Not a lot of people know Jensen Ackles by name. They might recognize him on TV; say, “Oh, it’s that one guy. From that one thing.” But one fact of my life for the past thirteen years is that I know his favorite song and his children’s names and his political affiliation, courtesy of my sixty-something mom, who runs an Instagram account dedicated to him that has, as of publication, 143,000 followers. She’s an expert on Ackles, on the show Supernatural, and on the nuances of online fandom.

When Texas Monthly announced its Texas celebrity bracket last week, we received more comments for him than for any other celebrity, demanding to know why we didn’t include Ackles, who was born in Dallas and lives with his family in Austin, and who owns Family Business Beer Company, in Dripping Springs (25 miles west of Austin), in our list of the 64 most beloved Texan celebrities. (The answer: There are simply too many beloved Texan celebrities.) But to console the “Acklesholics,” we thought we’d use our (very direct) access to one of Ackles’s top fans to learn more about why he’s so great, why Texas should claim him, and how one can be a “fangirl” at any age. Oh, and I learn some things about my own mother’s psychology along the way.

Texas Monthly: Why Jensen Ackles?

Liz Steenbeeke: You know, I’ve always had celebrity interests. Crushes and things like that. But never in my life have I ever been this invested, and that’s because most of them turn out to be jerks or have feet of clay and cheat on their wife and are assholes or whatever. I just ended up really liking him as a person.

Of course he’s an attractive guy, which doesn’t hurt. There are days where I look at him and go, “Oh my gosh, so gorgeous.” Then other days I’m like his mom: “You need to stop flying so much and just take care of yourself.” I just care about him, you know? I care about his family, and his kids are adorable. He’s just someone that I have gotten to admire so much because I discovered that he was not only a great actor but a great human. He’s loyal to a fault. He’s kind. He’s a great husband and father, and he’s really the most down-to-earth celebrity I’ve ever met. Screenwriter Todd Farmer said, “Above all and despite an occupation that forbids it, Jensen Ackles is normal. While that seems a bland thing to say, in my world, I simply cannot give a greater compliment.” Which I thought was so hilarious and so true.

He’s a very positive person. He looks at life with the cup half full. Kind of like your dad. I mean, they both have a lot of similar qualities that I like, so it’s not surprising that I like Jensen too. He really puts his money where his mouth is as far as these charities. He’s done things for Out Youth and things for the Boys & Girls Clubs. He and Jared [Padalecki] and Misha Collins raised $225,000 for Hurricane Harvey relief. Which is phenomenal. And he gives back to the economy with his brewery. He’s really Texas strong.

TM: What have you done in the name of Jensen fandom?

LS: Well, I have my fan accounts. I’ve attended a lot of conventions to meet the cast and crew. There’ve been a lot of issues, like Hurricane Harvey—you end up donating, trying to help out [fellow fans]. We end up helping out individual fans who are sick if we can. I don’t help everyone out, because one of the big things about fandom is that you don’t like everybody. You like some people. It’s like a family. And then you have, you know, Uncle Harry that you don’t like or whatever, and you just don’t hang out with them. I wouldn’t trade the experience because I’ve met a lot of people from different walks of life in different countries and seen different cultures and things like that. And it’s been awesome.

TM: How many Supernatural conventions have you attended?

LS: Oh Lord, I always lose track. I think about nine.

TM: And you’ve been to his brewery . . .

LS: Three times. Didn’t see him though.

TM: Are there any other things, above and beyond the account, that you’ve done?

LS: I took my ’67 Impala to the conventions, and really interfaced with fans that way. It’s a tribute car to Baby [the car that Ackles’s and Padalecki’s characters drive in Supernatural]. It’s almost exactly the same car they have on the show. And the guys signed the glove box.

TM: Okay, so when fans saw the car—what was their reaction?

LS: Oh my God, practically screaming. I mean, so excited. And this was, I think, for the West Coast, one of the first times someone had the car at a convention. And then this guy also got one, and it took off, and he put me out of business. He’s got the trunk done and the four-door hardtop version. I’m not bitter at all. So that’s why we just take it to car shows now.

