dream of a fairytale relationship.”
The couple says before getting together they were each “a bit heartbroken about our relationships prior… just turning out to not be what we always wanted,” but they quickly realized, “Whoa, we found each other!”
As much as he wanted to take things slowly with Champa, the connection couldn’t be denied. “I was telling you,” Champa recalls, turning to Boo, who often finishes his sentences. “I was like, ‘I’m ready to get this going. I want to commit to each other. I want to be with you.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, fine, you have to move in with me.’”
So they did, a month after they first met. They had already negotiated the intimate details of their modern relationship.
“Monogamous,” Boo says. “That makes us happy.”
“We’re very committed to each other,” Champa adds. And part of that commitment is sexual exclusivity.
“Our community is a very free-spirited community, which I think is amazing and beautiful,” Boo says. But, he adds, “We found a happiness in creating a relationship for us.”
“We’re not alone, obviously,” Champa says. “Everybody has their own wants and desires. But there is a portion of the community that does want that fairy tale [relationship]. We’re not the only ones that want this, so we have to show that we have it, and it’s attainable. You can have it, too. It just takes some searching, some time.”
Few couples have woven their personal and professional lives together like this duo. Although they each have their own handles, their videos are almost always the two of them together. Stans post comments threatening them if they ever dare break up. Now every move they make as a couple is scrutinized. But at first, they kept it to themselves.
“For a year, we didn’t post about being in a relationship at all,” Champa recalls. He says that time was “a very constructive year of solidifying what we want and what we expect from each other. And once we had that, it kind of just happened naturally. The thing is, with our relationship and social media, it’s funny because it’s like the social media part feels so small to the relationship [overall].”
That’s true, Boo adds. “It’s a little window to it.”
Still, they admit, it’s sometimes hard to keep the two separate. What will they keep private, just for themselves, and what will they share? And, they admit, it’s a lot of work keeping their TikTok (and YouTube) fans satisfied with fresh and interesting content.
“We have days where we just sit, spit out ideas, and compile our funny concepts,” Champa explains. “We’re constantly thinking about what viewers want to see and what we’re willing to reveal. We’re sometimes nervous to show too much of our personal lives because you never know what will work and what will fall flat.”
Boo was a theater actor in France (“There was always a cigarette in my mouth, and I was saying some monologue”) and admits that acting is “such a passion that you always have in your heart.”
Champa has been in a few indie films, and of course the duo uses their acting chops to create the characters, Nicky and Pierre, which are based on themselves but played up for comedic value and TikTok audiences. Some skits take three straight hours of taping and retaping; videos taped in one shot are rare.
“We’re just creators at this point,” Champa insists. “We create and this is our platform that we’ve created.” Though he’s not fond of the term “influencer” (“I don’t feel like we’re influencing…I think it’s just like we’re sharing.”), the couple has been sponsored by a number of larger brands, like Spotify, ASOS, and the singer Ariana Grande. Eventually, they hope to do their own clothing line, so that what they wear in videos can be bought online by fans.
While their fame has allowed them to buy their first home together, being TikTok stars is “not all flowers and roses,” says Boo. “In the world of social media, there is a little bit of toxicity. It’s just hard to navigate that because it can directly affect our relationship because our relationship is our platform, it is our brand, it is our social media. And it is not easy to navigate that being two persons…putting ourselves out there in a platform where we can be compared [to others] or where we can be criticized. We take all this at heart, of course. That’s a challenge.”
What keeps them grounded, Champa says, is that they have a shared goal. They are chasing the same dream. “I feel like there’s a bond and there’s a mission together…my success is your success; your success is my success. We’re doing this together. We’re going to help each other and we’re always going to have each other’s back. As long as that’s solidified, nothing can break…that foundation of understanding what we expect and want from each other.”
The couple says they’ve learned which narratives they can and can’t control in Hollywood, including plastic surgery rumors. In a discussion about fillers, Champa outlines the importance of healthy living but says if eating right, working out, and staying hydrated doesn’t solve a perceived problem, it’s OK to address it.
“We talk about this with our friends… filler and Botox and whatever you want to do does not fix anything. It helps you be the best version of yourself if that’s what you’re looking for. We’re not trying to say, ‘You need this to look beautiful.’ No. It’s what we did for ourselves to make us feel happy. We own it, and we don’t really feel like we owe you an explanation for it.”
Still, as role models, Champa says they feel a responsibility to be transparent.
But, Boo interjects, “If you want to get an earring, you don’t have to explain it to anybody.”
“This next generation, Gen Z, it is so different from what I feel like we were used to watching,” Champa says. “It’s this open book. Do whatever the hell you want to do to make you feel happy. And, you know, obviously, there are standards…and you have to navigate that correctly. But at the end of the day, if it’s what you want to do, do it. If it doesn’t hurt anybody, do it.”
Champa adds, “We do our maintenance, but I think if you’re genuinely happy and you’re feeling happiness and feeling love that really shows through on your physical appearance. A lot of people are like, ‘Why are you glowing today?’ I feel like we’re both just very much high on life. Happiness really goes a long way.”
The next step is one full of adventure: a longer-form YouTube series and, hopefully someday, “some sort of Netflix series or show that is kind of semi-scripted, like Broad City, but with two guys in a relationship…still acting, but we’re playing ourselves.”
Their new web series (on their Nicky and Pierre YouTube channel) will feature 15 videos, following them to Europe and presenting a life that has them shuttling between California, New York, Paris, and other parts of Europe (pre-pandemic).
