In these desperate and terrifying times, Francis Bourgeois has been a beacon of hope for millions of people on TikTok. The charmingly winsome, floppy-haired Brit has made a name for himself as one of the world’s most famous trainspotters, capturing hearts with his unfettered enthusiasm and delightfully unhinged head-mounted camera footage of himself at railway stations throughout the United Kingdom, with many claiming he’s one of the most wholesome content creators on the internet. He even won the coveted honor of Himbo of the Week on a recent episode of the Rolling Stone podcast Don’t Let This Flop.
Unfortunately, once someone hits a maximum threshold of internet fame, the cynics and the shit-stirrers are sure to follow suit. That’s exactly what happened with Bourgeois, after images of the star (whose real name is Luke Nicholson) with his hair gelled and dressed in trendy clothing went viral, prompting many to doubt whether Bourgeois’s content and persona were authentic.
Somebody please tell me the Uk’s most wholesome person, Francis Bourgeois, is not really a phoney called Luke 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/vkjoPiMToC
— Charlotte Fisher (@CharlotteFisher) December 16, 2021
Of course, as co-hosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson discuss on this week’s episode of the Rolling Stone podcast Don’t Let This Flop, the fact that Bourgeois went through a phase where he used to dress differently and perhaps have slightly more mainstream interests doesn’t indicate inauthenticity so much as it reflects the natural evolution that most people go through in their adolescent and teenage years. But given the internet’s obsession with “scammers” and whether creators’ personae match their real identities, the claims that Bourgeois was faking his love of trains for clout went massively viral, with Bourgeois eventually being forced to address the allegations on his own TikTok page.
In the video, which has nearly 5 million views, Bourgeois explains that he has fostered a passion for model trains since he was a preteen, but that when he started a new school, he decided to change his look to fit in, selling his model railway to pay for a gym membership. He rekindled his love of trains during lockdown, growing out his hair and leaning into his old interests on his channel. “Honestly, running down platforms and chasing trains, [it] really feels like the shackles are off and I’m totally free,” he says, before concluding, “trainspotters come in all shapes and sizes.”
Bourgeois’s rebuttal seemed to satisfy the majority of his fan base, who are defending Bourgeois against allegations of faking his love for trains, arguing that one can be a himbo and still harbor nerdy, obsessive interests; and honestly, they’re not wrong!
100% of Francis Bourgeois discourse stems from people somehow thinking that people who are nerdy/ earnest about their interests can’t also be hot and have healthy active social lives
— Anna Brian (@Anna_Brian_) December 16, 2021
On this week’s Don’t Let This Flop, Spanos and cohost Ej Dickson discussed the controversy over Bourgeois, as well as PageantTok in honor of the 100th anniversary of Miss America (you can read Dickson’s dispatch from the event here), an ill-fated Biden/Jonas Brothers TikTok collab, the “Gorgeous Gorgeous Girls Love Soup” meme, TikTok moral panics, and Nancy Reagan as the original Throat GOAT.