It’s that time of year when, for a brief moment, the world manages to keep their eye on the hard and heavy things of life but turn their hearts towards the universal themes of love and joy; peace, grace and goodwill.
The holidays, while hard for so many, still seem to give people permission to feel a lightheartedness that is frequently stolen by the reality of life during any other month. For the remaining days of the year, that permission is given by comedians.
And that’s where Danae Hays comes in.
Born in a small town “in the sticks of Alabama,” Danae grew up competing in pageants, putting on a performative face, and operating under the pressure of perfection enforced by her stage mom. “I had to be perfect,” she said as she recalled one particular event where she tripped on her way to the stage, a barely noticeable slip-up that she instantly knew she would be chastised for. Sure enough, by the time she returned backstage, there was a text message waiting for her. “I had to be the best,” she stated.
Hays continued her engrained pursuit of excellence in the years following, being crowned Homecoming Queen and becoming a star softball player. She went on to play for the University of Alabama (No, I’m not going to say “Roll Tide” this is my magazine so HOOK EM) and to work as a realtor in her hometown.
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Save some earth-shattering struggles, it wasn’t long before she moved away from the small town and met her future wife, Mandie. The pair then started their life together pursuing their passions and interests, utilizing social media to build their brands as life and health coaches, influencers and now for Hays, as a comedian.
During the pandemic, the world was introduced to TikTok and TikTok introduced the world to Danae. Her comedy is highly intentional, yet comes across effortless and with it she has amassed more than 2.3 million followers on the app alone. The funny-woman has dominated the algorithm with her wit and southern charm, bringing characters to life that have existed inside of her long before social media was a thing.
One character in particular, Sharon Jean, has left the collective internet in stitches with her thick accent and unending antics. The character is as much a part of Hays as Mrs. Doubtfire was of Robin Williams or literally any character is of Jim Carrey.
“Sharon Jean is who I really am deep down,” she says, “I feel like Danae is actually the mask I have to wear out in the world in front of people to function.”
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Sit with Hays for just 30 seconds and you see the character peeking her head out in all the best ways. Sit with her for 30 more and you get a glimpse of the life teeming from within the heart of the small-town woman. In mere moments, the creative starts to well up, and ideas pour out of her as smooth as Tennessee whiskey. “I have so many things I want to do,” she goes on, “So many ideas for comedy and acting.” Many of those ideas will be coming to life on YouTube next year as Hays will no doubt, take over the platform with her upcoming channel.
“I love to watch people watch my videos. I love to see the look on their faces. I want to see if they enjoy those little moments that I intentionally included to make them laugh.”
One thing is for sure, the brand of creativity and comedy that Hays offers up to society is rooted in a good heart.
I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never sat in an interview with an artist that turned around to ask so many questions about myself and my own life. Danae genuinely cares for the humanity around her and comes across with an air of authentic humility that I rarely see in this industry. Her beaming smile and warm delivery in every interaction and explanation of projects and the people she’s been able to work with reads with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to get to do what she’s doing. It’s almost as though even she still doesn’t quite grasp the depth of her impact or just how much she belongs but she is sure happy to be here.
She belongs so much, in fact, that there was no one else country superstar Luke Bryan could go to in order to prank call his own mother.
Hays and Bryan recently made headlines with their prank call, the latest in the singer and his wife’s “Pranksmas” series. Sharon Jean carried out the call to LeClaire, claiming to have some less-than-savory pictures of Luke with the intention to blackmail.
“It was so much fun,” Hays said with a sly grin, “It couldn’t have gone better.”
To no one’s surprise, the internet loved it.
This is truly only the beginning for Danae, for her comedy, her acting, her reach. The entertainment industry, hell, the world needs more of the permission she gives in every carefully crafted piece of content she creates to take a beat, a breath, to laugh and to feel light again, to bask in the age-old comedic effect, even if just for a moment.
Follow Danae on TikTok and Instagram and stay tuned on YouTube for her channel in 2023.
Photos by Eric Ahlgrim on location at the W Nashville Hotel