Meet the ABV Network Team: McNew
by Colonel Steve Akley
In the ABV Network world, that single word instantly conjures up so many images. I think anyone who listens to The Bourbon Daily probably has a few favorite McNew moments. I know I do.
Having been on tour for The Bourbon Daily, as well as representing the ABV Network at many industry events, I know that McNew is really popular. I mean like super-uber-mega popular. People ask me about her all the time... what's she really like... how did I find her... and the term "hot mess" comes up a lot. I can tell you, without hesitation, she's all of that and much, much more.
The conversation here needs to start at the beginning, though...
So, how did I find Stephanie McNew?
Stephanie McNew, aka Miss_McNew, and I met on Instagram. Not sure "who found who" there, but at some point we connected. She liked a lot of my photos so her name kept popping up in my feed. Her pictures were a combo of bourbon, fashion and selfies (like the one in this post) so I can't say I immediately thought she would be great for any of the shows. I will say she was interesting enough that I would take the time to read her descriptions with her pictures because she was funny. Again, never thought of her as potentially a cohost or anything like that, and I really didn't have any sort of relationship with her beyond two people following each other on social media.
That probably would have continued to be the extent of the Steve/McNew story, but Jefferson's Bourbon actually would change all of that. When Jefferson's was launching their Ambassador's program, they asked me to tap into our audience and recruit some millennials to join the group since it's such a growing demographic for the industry.
Even though I didn't really know McNew, I certainly knew she was the right age, and definitely liked bourbon, so I invited her. We started chatting a bit via the direct message feature on Instagram and I found her to be incredibly nice... sweet really. At that point, I did start to think if we ever have the right shows lined out, I actually would like to have her on as a guest.
A few weeks later, we had some shows I thought would be right for her so I extended an invitation to McNew and she accepted. It was one of our Friday night recording sessions where we have five total people on the show. Going in, I figured those four shows would be the only time we would ever have McNew on the air.
Once we started recording, though, I immediately realized she wasn't a one-time guest, she needed to be part of the team. I'm always on the listen for a great voice when we are podcasting since that's the medium we are in. McNew not only had a pleasant pitch but her diction... the way she spoke, was so great. It's the whole vocal fry, use of the word "like" and just the sound of today's generation speaking.
She wasn't just a talking head either. McNew, totally "McNew" her shit. She knew bourbon. She wasn't using the whiskey in her pics as an accessory, she was truly a fan who knew the brands and had visited all of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail.
She really was the real deal.
Look, I'm a business owner. My goal, when it comes to our programming is to always provide the best educational and entertaining shows we can offer... to go all out to do so. The way my mind works is to recall something from popular culture and keep replaying it when it comes to these things. Oddly, when it comes to our programming, a trailer from the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat is what pushes me. This is despite the fact I'm really not a wrestling fan, and actually haven't seen the documentary, but the trailer is great. It just always stood out to me and I recall it vividly today even though it's 19+ years later.
In the trailer, you see Mick Foley, one of the wrestlers who was known for going all out to entertain (destroying his body in the process) with his family. You then see his wife/daughter/son later in the promo crying hysterically as he is beaten to a bloody pulp with a chair during the match. The whole trailer ends with Mick Foley flat on his back, getting his skull wrapped in a bandage saying, "We touched a lot of people tonight, if you don't mind me saying." (If you want to check out that trailer, you can click here to see it on YouTube.)
I don't know that anyone encapsulates the concept of leaving it all out there for the audience than Stephanie McNew. She's an open book, willing to tell any story, share any detail from her life without hesitation. While most of us will hold back things we may think are embarrassing, McNew just throws them out there with reckless abandon making for some seriously great discussions and segments on our shows.
Of course, when you talk about McNew, you have to acknowledge that name. It's a brand. It really is. When she came on the show for the first time, she was Stephanie McNew, but that last name has the perfect amount of "punch" to it when you say it so I decided on the spot... she's just McNew. She was good with and I think it really has helped her rise to the top of people's minds when it comes to personalities on the network.
Is she just a goofball we want on the air to share funny stories?
Not even close. Trust me, I can get a million self-depracting goofballs who would say anything to get on the air. That's really not the reason why I love McNew so much. The reason why I value McNew on the ABV Network is because above and beyond all of the amazing aspects we talked about already here (the voice, the diction, the stories, the knowledge and love for bourbon) is the fact she's an incredibly hard worker. I think that if we quizzed the audience most people might suspect McNew could be unreliable or hard to deal with.
Not a chance!
McNew is a true professional. She comes prepared having done her show prep prior to coming on the air. She's always willing to fill-in when I need her... even at the last minute. Simply put, I couldn't ask for a better person to have on our network.
That brings me to the last point I wanted to touch on her. The term, "hot mess" that often gets used when people ask me about her. We all have a pretty negative connotation to that phrase as it typically gets placed on someone out of control in their life who is probably impacting us a negative way. With McNew, I think it's a term of endearment. She's so willing to open up to the audience and share things going on in her life, I think we see a bit of ourselves in her. McNew's raw and unfiltered sharing of her life is really the "hot mess" in all of us.
Yep, it's true... McNew isn't a "hot mess"... in fact, I'd say she's pretty well perfection.