Megan Thee Stallion is elite. At 26, she’s had two Billboard 100 No. 1 singles, three Grammys, and knees deserving of their own insurance policy. This summer’s “Thot Shit” music video would make our year-end movies list if short filmés (and my opinion) qualified, and she’s started enough viral dance trends to single-handedly keep the lights on over at TikTok dot-biz. With hits like “Savage,” “WAP,” and “Body,” she is a young sensation who does not miss. Yes, Megan Thee Stallion is the Popeyes chicken sandwich of celebrities.
When Popeyes announced that they were collaborating with Megan Thee Stallion on a new Hottie Sauce and Hottie Meals, it made perfect sense and the hotties rejoiced. Two heavyweights of the American South, beloved in their respective domains, combining forces. And unlike some celebrity fast-food collaborations that feel haphazard or tossed off, the announcement included an unprecedented detail: Meg would also become a franchise owner of five Popeyes establishments. That’s commitment. Now she has vested interest, as a stakeholder, in ensuring that her Popeye’s tie-in is quality product. I’ll be filing my application to work the drive-through at Megan’s own Popeyes shortly wherever that may be (probably Texas), but first, I had to get my claws on this Hottie Sauce.
The marketing rollout for Megan’s Hottie Sauce has been a master class in hype and knowing your brand. On Thursday, Popeyes released a trailer that finds Megan dressed as a Popeyes orange-rhinestone cowgirl who goes on a mission because — gasp! — “Someone stole your hottie sauce!” An anime Megan then hops on her bronco with her trusty Frenchie puppy 4oe at her side and gallops off into the night. This is what we love to see in our fast-food advertising: a narrative. It’s super fun and camp and it’s giving Hamburglar.
The next day, Megan released a Popeyes mukbang video where she showed off her hot sauce, saying, “It’s giving spicy. It’s giving sweet.” This is genius. Very few real celebrities (sorry Trisha) have dared venture into the mukbang space, but it’s the perfect showcase for Megan’s humor, personality, and ultimately her product.
Megan also sidled up to the famed Hot Ones table, and never has there been a cleaner promotional concept: Megan’s entering the hot-sauce market, and the Complex show’s host Sean Evans is the arbiter of all things spicy celebby. Unimpressed by the first handful of sauces, she wondered if Evans was tricking her. “What is this called? Hot Ones or Cold Ones?” She proved she could get up to over 100,000 Scovilles without blinking. (Although she did say at least one of the hot sauces beyond that point needed to be “illegal” and its creator “in prison,” she more than proved she could handle her heat.)
Back in August, I sat down with Evans at a spicy curry event sponsored, hilariously, by Tums. I figured I could pick his brain on the connection between celebrity, food, and media. “Celebrity is that thing that, by definition, is this unobtainable lifestyle,” he said. “But then something everyone can relate to is dying on hot sauce. It takes them off the pedestal to that normal human level. For years, people have tried to make that ‘What’s it like to have a beer with this person?’ show, and I think through hot sauce, we accidentally invented it.” Evans was on to something. Maybe this is what I had been trying to achieve with all this celebrity meal chasing: “What’s it like to eat mozz sticks in Lil Huddy’s lap?” “What would it be like if Shawn Mendes threw his low-carb Chipotle bowl at me?” And now, “What would it be like for Megan Thee Stallion to choke me out with hot sauce?”
So on October 19, when Megan’s Hottie Sauce dropped, I headed down the block to my nearest Popeyes. There are two items on the menu, a.k.a. Hottie Meals, that currently come with the Hottie Sauce: the chicken sandwich and the brand’s new nuggets. When I showed up to the counter, a girl was asking if she could get a Hottie Sauce with her sandwich. The manager told her no because she didn’t order a Hottie Meal sandwich and limited quantities mean they can only give out Hottie Sauces with Hottie Meals. (Something something smart-sounding joke about supply chain, am I right?) This stuff was exclusive.
