Kelsey Crane also had tickets in Atlanta and coordinated her outfit around McMahan. “One of Heather’s favorite stores is Old Navy,” Crane explains. “She often talks about how she’s an Old Navy girl and how they should sponsor her because they’re the perfect fit for her ‘thick neck and thin ankles,’ so me and my friends wore Old Navy graphic tees.” She adds that they “popped some White Claw” before the show, in McMahan’s honor.
So, yes, McMahan’s brand is strong. So strong, in fact, that Old Navy recently came calling with an invitation to visit their headquarters in the Bay Area. “They told me they got such crazy messages from my followers,” McMahan says. “Like, ‘She’s your number one fan, why isn’t she on every billboard?’ They felt as if they had to bring me in, or someone was going to burn the place down. I feel like Ariana Grande.”
It’s a far distance from where McMahan was a few years ago. After the loss of her father to cancer in December 2015, she left Los Angeles and her fledgling acting career—think credits in made-for-TV movies like Bride to Maybe and Merry Ex-Mas—behind to move in with her mother, Robin, in Atlanta. It was supposed to be a temporary living arrangement to help her mom and sister, Ashley, adjust and grieve, but it lasted until this past summer when McMahan moved to New York with her fiancé, Jeff Daniels. (No, not that Jeff Daniels—hers is an engineer.)
“When I moved home, I was in 100% survival mode,” McMahan tells me. “I had a wonderful relationship with my dad. He was the love of my life.”
She says she went through “a deep depression” for about a year following his death—something that intensified her career frustrations. “I’d spent the last nine years going on auditions for roles I wasn’t right for, driving across L.A. traffic from Hollywood to Santa Monica at 5 p.m. on a Friday for a role you know they already gave to someone else,” she explains. “Your soul leaves your body at one point.”
Thinking she was done with comedy and acting forever, McMahan applied for a flight attendant position with Delta Airlines. But they said…no. So she took the rejection as a sign: Stick with what you’re good at. “I’m a liability and probably would have been sent to HR on the first day anyway,” she jokes. Now? They’re a sponsor.