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ACCIDENTAL INFLUENCER

Anna Cunico of @hooked.af Has Us Influenced, Officially. | Written by Milton Menasco

@hooked.af in pieces from the MM Vintage Collection photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography in route to the National Finals Rodeo, Dec '22.


Coming off a high-fashion note at this last years' National Finals Rodeo, the Milton Menasco team decided to sit down with Anna Cunico of @hooked.af, chat about all things influential (accidental or not), and really get to the root of Anna.


MM: Tell us the who what where about YOU. A little background please.


AC: The best question because the answer never changes! I grew up ranching with my family in Northwestern Colorado. My brother and I also showed cattle and rodeoed until we both graduated high school. I chose to go to the University of Wyoming in Laramie and within 3 years, I somehow managed to get a degree in Agricultural Communications and minors in both Ag Business & Animal Science. After graduating, I immediately found myself working for an Ag Tech company working as an Account Executive-moving to both South Dakota and Oregon, then back to Colorado. At this point, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I worked on the ranch and also at the local Veterinarian.


It was 2019 and I really wasn’t interested in social media, I was probably still posting over-exposed photos, wild nights out and the occasional cute newborn calf pictures. Fast forward to October 2020 - the world may have slowed down, but I was still full speed ahead haha. I had the opportunity to do a styled shoot with a number of other girls and I said what the heck and drove my little booty to Taos, NM. We shot for numerous brands and I was just having a blast, I felt totally in my element and not nervous whatsoever ( I think i’ve always been comfortable with this sort of thing since I did ballet, jazz, tap, competitive dance, etc, since I was 4 years old ) So after that shoot, I was hooked, which since has created the name some of you may be familiar with ‘Hooked AF’ Most, think the AF stands for “as fuck” which is totally understandable, but really the name came from my livestock brand and business name-it resembles a ‘Hooked A’ standing for Anna then an F for Frentress. After changing my instagram handle to ‘Hooked AF’ it felt like I was in this new-unknown industry.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


This was the first time I had ever been exposed to brands sharing photos of my first photoshoot, as well as photographers and a term I was NOT familiar with “western influencers” It was a whole new world that I had just been tossed into, but I never had the intention of diving into it as fast as I did. Looking back, I think the first Western Influencer I was following (in 2017) was Shaley who we all know as West Desperado. As far as makers and brands go, I followed Jenn-owner of Lov Leathers, as well as Savannah 7s before deciding to dip my toes into “influencer waters”


In 2021, I was working with so many fun brands and traveling to so many new places. I was also meeting the most amazing people along the way that have become dear friends to me. Never in my right mind did I believe I ever had the shot to work with brands like Lane Boots, Junk Gypsy, Spoiled Cowgirlz, Good Babes Co, Idyllwind, Wonderwest by Boot Barn, American Bonfire Co., Rods Western Palace and more, but there I was shooting and posting content like it was the only thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life…and that couldn't have been farther from the truth.

My lack of passion towards the western fashion influencing, was that I gravitated more towards entrepreneurship in the business/experience/gathering sense. So I began hosting women’s business retreats across the nation in states like Texas, Arizona and Colorado. In return, posting outfits for brands came to be slim to none with my rebrand. With this change, came other opportunities. Shaley was looking for an assistant to help her at the 2021 NFR. She and I had messaged back and forth prior to this encounter, but she reached out to me, asking how she should go about asking her followers if anyone would be interested in assisting her. I kind of had a feeling she wanted me to do it, so I told her more than likely she would get a lump sum of people messaging her that they want the job, but I don’t know how seriously they would take it. A few days later, I messaged her back and told her I would just help her out. Las Vegas 2021, I was helping Shaley with her busy schedule, content, meetings, keeping her on time, all the things and since then, we have become very close friends.