Despite putting my order in on the app, the location was fairly crunched, and they needed to prepare my Hottie Meals fresh, which took approximately 20 minutes. I spent it observing that the vibes in this particular Popeyes were honestly really cute. The manager and staff seemed to get along even though their kitchen AC was down, they were really nice to all of the senior citizen customers who came in, and they threw in a free pie for my wait. I made off with my loot and giddyupped back home to feast.
First off, the packaging on the Hottie sandwich is instantly iconic: A tongue sticking out of lips in classic Megan fashion, all in pop-art style purple, red, and orange. Looking back at this picture right now, I want to fish this bag out of my garbage, iron it, and frame it for a future Hottie Shrine. Meanwhile, the Hottie Sauce packaging called to mind the curly bubble font of the McDonald’s Saweetie sauce.
Popping the top of the Hottie Sauce, you see pleasing deep-red dotted with little chili flecks, thankfully not showing up quite as neon as it looked in the advertising materials. Popeyes says this new sauce blends Aleppo pepper and Crystal Hot Sauce (a cayenne-based classic), and you definitely get that peppery hit when you smell it. The taste, however, is overwhelmingly dominated by the sauce’s other ingredients: cider vinegar and honey. Lots of honey. While some bites of this stuff finished with a hot note in the back of the throat, it was less of a kick and more of a suggestion of spicy, like how flavored seltzers carry the suggestion of fruit flavor. The spice is definitely dominated by the sweet. It’s unfortunate, especially because the concept of hot is so central to Megan’s fandom.
This letdown on the hotness front was really amplified by the strange decision to do the Hottie sandwich and Hottie nuggets in the Popeyes regular breading, rather than the genuinely best-in-class spicy breading. I wanted the Hottie Meals to slap my tongue and whole entire face into next century; mild is not a word I’d ever associate with Megan Thee Stallion … until this.
I appreciated that the Hottie sandwich wasn’t slathered with the sauce, which would have made it too sweet to eat; it was a nice amount, especially if you like the honey and fried-chicken combo. Every time I’ve ever had a Popeyes chicken sandwich, I’ve been impressed anew by the quality; it’s maybe the most substantial sandwich in all of fast food, burgers included. I ate it over the course of three meals.
Popeyes was smart to use Hottie Sauce as an excuse to push their new nuggets, which they launched in July. These little fuckers rule. The eight-piece comes with three Hottie Sauces, enough to save two for later (or to sell on eBay). The store gave me a 12-piece by mistake. Ordering these nuggets — eight with the sauces for $4.49 — was like putting on the glasses from They Live and realizing that all other nuggets were lying to you. The breading is craggly and crispy, giving your mouth a lot of fun texture to play with. It’s also like 50 percent of the nugget, a creature of its own. I say this with great admiration, not as a dig. The seasoning works. The Hottie Sauce settles into all the grooves and crannies. I also dipped one in the gravy and mashed potatoes side I got in lieu of fries out of some misguided idea of fake restraint. I recommend this. I put the leftover nuggs out in the office and about two-thirds of them got eaten even though they were cold. This is impressive.
Along with food, Popeyes x Megan Thee Stallion announced that Megan would be making a six-figure donation to Houston Random Acts of Kindness. So not only is this collab serving cowgirl and businesswoman, it’s giving pillar of the community. Overall, this collaboration feels more thought-out and deliberate than most others we’ve seen, combining the merch and branding of the BTS meal with the actual relationship between artist and company that we’ve seen with Lil Nas X and Taco Bell … with a video campaign that was made with intention, style, and a voice. The full anime-inspired campaign video was released yesterday and features a full-on battle between Meg and her alter ego, Tina Snow. It’s all just so fun.
Meg and Popeyes also dropped a line of merch yesterday, including a crop top and a hoodie that both say “saucy,” a T-shirt with a flaming Popeyes receipt graphic, a bikini, and a dog toy shaped like a Popeyes chicken three-piece. I hope one day to make a pilgrimage to a Stallion-owned Popeyes location. There better be a gift shop full of this stuff, and even-hotter sauces. A road trip for next year’s Hot Nug Summer.
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