When Kelvin Peña aka Brother Nature looked at Twitter on October 21st, he was met with a shock. As with James Gunn and a handful of other celebrities, old tweets had surfaced that painted their author as cruel, bigoted, and deeply misogynistic. For Peña, these tweets from 2011-2012 included racist, sexist, and anti-semitic insults. Inexcusable words with painful histories attached to them. The social media star was horrified and embarrassed.
“I freaked out,” says Peña, who became famous for his tenderness interacting with animals. “I panicked. I thought it was all over.”
Peña, 20, says he doesn’t even remember posting the tweets. Mostly, because he was in middle school at the time they were written. Between the ages of 12 and 13, he tweeted things like, “Jay-Z look like a Monkey,” “Heil Hitler,” and “When I grow up I wanna be like Chris Brown. So if my girlfriend tried to look through my phone while driving I can choke and punch her :D.”
These are terrible things to say. Shock humor at its worst — abrasive setups that are devoid of punchlines. And they’re not anything that ought to be flippantly explained away by their author’s age. Peña, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, seems to understand this. His mom was a victim of domestic abuse when he was young, he says. He can’t fathom thinking the Chris Brown tweet was funny. When discussing this time, he paints a picture of a kid who was hurting and trying to get attention — positive or negative. At 12, in the early-ish days of Twitter, saying shocking things seemed like an easy way to do that.
But the internet never forgets. And seven years later those tweets would stand in stark relief to the reason for Peña’s fame: His compassion, positivity, charity work, and animal activism.
Kelvin Peña rose to social media stardom in 2016, when a video he made while feeding a deer in his yard went viral. That’s the whole video — just a teenager brimming over with excitement while talking about a deer. It spoke to people. It was joyful.