What Ever Happened to These Popular Commercial Stars?
Remember Lily, the AT&T girl? What about the Dell guy and the Snapple Lady? We’re all wondering where they are today. They became household names and mascots for the brands they represented and we stars of our screens during the commercial breaks. Some of the most famous commercial stars faded from the limelight but others took their newfound notoriety and built amazing careers. What are they doing nowadays? Let us take you on a journey of some of the most famous commercial celebrities throughout history. Find out all about who they were, how they got there, and what they’re up to today.
1. Crazy Target Lady
Maria Bamford had an already successful career prior to jumping into commercials but it wasn’t until she starred as “The Crazy Target Lady” that she really became a household name. Bamford played a hyperactive overachieving Target shopper with all the tips and tricks for being first in line for the big sales.
Bamford has stirred up controversy for her comedy, which includes darker subjects such as suicide and psychiatric conditions, both topics she has personally experienced. Her life story was made into a Netflix original series entitled Lady Dynamite, starring Bamford as the lead role.
2. Cindy Crawford
Supermodel Cindy Crawford became a television sensation with her 1992 Super Bowl Pepsi commercial. The ad introduced the new design of Pepsi cans and featured Crawford standing in front of a soft-drink machine drinking a Pepsi.
The cut off jean shorts she wore in the commercial became iconic. Crawford revealed in an interview that she had simply worn a pair of jeans to the set and the director asked if they could cut them. She was at one point the highest paid supermodel on the planet.
3. Dirty Mouth?
English-born actress Vanessa Branch is best known to American audiences as the Orbit Gum Girl. Branch traveled around the world to clean-up people’s mouths from ridiculous and bizarre situations, such as having dirty hot tub water sprayed in your mouth by a vindictive assistant.
Branch starred in Orbit commercials from 2006 through 2010, when she was replaced by actress Farris Patton. Branch made acting appearances on Lost, Gilmore Girls, Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Trek: Voyager. She is also a model and was featured in the Girls of Maxim gallery in 2006.
4. So Easy A Caveman Could Do It
Ever wondered what that Geico caveman looks like in real-life? Well, here he is. The caveman is none other than actor John Lehr. The ads featured cavemen constantly being insulted by Geico representatives due to their slogan “So easy a caveman can do it.”
Lehr has stated that the caveman makeup took around three hours to apply. Even though his actual face didn’t appear in the commercials, it definitely helped boost his career. Prior to acting Lehr actually taught elementary school. He holds a teaching certificate and graduated from Northwestern University.
5. The Dr. Pepper Girl
Donna Loren is a singer and actress who was the “Dr. Pepper Girl” from 1963 to 1968. Everywhere there was Dr. Pepper, Loren was there. In fact, she made so many appearances on TV, film, magazines, billboards and radio commercials that her career soared.
During Loren’s reign as “Dr. Pepper Girl,” the company reached its highest sales gains in history for that time. Today, Loren is working on recording projects and songwriting. She has released a large number of YouTube videos and is also writing a full memoir of her life and career.
6. The Subway Guy
Jared Fogle rocketed to fame by losing 245 pounds by eating Subway subs. He became the spokesperson for the company for around 15 years for what Men’s Health magazine called the “stupid diet that works.” Prior to his diet, Fogle weighed 425 pounds and had difficulty walking across his college campus.
Fogle appeared in over 300 commercials for Subway and during his reign as “the Subway guy,” he helped the company triple its revenue. He first came to the attention of the media in April, 1999 when his former dormmate wrote about Fogle’s weight loss in an article published on the student-run newspaper Indiana Daily Student.
7. Smell Like A Man
Isaiah Mustafa was a relatively unknown football player who rose to TV fame after appearing in Old Spice’s “smell like a man, man,” campaign. In the ads, a towel-clad Mustafa showed off his rock hard bod while giving monologues targeting women to buy Old Spice body wash in order to make their men smell like the attractive actor.
Mustafa is an avid fan of comic books and hopes to play the role of superhero Luke Cage one day. His knowledge of superheroes even helped him with $47,000 on The Weakest Link. His winnings helped support his acting career. He currently stars as a werewolf on the supernatural drama series Shadowhunters.
8. Call Me Now
Jamaican Psychic Miss Cleo, real name Youree Dell Harris, was, unfortunately, neither Jamaican nor a psychic. Yes, we know it’s shocking. The infomercial psychic gave readings over the phone and the first three minutes were “free.”
No, of course, it wasn’t free. Miss Cleo quickly became a lawsuit magnet and the owners of the Psychic Readers Network were indicted for deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices. Internet users have described her fake accent as an odd “Irish-Jamaican.” Sadly she passed away in 2016 after a long struggle with cancer.
9. Just Do It
As one of the most famous basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan certainly needed no help from TV commercials. But his appearances and contracts with Nike for his Air Jordan shoes, introduced in 1985, still have him raking in the cash well into his retirement and the foreseeable future.
According to Forbes, Nike’s Jordan revenues were at $2.8 billion at the end of the 2016 fiscal year. You can be sure that he is seeing an enormous amount of money from those deals. Jordan’s line of shoes became so popular they caused a wave of crime and “shoe-jackings.”
10. The Pepsi Girl
Anyone who lived through the ’90s remembers the iconic and adorable Pepsi Girl. Her actual name is Hallie Kate Eisenberg. The classic commercials featured the Pepsi Girl at various locations ordering a Pepsi, only to be told they only had Coca-Cola.
Presented with the option of only coke, the sweet little girl turned into a threatening Godfather character. In the end, she always got her Pepsi. Eisenberg continued acting in films, including Paulie and Bicentennial Man until 2010 when she took a hiatus to pursue a college degree. Still today, her face is recognizable by most in the US. Her brother, Jesse Eisenberg, is also an actor.
