TikToker Alejandra Tapia Reveals What Being A Latina Influencer Means To Her - Exclusive Interview

Next time you make your husband lunch, post a video of it online. That's what Alejandra Tapia did, and now she has 6.3 million followers and approximately 238 million likes on TikTok. The food influencer is known for her daily lunch recipes as well as her knowledge of Mexican cuisine. With her passion for all things eats, Tapia found herself being named a 2022 Latinx Trailblazer on TikTok. After going viral on the app followed by continued success, Tapia, also known as "Nanajoe," made content creation her full-time job.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Tapia revealed why she began documenting her husband's lunches, and even named the go-to lunch recipe she would make for herself. From cooking for music superstar Lizzo to starting her own YouTube channel, Tapia has taken Mexican food to the next level. The TikToker revealed which food she thinks is the most underrated and the food she can't get enough of right now. Did someone say Costco dumplings?!

Tapia on being named a TikTok Latinx Trailblazer

Congratulations on being named a Latina TikTok trailblazer. That's really exciting. How does it feel?

I'm actually really, really excited. When I got the news, I was driving and I glanced, and I was like, "Oh my God." And my mom's like, "What happened?" She was super scared. I was like, "I'm a Latin trailblazer." Explaining what a Latin trailblazer is in Spanish, I'm like, I don't know how to explain this to her. She's like, "Well, is it a good thing?" And I'm like, "It's a very good thing." She's like, "Okay, then I'm happy for you."

What was her reaction? Was she really excited? Does she understand?

She gets really excited, but she doesn't know why, and it's hard for me to explain to her why. Sometimes I get a little on the jealous side whenever she brings up other creators that do Spanish stuff because she's like, "Oh my gosh, did you hear so-and-so is doing this?" "Oh my gosh, she came out on this!" And I'm like, "Mom, I've been on this, this, this, and that, and you don't even say anything." She's like, "Yeah, but I don't even know. I don't even understand."

She's proud of you.

It's really hard. Yeah. She's proud. She doesn't know why, but she's proud.

What does being a Latina content creator mean to you?

It means so many things. When it comes to my culture in general, I'm a very, very proud person. To be named a Latin creator trailblazer [out of] all the creators that we have, because there's a lot of them, it means a whole lot to me that I was chosen to represent them. I'm here for it. I'm here to represent them. I'm here to show our people what we're all about.

How Tapia began content creating on TikTok

What inspired you to start posting videos on TikTok?

It was honestly an accident. The plan was never for me to be a TikTok creator. It was literally an accident. No, not an accident. It was out of boredom, I guess I want to say. We were all locked in. It was during quarantine, so everybody's locked in, eating like crazy. Everybody's eating because that's all we had to do. I would use Snapchat a lot at the time. All my family is cooking, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, everybody's cooking this, everybody's cooking that." That's all I would think about. So what am I going to do today? I would be in the kitchen all day cooking because I was so bored.

I was so bored, and the kids were over here dancing, doing the little TikTok moves, and I would hear the little timer, the "beep beep," and I'm like, "Oh my God, you guys are driving me nuts. What is this TikTok thing?" So I downloaded the app to see what it is that these kids are watching. Then I started seeing that other people were posting recipes and talking about the pandemic and everything. I was like, "Wait, people post recipes here, not just dances? Maybe I should post my recipes here instead of Snapchat." So I started posting my recipes on TikTok, and then little by little, I started getting attention. I started getting an audience. When I got, I believe it was 1,000 views on one of my videos and six comments, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so famous. A thousand people watched my video, and then they commented."

That's how it started. Then after a couple of comments of, "Hey, show us how you're making whatever it was," I would just show what I would pack my husband for his lunch, like, "Hey, today he's taking a stir fry." But I would never show how I made the stir fry, so they started asking me, "Hey, can you show us how you made it?" I was like, "Hmm, they want to see how I made it. Okay. Let me do that." That's how it snowballed.

Tapia reveals her favorite sandwich sauce recipe

You mentioned that you went viral for making lunches for your husband. What is your go-to lunch for yourself?

I am a sandwich girl. I love sandwiches. There is a certain food that ... I don't know if anybody is like this, but I am. I'm the type of person that can eat the same food over and over.

Sandwiches are my go-to, and I like to make really spicy habanero sauce. I call it my happy sauce because I used to call it my habby sauce because it was habanero, but my husband would hear me say "habby" and he thought I was saying "happy sauce." So he would be like, "Where's your happy sauce?" Or when I would be like, "Bring me my habby sauce," he would call it happy sauce. I'm like, "Okay, we can name it happy sauce," because it does make me super happy when I eat it. I dip my sandwich in there and eat it with the habanero sauce.

What's in that sauce?

It's tomato, habanero ... I have the recipe. That's probably the only recipe that I can tell you to [a] T: two tomatoes and seven habaneros. Whenever I blend it, I add raw pieces of garlic, a little bit of chicken bouillon, [and] some salt. I blend it, and then that's it. That's my happy sauce. It's really spicy.

I'll have to try that. I'm not too good with spice, but I'll try.

Your stomach will burn after a while. Or it'll get used to it. You'll train it for spice.

You've been a content creator for quite a while now. Is there one recipe or video that blew up that you weren't expecting to?