In 2022, I dove back into the influencing here and there working with brands. Fast forward to NFR 2022 and Shaley and I had the opportunity to spend the day with Milton Menasco. Both of us were spoiled with goodies from Alli and I had the honor to work with the amazing Elizabeth Hay Photography. I think it is okay to say that day was a pivotal moment in my career as Hooked AF. PEOPLE STILL TALK ABOUT THE OUTFITS. Alli knew her and I were similar in style-the Ralph Lauren Equestrian, mixed with a little edgy prep. The Paris Texas knee-high boots, western pearl snap shirt, layered with the vintage Stella McCartney, it was all perfect. I had never felt more in my element. Every outfit that I wore at NFR went along with that vibe and I couldn’t have been more comfortable and confident.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: How would you define an influencer and could you ever have seen yourself being referred to as one?


AC: In my opinion, we are all influencers in some way or another. Some of us just choose to use a social media platform to influence (speaking to a mass audience of hundreds, thousands or millions of people), whereas others do it privately or in a different way (maybe in a one-on-one interaction). The influencer that most are familiar with utilize social media to promote/sell products, clothes, services, food, anything really. According to hubspot, in 2022, the influencer market in the U.S. was valued at a record 16.4 billion. With numbers like that, I don’t believe Influencer marketing is going anywhere and it is obviously valuable to audiences across the U.S.


I laugh when people say I am an influencer because I am honestly too politically incorrect, way too honest and I also curse too much, sorry mom and dad. To this day, I still don’t see myself as one because I am not like most influencers in comparison to my personality, aspirations and horribly unhinged stories and posts.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: Staying true to YOU while in the public eye, go into depth on how important this is.


AC: THE MOST IMPORTANT!!! I hold myself to a very high standard while in the public eye because not only am I representing myself and a brand, but most importantly, my family. I am a straight shooter, what you see is what you get. People often tell me they love how authentic I am, which is great, but what baffles me is the amount of people that are creating these personas that are completely fake AF. I mean, I am not losing sleep over it because I am not out here acting like someone that I am not. But it sounds utterly exhausting doesn’t it? While in the public eye there is a certain amount of pressure I think a lot of people feel, but you should never change yourself or your beliefs to fit someone else's mold. Whether it is online or in person, I am choosing to put myself out there, on the daily, so it is up to me to hold myself accountable and I believe that goes hand in hand with staying true to myself. The outfit to me is the smallest part of my identity. It is who I am when the cameras and attention are off that really counts in life. The minute someone starts worrying about likes and followers instead of your priorities, morals and staying authentically “you” is the same minute you’ve lost yourself to a false reality.

MM: Ok, imagine for a hot second... You get to influence folks for ONE thing, what is that one thing?


AC: Giving back to your local community. It doesn’t matter how big or how small, your community always needs it and will be so thankful. One of my favorite things is visiting the Assisted Living Center to play cards and chat, help local non-profit organizations like Parker’s Platoon, organize and plan mixers for the small businesses and locals and much more when I am able to do so. Doing things without recognition is one of my favorite things, because you’re making a difference in others lives, without even “worrying” about posting it to your social media page. I hope to influence others to do good in this world, it is already filled with enough bad.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: You’ve accidentally made your mark in terms of country girls who are fashionably inclined. So forecast for us a bit, what does the fashion and trends look like for 2023? Or do you even care? Ha ha.


AC: I will care just for this! As always and super unfortunate, I don’t see bright colors and rhinestones leaving anytime soon. (I say this because I am into neutrals and that’s all) I am seeing a lot of pastels, the color of the year that we will be seeing a lot is lavender. As far as style goes, equestrian mixed with preppy chic is soooo in and I don't see that going anywhere, anytime soon. Another style is Y2K. Low rise pants, vests, denim long skirts, it is definitely a fun time for fashion. We are witnessing a time of fashion where western is ‘in”...which is honestly bananas, so all of us have such an advantage to put our own spins on the western theme, without being cliche. COWBOY BOOTS ARE A TREND FOR 2023 YOU HEARD IT HERE! Doesn’t matter if it’s a knee-high boot, or a short boot, they’re being worn with everything.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: Who / what influences you?


