At first glance, Mario “Scar” Ponce, the social media star and rising actor who rose to viral fame in mitú’s “Cholos Try” videos, might seem like an intimidating figure. Covered in tattoos, piercings, and a notable scar marking the left side of his face, he seems exactly the type of bad boy that your madre told you to stay away from. However, with Scar cholo, there is more to him than meets the eye.
Although Scar cholo got his big break because he looked like a tough-as-nails Cholo, he rose to popularity for precisely the opposite reason. From his first appearance on “Cholos Try,” viewers were drawn to Scar for his soft-spoken demeanor, his warm personality, and his quiet sense of humor. Pretty soon, he racked up an enviable internet fan base, with almost 90,000 followers on Instagram and over 10 million YouTube views of his short film, “Hermanos.” Now, you can see Scar in short films and indie movies where, this time, he played fictional characters. Recently, we had a chance to talk to Scar about his past, his tough exterior, and how his children keep him grounded.
Mitu (M): Tell us a little bit about your backstory. What kind of family did you grow up in?
Scar (S): I’m from the best hood ever, which is father-hood. I have two wonderful kids that motivate me to be a much better person each day. I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m proud to say that one of my brothers joined the Marines, and one of my sisters joined the Navy, while I joined the streets.
M: You’ve built your brand around being a Cholo, but you play up the comedy angle. What does being a cholo mean to you that is different than the Hollywood depiction of Cholos?
S: I didn’t build a brand around being a Cholo, I built a brand out of being myself. When it comes to playing a Cholo on set, I always bring 100 percent raw authenticity to the table–sometimes even more.
M: You’ve been candid about your previous life on the streets. When did you decide to change your lifestyle? How did you find the strength and determination to change?
S: I knew that I had to change my lifestyle way before I started appearing in videos. I changed my ways the day I became a parent. For once in my life, I found someone that needed me more than I needed them. But in reality, it’s my kids that saved my life.
M: You’ve admitted to having a “tough exterior” for people you don’t know very well. Why is that?
Courtesy of Scar cholo
S: People will always get the wrong idea about me when they first see me, and I’m okay with that. My mom told me once: “If you weren’t my son and I saw you on the street, I’d be scared of you.” I don’t care if people judge me from my appearance anymore. Hey, normal-looking people scare me anyways.
M: How did you get into acting and performing on digital media?
S: I didn’t choose the set life, the set life chose me. I was at my 9-to-5 one day and my fellow co-worker showed me an ad on Craigslist. It read that they needed Cholos for a TV pilot. I got the gig and I actually enjoyed portraying myself on camera. I was a natural. Oddly enough, I got fired from my job that same week and that’s when I decided to pursue working in the film industry. I ended up being a cast member for “Cholos Try” and after that, it was a vegan-wrap (inside joke).
M: You’ve talked about how “Cholos Try” has changed your life from people being afraid of you to people wanting to be around you and take your picture. How has that changed the way you interact with people?
Courtesy of Scar
S: Everywhere I go, the fans always ask to take a picture with me. This has given me a whole different outlook on life. Before the videos, I always felt like I had to be the “bad guy” due to the way people would see me. But after the videos went viral, I realized that I can be a good person too and that felt much better. Even cops want to take pictures with me now–not all the time, but sometimes.
M: What is the most memorable “Cholos Try” video for you?
S: The most memorable “Cholos Try” episode for me was the one where I tried kombucha and kale chips. I was never open to trying out new foods, but ever since then, I’m always eager to taste something new. Just the experience of trying new flavors is like entering a whole new ‘hood–I mean–a whole new world.
M: Do you think Cholos are misunderstood in the media? How do you want them to be represented?
S: I don’t think that Cholos are misunderstood in the media. After all, Cholos didn’t exactly build a reputation by being so nice. The only thing that is missing in the media is the backstory of what happens before and after the gang life. When I’m on videos, all I want is for people to see the person behind the tattoos.
M: You’ve also talked before about how when you were younger, you saw gang members as role models, people to look up to. What would you tell young Latinos now who are feeling the same way?
Courtesy of Scar
S: When I was a kid in the early ’90s, I would notice the Cholos hanging out in the streets. To me, it was an intriguing sight to see. They would wear huge, creased-up pants and had shaved heads. My dad despised them, but I thought they were the coolest thing ever. I looked up to them– they seemed tough and respectful, something I wouldn’t mind being.
Now, I would tell Latino kids of today to create their own path and not follow in anyone’s footsteps. If I was growing up [now] and saw what Cholos are like, I would have never joined a gang.
M: Do you consider yourself a role-model? Why or why not? What does being a role model mean to you?
S: I’ve been told that I’m someone’s role model by quite a few people. I’m still trying to get used to hearing that, but it definitely motivates me to keep pushing forward. A role model to me is someone that leads by example. I’m proof of that. “Si se puede”!
M: The short film “Hermanos” has been a massive success with over 10 million views on Youtube. How did you get involved with “Hermanos”? What do you think about its success?
Courtesy of Scar
S: It’s almost as if I was destined to be in the film “Hermanos.” I helped bring this film to life alongside a young director, Timur Bootzin, and a great cast filled with family and friends. The success of the film “Hermanos” doesn’t necessarily come from the 10 million views on YouTube, if the film helped save at least one life then that’s all the success we need.
M: What are some Latino performers you look up to?
S: In all honesty, I only look up to myself now.
M: What exciting things do you have planned for your next career move and your future as an influencer?
S: I’m always working on new and exciting projects, but I prefer to let my work speak for itself. Besides, real Cholos move in silence. Stay posted!