With some videos totaling over 4 million views on his online videos and a weekly TV show in production, BYU-Hawaii alumni who stage name is Clayton Thomas has become a Peruvian sensation known as a character named “Gringasho.” His last name is Kearl and was a member of the Seasider Men’s Cross Country Team.
In a private interview conducted in Spanish, the Gringasho told his story of living in Peru for the last two years building a name for himself through comedic videos on Facebook and YouTube.
Originally from Utah, Thomas “served my mission in Peru, so I didn’t choose Peru. I was chosen.” He said he tried really hard to learn about the culture and impersonate a native Peruvian accent.
Due to his knowledge for both the country and language after his mission, his friends said he knew more about the Peruvian culture than they did. He created a slogan for himself, “El gringo más Peruano que tú,” which means, “The gringo more Peruvian than you.”
For almost every video he makes, he has had very positive responses from his viewers.
In one of his first YouTube videos, Thomas shared with his Spanish-speaking audience how since he got back home from his mission, he missed Peru and couldn’t stop thinking about going back. It was in January 2016 he decided to go back and start his new life. “Moving to Peru is something that I always wanted to do.”
During his first year in Peru, he worked as a dancer, soccer player, and even waiter as well as other jobs before becoming “Gringasho.”
He said he also adopted the Spanish Peruvian slang, known as “jergas.” Due to his understanding of “jergas,” people started to recognize him as an American boy who knew more about Peruvian culture and slang than they did.
According to his YouTube video translated in English to “10 Reasons Why Peru is the Best,” a viewer comment in Spanish says, “I love the video. All the things he says in the video are true. My Peru is beautiful and unique!”
Another viewer comment written by Jaky Visa says, “Thank you ‘gringo’ for your love. … Your slang is super funny.”
Thomas said his dream is to have his own TV show in Peru, and the ultimate goal of “Gringasho” is to make Peruvians feel pride for their country and roots. “The reason behind Gringasho is that I want people to love Peru because Latinos are really racist among themselves in Peru.” He explained for Latinos, the perception is you’re better if you’re white. That’s the mindset that he wants to change.
“No one in Peru wants to be from the mountains or descendants of Incas,” he said, “and they are all descendants of Incas.”
Even when they have European ancestry as a culture, Thomas explained Peruvians are part of the indigenous native Inca civilization. “This pride that I have, I want to bring it out in Peruvians and help them have this pride about Peru. Peru is amazing!”
Jackie Tapia, a Peruvian senior from Washington, D.C. majoring in political science, said, “I have heard about him from some people and met him briefly. However, I believe that it is very touching how someone can cherish a culture other than their own in this manner. One can tell of his passion and love for Peru through his videos and social media. His admiration for Peru and its culture helps promote the beauty of the country and its people.”
Thomas also talked about a Mormon cultural misconception in Latin America that Mormons are “restricted.” He said, “New generations of members are basically converts because those who were born in the church fall away from the church.”
Thomas collaborated with Mormon.org to do a short video explaining who the LDS missionaries are. The video has had a great response among members and non-members, according to Thomas.
He said, “I am the first social media influencer for the church in South America. I am the first Latin [social media influencer] and I am not even Latino. Well, I have my green card in Peru.”
Thomas shared how he unintentionally received a lot of positive feedback because he wore a guinea pig costume, for his first video. He said this was before he became known as “Gringasho.” Wearing the costume was “funny because a lot of people think the costume is ‘Gringasho,’ but it’s just something I did for one of my videos.”
He explained in Peru, guinea pig is a delicacy they call “cuy.” He said, “I don’t like the head. I chop it off, and I leave the head outside, but it’s good. I love to eat it.”
In a video that has received more than 51,000 views on YouTube, Thomas is dressed in a cuy costume and introduces himself while Peruvian country music is playing: “I’m Clayton Thomas, and I’m more Peruvian than you. I know what you are thinking: ‘What the heck is a gringo doing dancing to this country music in a cuy costume?’ Let me tell you, I’m from the United States and I’m Peruvian at heart.”
Thomas said his parents have been a huge influence on him in creating the show. “My dad is my best friend. To be honest, this ‘Gringasho’ comes from my dad. … Ever since I was about three years old, my dad has been taking me around the world through business trips and conventions.
“My dad is rad and my mom was a professional ballerina [who] became a housewife, so my mom is like the most proper lady you will ever met.”
Thomas said he has received his citizenship in Peru and now resides there. He currently works on a Peruvian TV station right now where once a week he reports for one segment. His own TV show is in the works.
He said he feels lucky enough to have all of his social media accounts under the same username “Gr3ngasho” on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because it was featured in the Jan. 2018 print issue.