Maria Lopez, BKA Chica, has been building a different and unique path in gaming and streaming for the past seven years. From streaming being her only option to pay rent to creating a space built on love and respect for women and the LGBTQIA+ community, Chica has helped change gaming culture by unapologetically embracing – and presenting – her fully authentic self. In addition to being the first Latina in the Fortnite Icon Series, she is StockX’s newest ambassador and took part in this year’s TwitchCon in San Diego.
In our latest conversation with Chica – this time to welcome her into our Built Different campaign – she tells us about the importance of creating communities for women and LGBTQIA+ in gaming, always supporting women, always being authentic, and working to inspire the next generation.
What does built different mean to you?
Built different, if someone were to say that to me – in gaming terms – it means that you are god. You know, like, “Man, this person is built different. They’re unique. They’re so good at what they’re doing.” And I think it’s the same thing in real life because when you’re built differently, you have different experiences. You have gone through different challenges and just overcame them; it’s made you powerful. That’s what built different means for me.
Why is inclusion so important in gaming and streaming? How do you work to make sure your community is a safe place for everybody?
I’ve always tried to keep my community as safe for everybody as possible, leading by example. I’m very open-minded, try to respect others’ opinions, and expect them to respect mine. When it comes to my channel, I make sure it’s all about gaming.
Who instilled the importance of being open-minded in you?
My mom taught me to be open-minded. She always treated others as she wanted to be treated – she said love is love. She always had those types of opinions. I was instilled with these values from a very young age – I didn’t see anything wrong with them. I still believe and practice that today.
Who helped inspire your streaming and gaming journey? Who lit the fire inside of you?
My partner believed in me the most when I first started streaming. At first, the whole streaming thing was just us trying to survive, pay our rent, and pay our bills. My mom worked for a very long time – like 30 or 40 years – and worked very long hours. I didn’t mind putting that many hours into gaming, knowing that that was my only way to survive.
Were there specific moments of doubt? In those moments of doubt, how did the women around raise you up to keep you going?
There were definitely moments of doubt. At first, I really didn’t believe in myself. As they saw it starting to click, my partner and my mom kept me up, saying, “You got this. You keep trying different ways.” That’s how I got here.
How important do you think it is to have positive women around you when you’re on this journey of building a brand, building a community, and building your presence as a streamer?
Having other women support you is critical, especially because we all deal with similar issues. I think I had really good people around me at the time, and I was very lucky to have them. I’m so appreciative of their advice and support.
What challenges exist for women getting into gaming and streaming? What are the immediate challenges or roadblocks you experience?
The first roadblock I experienced was not having the best equipment. But with my community helping me and supporting me, I was able to make my streaming set up better, and I was able to move to a better place with better internet. But besides that, you always have the doubters and the ones that were like, “You’re not really going to succeed at this. There’s nothing special about you.” You’ve just got to prove them wrong.
What’s a piece of advice that always stuck with you as you went through this journey as a streamer and gamer?
The advice I kept from the beginning of streaming to now is just to be myself, no matter what. Never change who you are based on if you’re going to get more viewers or if you’re going to get more likes. Someone will relate to you, and you can significantly impact that person’s life. So I’ve stuck with that.
Do you think your authentic self resonates most with your community through your streams?
I think being myself and not being afraid to show who I am and what I love greatly impacts my streaming career. I always get messages from people saying, “Thank you for being who you are. It has helped me come out, or it has helped me deal with certain situations, and thank you for being who you are.” And I never thought that that would be such a big deal for someone because you never think your life could impact someone else’s that much.
What do women in streaming look like five years from now? Where do you think the community is heading in breaking boundaries and new ground?
There will be more women in the industry five years from now. It is growing right now, and I’m seeing many female streamers, many people going into YouTube, and many new TikTokers. I think it’s just showing the growth in the industry, and I’m excited to see what it will look like in five years.
Why do you think women getting into this industry is so impactful?
Gaming right now is male-dominated. So seeing more women coming in and paving the way for other women is something I want to be part of and want others to be part of as well.
What lessons do you hope they take away from your story?
I hope the next generation can learn from my story. Be authentic, be yourself, and don’t be afraid to show who you are. You are unique in your way – everyone is – and don’t be scared to show it because you’ll find your audience. There’s an audience for everybody, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Why is it important to be – and continue being – a champion for other women in the industry?
I think being a champion in this industry – as a woman – is like everyone is winning. If you see a woman succeeding and breaking this record, you feel pride as a woman. You’re like, “Yes, let’s go. This person did it. I could do it too, or someone else could do it.” That’s what I mean; we’re all in it together.
What have been some memorable moments where you won, or another woman has won? What sticks out?
Being the first Latina in the Fortnite Icon Series was my most memorable moment because I never imagined being there. And being included in the series as an open member of the LGBTQIA+ community also made it so special. I don’t think I will ever have another moment like that in my life.
When it was announced that you were included in the Icon Series, what was the reaction from other women in the community, both streaming and LGBTQIA+?
The reaction I got from them was all love and all support. I’ve been doing this for seven years. Many people might disagree with what I stand for but respect me. I barely saw any negative comments; it was just heartwarming.
How do you hope your story and your strength continue to inspire your community?
I hope that they get inspired. Even if I make them happy by being myself, it’s essential. When I first started streaming, I struggled and was by myself. But when my community started to come and spend time with me, it meant everything. So now that I can do the same thing with them, it means a lot that many of them are just showing up and being part of what we built.