TM: I remember it only vaguely, but when did you start being more online, especially regarding Supernatural and Jensen? I know there was a point when I realized you understood more about Instagram than I did, but when exactly did all of it start? Not just Instagram, but everything.

LS: It was 2011 when I first saw your sister watching that episode of Supernatural, and then she got me on Pinterest. And then I met Nancy on Pinterest in 2011, and we’ve been friends ever since. I got on Tumblr in 2013 and got off Pinterest, where I had 35,000 followers. I still post on Tumblr because that’s really the hub of fandom.

TM: In 2011, what was going on in your life in general that led you to this?

LS: That’s very simple: my mom had had a stroke in 2010, and then I think it was spring of 2011, and Lauren had gotten me on Pinterest, and I was literally escaping because I was sad. And it really, really supported me, as far as the show—there’s something in that show that means something to a lot of people. At the time it was my escape—going through hardships and trying to stay brave and strong. And it kind of ballooned from there, for better or worse!

Our three cats all died in 2014 and 2015. This was the decade of death and bad diagnoses. Grandpa died. Your dad got diagnosed with blood cancer. It’s just been my, like, “Okay, I can’t think about that anymore, I’m going to go here and do this.” And it is an escape—I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but it’s kept me sane.

Are you writing this piece?

TM: Yeah.

LS: Oh, okay, I thought you were just gathering information.

TM: No, the idea is that this is a Q&A with Jensen Ackles’s number one fan, my mom.

LS: Oh, well, I hope Texas Monthly readers don’t roll their eyes. And I hope they’re nice in the comments.

[Note: Be nice to my mom.]

TM: What do you enjoy about running the account? What do you not enjoy so much?

LS: Oh, do you have an hour? I do enjoy especially when there’s new content [like social media posts or episodes of shows he’s in], which there hasn’t been a lot of lately because the writers’ strike and all that stuff, and he’s just not been working, and he’s a lackadaisical poster. He just rarely puts anything out there. No crumbs for the fans. And when he does, we all just, like, fall over and die. So that part is stressy sometimes because I’m scrambling to find material. Sometimes it’s older material. Sometimes it’s stuff that I really have to go and dig up. It’s time-consuming. Ultimately, you have to just post what you would want to see, instead of what [the followers] might want to see, even though you do have to kind of weigh those two. And then just talking to people and talking about the show or squeeing, you know, “Oh yeah, he’s so cute.” And then we talk about upcoming projects and stuff like that. So it’s a big chat board basically. I enjoy the interaction, and I enjoy people really being happy with my account and getting the news that they want to hear and seeing the things they want to see. And a lot of them tell me often, “You’re my favorite account.”

TM: What assumptions do you think people have about fan account admins?

LS: I don’t divulge my age. And it’s really immaterial. A lot of my followers know that I’m older. Sometimes I’ve talked to people about my thirty-something kid. So they figure I can’t be too young. But it’s people outside the fandom that are more judgmental, especially when I first started, it was like he-who-shall-not-be-named—I couldn’t say anything [to friends] about Jensen. People assume you can’t be a fangirl, but when you’re admiring someone’s talent and personality, it’s a universal thing. Some celebrities earn it and are worthy. But I do think it’s considered juvenile. And what people don’t realize when they get older is that there’s still a part of you that’s young, that feels those things. You’re not dead. And you can be boring and ignore those feelings or just go with it—that’s what I’ve always done. Dad just laughs. He puts up with it.

TM: He has his own hobbies.

LS: I don’t kid him about how he’s an avid beer stein collector, to the point where we might have to move to a bigger house. I think he realizes too that I love him; he’s my main guy, and this is just a hobby. I’m actually so mature that sometimes I just feel like being immature. It is what it is. So there are all ages of fans. There’s one gal from England that I see at cons and she’s like 75.

TM: Where do you draw the line in your fandom? What would be too far for you?

LS: Camping outside his house.

TM: Phew.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.