Chelsea McDonough is a smiling 11-year-old girl from New York, quiet and studious, who wants to be veterinarian when she grows up.
While these two might seem like they’re from completely different worlds, they share one big thing in common: Their love of “My Little Pony.”
Both Chelsea and Jake are huge fans of the animated TV series that’s about pastel-colored magical talking ponies and their adventures. There are six main characters, what fans call “the Main Six,” which include AppleJack, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Pinky Pie and Rarity.
“The show is about little ponies who face problems, become friends and they have to work together to solve every problem that they have to face,” Chelsea said.
Little girls are the show’s target demographic, but, surprisingly, a grown men are into it too, which can be a touchy subject.
“They try to paint us as we’re pathetic basement dwellers, people living in their mother’s basement and stuff,” Jake said. “And you know what? No. I’m not some out-of-shape, lazy man-child. I’m a professional non-commissioned officer in the United States Army. I have served my country dutifully for 11 years. I also like pastel-painted talking ponies. Got a problem with that?”
Jake is what fans call “a brony.”
“A brony is an older man who likes the show ‘My Little Pony,’” Chelsea explained.
Bronies are specifically fans of the fourth generation of ‘My Little Pony’: “Friendship Is Magic,” and it has an enormous social media community. Fans take to Twitter to discuss episode storylines, and there is a number of dedicated websites for fan fiction, even news sources, such as "Equestria Daily" and "The Daily Oat."
The newest installment, “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” a series that airs on the Hub Network, includes small jokes for adults and makes pop culture references – one episode gives a nod to “The Big Lebowski.”
“It’s well animated, well written,” Jake said. “The characters are very interesting and surprisingly fleshed out for what was supposed to be a vehicle to sell toys for little girls. It’s just a simple wholesome little show.”
The original “My Little Pony” cartoon, based on a line of toys developed by Hasbro, first launched in 1986, and continued through the ‘90s, before re-launching in the 2000s. Since then, “My Little Pony” has grown into such a cultural phenomenon, it earned a Super Bowl ad spot this year. Hasbro’s sales are up thanks in large part to the franchise.
Chelsea and Jake met for the first time at the third annual New York “My Little Pony” Convention, Ponycon 2015, held in Brooklyn, New York, two weeks ago. People of all ages traveled from across the country to nerd out, shop, attend workshops and costume-play at the convention. There were some activities for kids, but it was mostly geared towards adults with serious discussions, celebrity meet-and-greets, fan-generated art, and plenty of “Pony” paraphernalia.
And bronies were out in force. Charles Bachmeier, a college football player from MIT, came down from Cambridge, Massachusetts with his girlfriend to attend the convention.
Chelsea was excited because she had never met a “brony” before. Her mother, Rindy, was uneasy about bronies, but gave Jake the OK to introduce himself to her daughter.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to think about the bronies before,” Rindy said. “I think that I thought they might be a little odd.”
James Turner, another brony attending the convention, insisted that, despite age and gender, the convention was about a shared interest in “My Little Pony.”
“If adults and children both love baseball there’s nothing wrong with that. If adults and children both love video games, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Turner said. “But if adults and children both love ‘My Little Pony,’ suddenly there’s something strange about that? I think it’s because of the gender, [but] it’s the love of the show.”