From the Backstreet Boys, One Direction, Take That and The Beatles, boy band fandom can bring people together in ways that nothing else can.
New documentary I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story tells the wonderful stories of four women who have had their lives dramatically changed by their love of a group of boys.
Sadia, 31, wrote a fan page and online newsletters in the early years of the internet for American pop band Backstreet Boys, but it was their return in 2005 that led to her obsession growing and the decision to spend over five figures in her quest to meet the band…
Sadia, Backstreet Boys:
When Sadia was a teenager she lived in a conservative house where she wasnt allowed to attend sleepovers but growing up in the dawn of the internet meant she was able to tap into a community of Backstreet Boys fans all over the world – and that inadvertently led to her finding her career path.
They hit me right when I was in puberty and “oh, boys” – I think I heard Quit Playing Games on the radio and then saw the video and freaked out and I liked that – now I know its manufactured but they were all different and all appealed to different parts of you, she says.
I had a newsletter and a fan club, and I connected with women around the world from Brazil and the Philippines and the UK and Canada, and we would write letters to each other.
The impact [Backstreets Boys] have had.. I started out writing newsletters and fan fiction and now I am a professional writer today, the boys were influential in my career path because I started a fan page, so I think they have had a tangible impact on my professional life – and yes they has also set unhealthy expectations for relationships.
In the documentary Sadia is candid about how her love for the boys was at times the only thing that got her through depression but that the same obsession has had the potential to make her limit herself.
When I became depressed, and the years after I graduated, I got back in to [the band] in a way I didnt expect, partially because they came out with new music and so college had been a hard time and then- to be honest, it was stereotypical but – I was worried about being someone who wanted to be in a relationship but would never put herself out there, says Sadia.
I would ask myself, “why arent you dating real people instead of going to this concert?” and so I would reflect and ask does my fandom become an antidote to my loneliness, and is that a good thing?
Is it a good antidote or am I holding myself back from something?
The return of the Backstreet Boys in 2005 after a few years of hiatus saw Sadia return full force to the fandom, and as she got older and so did the boys, the relationship changed as she was able to spend more money and time.
Sadia has now met them several times and admits she has spent over $10,000 (£7,600) on the boys – my mother is going to freak out – by taking on second jobs.
I was so uncool [as a teenager] it was hard to do anything crazy, I taped every TV appearance – I had 20 VHS tapes – and every time they were on TRL but it was when I had my own cash that I feel like I went crazy, says Sadia, revealing that she has been on the Backstreet Boys cruise three times and spend the night in Central Park in NY with fans before concerts.
But, she claims, she never tried to hide on their tour bus!
Sadia has two groups of friends, her real life friends and then her crew in the fandom, a group of girls who she met online and through waiting in line or camping before concerts by herself, and it is that group who travel together to visit concerts now, including going to Vegas to see the boys when they had a residency.
The internet plays a huge role in fandom in 2018, and Sadia admits the fantasy of being a fan before the days of social media was easier.
The way that certain groups are now accessible through social media and Instagram… there was a lot more fantasy, she suggests.
I could make up stories about who each member was, and now you realise these people are people and are not perfect – on one hand you get to access them and learn actually information about their lives and emotions but then you are also exposed to certain things you may not like and I just find… it was good for me then because my level of stalking, if you will, was limited.
There is more to keep track of now, being a fan is being protective and you want to know where they are and what they are wearing and thinking, and being a fan now is exhausting.
If she could tell the band one thing that, Sadia says it would have to be thank you.
I would definitely say thank you, they have been the most interesting men in my life and have provided me with a lot of comfort and just a lot of optimism and I would say thank you to them, thank you for all the memories and bringing me this joy in my life.
I Used To Be Normal
I Used To Be Normal is screening at the London Film Festival on Friday 19 October and Sunday 21 October.
You can buy tickets here.