Boo says the series will introduce viewers to their life together as well as their families, and what Champa calls “trying to embrace the international [aspect] of our relationship. His family’s in Paris, mine’s in upstate New York. We live in L.A. This is how we live our lives. We also have roots in Europe and we want to embrace that more, and I want him to be more connected to his family and I want them to be more a part of this whole world that we’re building along with my mom. Like the Brady Bunch but instead of revolving around a guy and a girl, it’s two guys with families.”
Many of their favorite places are in Italy as well, like Venice, says Champa. “We honestly really enjoy the cities that are kind of more low-key and romantic rather than like the big party cities. We’re going to go back to Lake Como, Portofino, Montserrat. The Italian Riviera we really enjoy. We love Switzerland — Pierre’s family’s country home is like two hours away from the border of Switzerland.”
Champa recently found out that his mother’s family is 100 percent Italian. “My great-great-grandfather on my mom’s side falls under this clause where he came to the United States and had children before he declared his residency, which basically means that all of the descendants are qualified for Italian citizenship. So, I qualify.” He’s in the process of getting that formalized.
Their union has roots in France, Italy, and the United States, where they’ve fallen for California as well as the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the desert of Joshua Tree National Park, and Big Sky, Montana, where they spent a pandemic Christmas.
“We rented a house in the middle of nowhere,” Champa recalls. “It was really, really beautiful and amazing. We didn’t think about how scary it would be in the middle of nowhere. So that was scary but other than that Montana is gorgeous.”
Boo and Champa see TikTok as the perfect platform for travel content that speaks to Gen Z, a generation the creators say wants content that hasn’t been filtered or carefully edited.
“Gen Z is so open, you just, you put yourself out there,” Champa says. “I feel like Millennials are a bit still curated and still like putting on a face for them to filter behind. So, I think that’s Instagram. And I think that travel content reflects that. I think with TikTok, you’re going to get beautiful content of places…I also love seeing funny shit that happens in these places and stuff that you would not see on Instagram, like the moments of, you know, someone falling into the canal in Venice. That, to me, is entertaining and makes me want to go to Venice more than seeing [a] beautiful picture that’s curated and perfect.”
Boo says, “[It ’s] really about discovering other people and cultures and knowing how to respect it…while experiencing it. I think there’s always the same hunger to discover the other culture and to [experience] the food and the places, the beauty, the music. But we’re definitely not going to appropriate culture anymore. Gen Z is going to change that.”
Champa sees TikTok having a big role in how Gen Z is changing travel. “When you’re a kid,” he says, “the last thing you want to do is go to a museum. You want to go to the cool spot that the locals go to, where it seems like no tourist has been. And then you make the TikTok there, and that gets millions of views. TikTok fuels this new age of discovering new places, and new intimate spots that no one has gone to. And finding and making new places cool, and like making new places relevant.”
It goes back to Luca for Champa. The couple hadn’t planned to go to the Italian Riviera until he kept seeing so many people recreating the movie there. “And because I cried my eyes out in that movie, it was just so amazing — I’m going to tear up right now — it was just so amazing. I was like, ‘We need to go do that. That is so beautiful. I feel like we could do that too.’ And I’m just one person seeing those TikTok videos that just inspired me.”
The couple is very aware of how they are inspiring others, and empowering LGBTQ+ youth is a central concern. They get letters from queer kids asking to be adopted, letters so sweet but sometimes heartbreaking too; kids who share stories of difficult home lives.
Older generations aren’t always as kind. “My theory is we trigger that feeling of something they may have missed out on,” Champa says.
“I feel like the generation before us went through so much trauma and so much fear,” Boo says, alluding to the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and internalized homophobia.
Champa’s aunt is gay. He says she and her friends never talked about their sexual orientations, while he and his boyfriend are now making a career out of theirs. “I feel like there is a generational [difficulty] understanding each other. I’m like, ‘Why are you not more like this?’ And she’s like, ‘Why are you more not like that?’”
The young men say they understand the pressure to keep one’s LGBTQ+ identity under wraps. Auditioning for roles, the actors say they were often told that they weren’t coding gay enough for gay roles but would have to stay closeted in the media for straight ones.
“I remember at one point we were just like, ‘Fuck this, let’s just own it. I don’t want to have a career where I’m hiding our relationship. This is ridiculous.’”
Asking LGBTQ+ actors to stay in the closet is “very toxic, because you just have no idea what you’re doing to that person’s internal [psyche],” Champa says. “It’s what we really are trying to fight for. We don’t even necessarily want to be a gay couple; we just want to be a couple. We want to just normalize love, normalize having a relationship that happens to be two guys, that both of our moms are very accepting of. We try to show that as much as possible. It’s normal. You don’t have to make it anything else other than this is just how life is supposed to be. You can love whoever you want. You can have a career with whatever you want.”
Boo agrees. “I feel like there are different ways to be a part of the fight. We are focusing on that side of the fight. There is still a lot of fighting to do on other fronts. This is our focus.”
They aren’t influencers. They’re storytellers, activists in their own rights, showing that men loving each other is not just normal, but adorable, enviable. Audiences will see them as a happy, sexy, successful couple; together wherever they are on the planet that day.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” Champa says, both of their relationship and careers and the lives of their young fans. “You can be whatever you want to be.”
You can read Out Traveler’s feature story on how TikTok is ushering in the next generation of travel here. Look for the print version of the 25th edition of Out Traveler next month.