AC: I am not easily influenced, so my list is very small. My late grandmother, Karen Cunico, was the most amazing, kind, God-fearing woman I have ever met. Without judgment, she would take anyone in if needed and they would always be fed at her table with a smile. Constantly working hard, smiling so big and saying ‘howdy’ to everyone she crossed paths with. If you knew her, you loved her. My family also influences me heavily. They are the few I trust to keep me in line. Whenever I need advice or ask for an opinion, I run to them to get my head straight. They’ve always supported me and my wild dreams, without hesitation. My family is my rock. The hardest working people I know. Lastly, “you are the company you keep” so everyone in my circle influences me. I keep my circle small and I remain unbothered. I remind myself, I don’t need thousands of people cheering me on, just the people I care about. In turn, it makes for great friendships and positive influence.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: Plans for your new found status? Like, where is Anna at in 5 years (such a lame job interview question).


AC: In 5 years, I pray I am still radiating with positivity and helping others along the way! Regardless of what that entails or what job that may be. For now, I will keep on keepin’ on with my company Hooked AF and I'll remain grateful for the many adventures that this business will take me on. I have extremely exciting opportunities that I am looking forward to this year and for that, I am overjoyed! I’ll be supporting my community and I am hopeful that in 5 years, I will still be hosting events, as well as partnering with incredible brands. I have been pretty dang blessed in these short 27 years on this planet and I learn something new every day, life is pretty interesting that way. I guess in short, everyday I have the opportunity to be better than the day before. As long as I am trying to better myself every day, that’s all I can ask for. Regardless of status, position, title, or salary…good health and happiness is really all I need, whether that be tomorrow or 5 years from now.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: Five random facts about you.


AC: 1. Skydiving is on my bucket list, hoping to get it crossed off this year. 2. I LOVE bowling. 3. I have coded and developed mobile apps. 4. I have a White Jeep Grand Cherokee and her name is Elizabeth Warren. No explanation needed. 5. Taco Bell is my favorite place to eat if/when it is accessible to me. I will pass up a nice, sit-down dinner if there is a T-Bell nearby.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.


MM: What makes you cringe on the internet?


AC: People that cry on their Instagram stories/ TikToks and also people that use FaceTune on all of their photos and claim to be “filter free” drives me up a wall.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.

Photographed by Elizabeth Hay Photography.

MM: Anything epic planned for 2023 that people need to be aware of?


AC: Yes :) I have a couple amazing opportunities planned with a couple brands that I have built strong relationships with. Not only do I only work with those who strongly fit my style, but also I feel these are all very natural and authentic…including none other than my favorite, Milton Menasco. However, at the beginning of the year I already started out a partnership with one of my favorite people and brands- Lov Leathers. Jenn and I rolled out our first bag in the Hooked AF x Lov Leathers collab early January 2023 (It Sold Out within 24 hours, which blew our minds). We sat on her couch in Saratoga, WY, sippin’ on a celebratory glass of wine while we watched a true crime documentary haha. This was just the beginning of a number of bags that will be curated and sold throughout the year. Vol. 2 is expected to drop mid April. It has been so fun sketching designs and sending them to Jenn to work her magic, she is one of the most talented women I know.

Another exciting event I have planned for this year is my Mountain Mixers. The Mountain Mixers began in Fall 2022, I just wrapped up my second mixer in March. My goal with these Mountain Mixers is to bring the community together to shop and network, while also enjoying delicious food and drinks. The mixers are an exclusive event that occurs seasonally in Grand County, CO. Small businesses all come together and offer incredible discounts and prices for an elevated attendee experience. Some businesses include medspa, boutiques, massage therapists and makers/creators and more. I love bringing people together to connect and network. I fully believe that we can learn so much from a person with just one conversation. Living in such a small community, I started these because I saw a lack of gathering/connecting, especially among all of the incredible people in Grand County. Now that I have two of these mixers under my belt, there is a demand from people far and wide to attend. At my last event, 2 girls traveled all the way from New England to shop, network and enjoy the beautiful Colorado Mountains.

Need more Anna? Give her a follow at @hooked.af.

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