I think my first super viral video was my recreations of fast-food foods. I made the McChicken, and people went crazy over it. I think that one was at 14 million views because they were upset and mad that I called the mayo "McChicken sauce." Back then my taste buds and my smell [were] amazing. I thought I was gifted because I [could] taste stuff and I [could] try to figure out what it was. I used to love doing that, going to fast food joints and sitting there and trying to dissect the whole [recipe] — they put this, that, or whatever. 

Whenever I was tasting the mayo, I could taste something else besides mayo. It didn't taste like regular mayo. That's why I called it the McChicken sauce. They were so upset about that, but it's okay because they made it super viral, and that was the video that got me 200,000 followers. That was the beginning of Nanajoe.

Tapia talks food TikTok trends and her favorite food at the moment

Is there a recipe or ingredient that you just cannot get enough of right now?

I've actually for the past week been eating the same dumplings. I've been eating the same dumplings for the whole week. We went to Costco to return a battery core for my truck, and I always like walking through the aisles. I hate it because I know that once I start walking, it's game over for me. I walk out of that place feeling so guilty because I spent so much money there. But if I don't walk through the aisles, I know I missed something super good.

When I walked through the aisles, there was the sample lady doing the dumpling samples, but she didn't have a line. She didn't have the dumplings ready. I was like, "You know what? I'm starving, and I think those are going to be really good, so I'm going to take them." I took the dumplings, got home, made my own little spicy sauce to it, and oh my gosh, I've been super, super obsessed. I already finished the whole box, and it's a good thing because I usually do a low-carb diet and that was not in the low-carb area. So I'm glad that they're gone and they're done because in my mind I'm like, "I have one box left, or one of those little trays. I'm going to eat that when I get home." 

So it's probably dumplings. That's what I've been eating a lot.

Since you're frequent[ly] on TikTok, are there any food trends that you just cannot get on board with?

No, actually. I think I've been on board with all the food trends. Maybe the one that I can't [get on board with] would have to be the watermelon with the mustard? Yeah. I tried it and I couldn't.

What's your favorite food TikTok trend?

There's so many. TikTok makes a lot of things popular, even though they've been a thing, which is the good thing about the app. It introduces things to [a] new audience, and they make it super popular. For example, birria is our party food. We use birria for weddings; we use birria for quinceañeras. That's our party food, but TikTok made it a thing, and they started making the quesabirria tacos. Even though we used to eat them like that, now it's super popular. Seeing how popular it is, and then making it and showing [it] and seeing the audience response to it, it makes it taste even better. It makes you even more proud of what your people make for food. 

So I want to say maybe when it comes to birria, I can't get enough of it because there's so many different ways of making it. And even though it's not ... We've always had it, but TikTok made it a trend.

Tapia on cooking for Lizzo, Mexican cuisine, and her dream chef

Is there one Mexican food or meal that you think is underrated?

I don't see a lot of mole recipes. I do see it, and it's kind of like our Mexican curry, [but] I don't see a lot of it, and I love mole. I love it. My favorite thing to do with mole is the enmoladas, which is like an enchilada but made with mole. I don't see a lot of it. I'm working on a mole recipe right now, so maybe it'll be the trend. I'm like, "It'll be the next trend."

I saw in an interview with ABC last year that you had the opportunity to cook for Lizzo. Could you tell me more about that experience?

It was a birria. Lizzo is a big fan of birria, but she happens to be vegan. I made a vegan recipe for my vegan audience, and she saw it and commented on my video. A lot of my followers saw her comment, and they were going crazy, and they were like, "Oh my gosh, Lizzo's in your comment section." Her assistant reached out to me because Lizzo wanted to try my birria tacos. I went to LA and cooked for her. Not just birria. Her menu was huge. It was a huge menu, but she ate birria tacos from me.

If you could pick one chef to cook you dinner, who would it be?

I would love to have Bobby Flay cook for me.

What would you want him to cook for you? Just anything?

Go, feel free in the kitchen. Surprise me. Make me eggs. I don't care.

Tapia loves all things spice

What is one ingredient you could never live without?

Peppers. Spicy peppers. Everything needs to be spicy, or else other calories do not count. That's what I say. If I'm not crying and tearing, it doesn't count.

You should go on "Hot Ones."

I know. You know what? I've been kicking back a little bit on the spice because my stomach was feeling it. ... I feel that whenever I have a really good spicy hot sauce in my fridge, I find a lot of combinations to eat that hot sauce, and I'm trying not to do that. I'm like, "If I don't make the hot sauce, I will find different combinations when I'm not supposed to be eating these things." So I feel like my spice level has gotten down. Something that was really not spicy before, it's super spicy now. 

I'm actually really scared to do the one-chip challenge because I've seen people doing it. Before, I thought that I was able to take it, but now I watch them and I'm like, yeah ... I actually have the one-chip challenge chip here. They call it a one-chip challenge because it's one chip and it's super spicy. People eat that chip, and you watch them suffer.

That's "Hot Ones" in a nutshell. So I say, go for it.

Yeah. It's super spicy. I would not mess with it.

What is your go-to fast food order in which restaurant?

I don't know if it's considered fast food, but I am a sucker for Chinese food. That is my go-to meal. I love Chinese food. If you're giving me the option, like, "Hey, let's get take out. What do you want?" Chinese food. And I always get the orange chicken. Sometimes I get either the kung pao chicken or something on the spicy side, and fried rice and the chow mein.

Head to Alejandra Tapia's TikTok page to keep up with her latest projects, and check out TikTok's press release to learn more about the 2022 Latinx Trailblazers. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.