When you think about Hawaii, it’s hard not to have images of beautiful beaches, hula dancers, and a tropical paradise dance across your mind. Indeed, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but beyond the beautiful surface there lies an even greater beauty that most people never get to experience. It’s the beauty of plate lunches and jam sessions, of Island Music and pidgin, and of family (Ohana) and love (Aloha). Just like her homeland, MTV host, McKenna Manoalani Lee Maduli’s beauty extends beneath just the surface. Even though she has interviewed everyone from Snoop Dogg to Catherine Zeta Jones, worked for major entertainment corporations like MTV, Billboard, and Hip-Hop Official, and has recently become the face of a Polynesian movement in music – hosting her own Top 10 Countdown, The BEAT, on IslandBeats.TV – McKenna is still very much a “local girl” and is one of the most gracious, charitable, and positive people you’ll ever meet!
Growing up on Oahu, McKenna was always surrounded by music and family. “My dad’s a promoter and a music producer so I grew up in the studio with him. He’s produced or managed everyone from Makaha Sons to Fiji to Sean Na’auao, Dennis Pavao, Robi Kahakalau, and even recorded Uncle IZ’s [Kamakawiwo’ole] first album Ka’ano’i. I’d come home from school and these people would be in my garage,” and “My dad has 13 brothers and sisters. I was always surrounded by music and my parents were famous in their own right in the Hawaiian community.” Growing up with a vast support system helped McKenna to chase her dreams. Upon graduating from Roosevelt High School and turning 18, she moved to the mainland to pursue a career in journalism.
After spending some time in the Bay, McKenna moved down to LA and got an internship with ABC. She said, “It was for hard news and my first day on the job it was all about death and people stealing and robbing and I thought, ‘I can’t do this!’ I was crying at the station – my first day! So they let me get out of my internship and I was picked out of like 400 kids to do an entertainment internship with George Pennacchio on channel 7.” It was only McKenna’s second week on the job when she was asked to fill in and cover a red carpet event by herself. She recalls, “They sent me to the ‘Intolerable Cruelty’ premier and my very first interview ever was George Clooney. First ever interview of my life! I just remember being on the red carpet and him coming towards me and thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna die!’” But as soon as McKenna asked the first question she was a natural and it wasn’t long before she was interviewing legends like Stevie Wonder.
McKenna says, “I’m a people lover and just want people to feel good after talking [with me]. I remember when I interviewed Alicia Keys at the Apollo and it was like I was talkin’ to her like she was a sunga, you know what I mean, and I even call her ‘Tita Alicia.’ I love my job!”
Currently McKenna works for MTV and says, “MTV has been a dream job of mine! I remember seeing Daisy Fuentes on MTV spring break and this year I was MTV “The Seven” Spring Break Correspondent. That was a dream I had – I remember being in Kalihi with my best friend Danielle and watching spring break and thinking ‘I wanna do that,’ this year I got to do it, which was really cool!” McKenna has been MTV’s West Coast Correspondent for “The Seven,” and this year she’s gotten to interview people like Snoop Dogg , Lupe Fiasco, and Wiz Khalifa and is currently the co-host of MTV’s NextMovie Daily on NextMovie.com
Recently McKenna has partnered with Tadao Salima and Teresa Tuimaseve of IslandBeats.com as the host of a brand new Pacific Island Music Video Top 10 Countdown – “The BEAT.” She says, “They came to me and instantly I thought ‘what a great idea’ because I grew up with this music and what’s cool is that I’m friends with a lot of these musicians too – and I just want to help be a light for these people shine.”
McKenna says that, “On our 3rd show we had 115 countries [watching] and it went from 5,000 or 6,000 views to 20,000 in 3 weeks. I’ve had some friends from MTV watch it on Facebook and ask, ‘Are you leaving us? What is this?’”
McKenna says, “I only wanted to be part of something that was going to be legit. I see the stats every week. When I go on and say those are the top 10 videos, I make sure for myself that these are what have been viewed, I see the numbers and I see everything. And the cool thing about ‘The BEAT’ is that anyone can be on it. You could be coming from a hut in Tahiti – anyone can have a video. You don’t need to be signed to a label, it’s no radio games, there’s no strings attached.”
Hosting “The Beat” has allowed McKenna to play an even greater role in promoting Pacific Islanders and Island Music. She says, “I’m really excited to be a part of this Polynesian movement… all I’ve ever wanted to do is make Hawaii proud, share our culture, and show the world that we’re more than coconuts and pineapples on pizza. Even Tongan, Samoan, Papua New Guinea, Chamorro, all of them. When you go to these festivals its not just Hawaiian people it’s everybody, and I just totally want to be a part of taking us to the next level… It’s a movement, but we got some work to do!”
Just like the swells of a North Shore winter, McKenna’s achievements are impressive and keep on coming! Not only is she raising awareness of Pacific Islanders but also has plans to write a children’s book, start a clothing line, and give back to Hawaiian people – definitely Whatitdo! She says, “My heart is absolutely 700% on Oahu with my family and friends, but right now I know this is where I’m supposed to be!”
– Article Written By: G_Writer
**Photo’s & Video Courtesy of McKennaLive.com