By Liam Miller
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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Liam Miller, James Thorne
Editor: Sonia Estal
When Victoria’s Secret manager Nicole Lund’s love interest Chris Pollak claimed he was a superhero, she had no idea he was being serious.
She also had no idea it was going to inspire her to become a real life superhero too.
Now the crime-fighting duo patrol side-by-side across New York, with Nicole, 27, dressed as her leather-clad alter ego ‘Nykita’, and Chris, 33, as action man ‘Dark Guardian’.
And even though it’s brought her face-to-face with danger - and the occasional death threat - Nicole believes other tough girls can do the same.
She told Barcroft TV: “The women I meet when I am out on patrol always seem really excited and inspired. “They always come up to me and ask about me being a real superhero and say things like, ‘Go girl!”
“I think a lot of people really want to make the world better in some way, but don’t know where to start. I felt the same and Chris introduced me to a way to do it.”
The couple are both experts in martial arts - meaning they can get tough when they have to.
And while many of their crime-fighting patrols involve simply helping the homeless and organizing neighborhood clean-ups, sometimes it can get risky, with Chris confronting suspected dealers on street corners and city spots like Washington Square Park.
He said: “I just tell them to leave. Most of them hate being called out and run. Sometimes I used a megaphone to make them really obvious and they scurry away like rats.”
Nicole has been in the path of danger too.
She said: “We were patrolling a bad neighbourhood together one night and a car of guys circled around and drove past us really slowly. Then they drove past again and one of them said: 'If you’re still here when we come back, we’re gonna to shoot you both dead. It was pretty terrifying but luckily we didn’t run into them again.’"
She continued: “On another patrol I was separated from Chris for a moment and found myself surrounded by a group of men who I was certain were dealing.
“I was lucky because even though I don’t think they wanted to do anything to me, they were all around me saying disgusting, sleazy things, because of my leather outfit.
“I was ready for it to turn nasty but l always try to talk things around first, and it worked.”
But talking doesn’t always work.
“I’ve had to use my karate a few times, always with men,” she said. “One time a guy grabbed me. I gave him a kick he wouldn’t forget.”
And on a night out with friends, Nicole was cornered by a man and span out of it before pushing him to the ground. “I wasn’t patrolling but it gave me confidence to know I could deal with a problem as Nykita,” she said.
Nicole finally fell for Chris last year after months of playful flirting at a previous job in a gym, where he worked as an instructor.
As they became closer, Chris revealed his superhero secret during a ‘boring’ work seminar where they sat next to each other.
She explained: “He just blurted out: ‘You now, I’m a real life superhero? I put on a costume and go out to fight crime and clean up the neighborhood.”
Chris explained that most nights after work he would patrol the streets in an outfit - just like in comic books and Marvel films - looking for people who were up to no good or needed help.
Unsure of whether to believe his story, Nicole did some snooping that night on the internet. She was shocked - and titillated - by what she saw.
“There was a video of him online in full costume confronting a huge drug dealer” she explained. “I couldn’t believe it but Chris just went straight up to him and demanded he leave the park and then chased him away!”
“It was definitely a turn-on,” she said. “How many people risk themselves to make the world better and help people? It really added to the attraction with Chris.
A few days later, the two became an item. But what started out as excitement for Nicole about Chris’ late-night antics, soon turned into worry.
She said: “Now that we were an item, of course I started caring and worrying when he went out on ‘patrol’ late at night. He’s had guns pointed at him, been threatened with broken bottles, and more.
“Even though I knew he could handle himself as a martial arts instructor, it was still really scary waiting for him to come back. There are a lot of dangerous people out there and night time can be especially dangerous.
“But I was still fascinated by what Chris was doing. It wasn’t all confronting drug dealers. Sometimes he would take food and clothing to homeless people, or even organized neighborhood clean-ups where they would collect litter from the streets in bad areas that needed a makeover.
“Instead of asking him to stay home, I wanted to try it myself."
Chris agreed and suggested the name ‘Nykita’ for Nicole’s alter-ego.
He said: “I knew she could handle herself because I had sparred with her. I’m never going to stop anyone who wants to make the world better or help people.”
Chris has been patrolling Gotham as Dark Guardian since 2004. His inspiration came from one of his friends, whose mother was murdered in a violent crime. “He couldn’t believe something like that had happened to a friend and vowed to stop it happening to other people,” said Nicole.
And the couple are not the only ones doing it. In fact they’re part of a real life superhero (RLSH) movement around the world who network online and even patrol in each others' cities.
Despite her martial arts training, Nicole’s dad Claude, 60, a retired electrician, was still worried about her when he learned of her new boyfriend calling himself the ‘Dark Guardian’.
She said: “He was even more worried when I started going on patrol too.
“Most of my friends have been really supportive and of course my girlfriends understand why I fell for a superhero. What girl wouldn’t? And they’ve seen videos of us online, so they know that we’re really trying to help the City.
“I would recommend other women do it too, but never alone.
"You’ve got to take it seriously and be safe because there are real dangers, so you have to be smart about how you do it.”