11. Paul Marcarelli
Anytime the phrase “can you hear me now” is mentioned, this guy comes to mind. Paul Marcarelli, the popular Verizon spokesperson, is an American actor and screenwriter from Connecticut. He was named one of the “most intriguing people of 2002” by Entertainment Weekly.
In what seemed like a bizarre turn of events, Marcarelli became a spokesperson for rival provider Sprint in 2016. In one of the commercials for Sprint he even appears alongside his husband, Ryan. Who else had an intriguing career thanks to commercials?
12. Flo the Salesperson
Stephanie Courtney has starred in over 100 commercials for the insurance company Progressive, appearing as the fictional salesperson Flo. The character is a delightfully upbeat and perky salesperson with a retro hairdo and heavy makeup. Flo turned into a cult icon and even inspired Halloween costumes in her likeness.
In real life, Courtney grew up in Stony Point, New York and earned a degree in English from Binghamton University. She moved to New York City right after graduation to pursue a career in acting. She performed mainly in the theatre and eventually moved to Los Angeles where she was discovered in a comedy club performing stand-up.
13. How’s Your Credit?
Remember that nerdy guy who seemed to be eternally plagued by bad credit? His name is Eric Violette and was the spokesperson for freecreditreport.com. The Washington Post described his character in the ads as “the kind of guy who always has bad luck.”
The commercials became iconic hits for their campy genre-specific jiggles and bad luck situations. Unfortunately though, the man you hear singing in the commercials is actually jiggle-writer Dave Muhlenfeld. The producers felt that Violette sounded “too foreign” with his heavy French-Canadian accent.
Dean Winters played the role of Dennis Duffy on 30 Rock prior to becoming the memorable Allstate spokesperson in their “Mayhem” campaign. Or maybe you remember him from his full frontal scene in Oz. Winters initially turned down the offer from Allstate because he didn’t want to “put on a suit and sell insurance.”
His agent eventually convinced him to take the gig and the commercials became wildly successful. In 2009, Winters went into cardiac arrest and was technically dead for two full minutes before being revived by paramedics.
15. Farrah Fawcett
Bombshell Farrah Fawcett is one of the greatest TV stars of all time. Before her career breakthrough role on Charlie’s Angels, she could be found starring in highly sexualized commercials for Noxzema shaving cream. The ads featured Fawcett lavishly smearing shaving cream on a man’s face in the bathroom.
The commercial was shot from various angles that made it look like she might not be wearing any clothes at all. As if that was not sexual enough, her catchphrase was “Let Noxzema cream your face.”
16. Stop Calling Me!
British actor Jake Wood played the voice of the cute Geico gecko for 10 years. Rumors say that he was let go after a pay dispute with the insurance giant. Wood apparently refused a pay cut. After Geico hired a new voice actor for the gecko, the internet exploded with rage.
In the UK, Wood is better known for his longstanding role as Max Branning on EastEnders. The British soap opera has pumped out over 5,500 episodes. If you find yourself missing his voice and can imagine him as something other than a gecko, check out the wildly popular show.
17. The Pine-Sol Lady
Diane Amos has been the face of Pine-Sol cleaner for over two decades. Anyone who owns a TV would immediately recognize her on the street. She’s known for her pro cleaning tips and quick wit. Apart from her Pine-Sol career, Amos is an actress and comedian.
Maybe you didn’t notice her but she’s been in a number of box-office hits such as Patch Adams, Sweet November, Copycat and Blue Jasmine, just to name a few. Also, financially she’s been cleaning up pretty nicely with her tagline “That’s the cleaning power of Pine-Sol, baby!”
18. The Snapple Woman
Wendy Kaufman, better known as “The Snapple Lady,” gained her commercial role after working for Snapple and being the only employee who took an interest in responding to fan mail. As such, in the commercials, she would read a fan letter and have the writer make a guest appearance.
Kaufman’s commercials were well received and she helped, in part, to increase company sales from $23 million a year to $750 million in 1995. She has been outspoken about her past drug addiction and works to spread awareness. Kaufman was fired by Snapple in 2008 after she refused to sign a new contract that she said was “one-sided and worth nothing.”
19. The T-Mobile Girl
Canadian model and actress Carly Foulkes catapulted to fame in 2010 when she became “The T-Mobile Girl.” She starred as spokesperson for the cellular provider through 2013 although she still makes the occasional appearance. Foulkes is best known for her magenta dresses and outfits.
Business Insider named Foulkes “one of the most recognizable brand spokespeople,” and since the airing of her first commercial, she has become a popular sex symbol. She has stated in interviews that she is flattered by the label but definitely does not classify herself as such.
20. Lily Adams
Milana Vayntrub has played the AT&T salesperson Lily Adams since 2013. Her family immigrated to the US from Tashkent, Uzbekistan when she was three years old. Growing up she starred in Mattel Barbie commercials to help out with her family.
Apart from her long-running AT&T commercial appearances, Vayntrub is an actress and comedian. She has appeared in a wide array of television roles on series such as ER, Days of Our Lives, Californiacation, Silicon Valley and Other Space. In the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, Vayntrub played the role of Subway Rat Woman.
21. Beer or Tequila?
Jonathan Goldsmith was known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” from 2006 to 2016 in Dos Equis beer commercials. His ads led to a 15.4 percent boost in sales for the company in 2009. Nowadays he’s better known as a popular meme.
Goldsmith jumped off the Dos Equis bandwagon in 2016, only to return to TV advertising in 2017. But this time with tequila! He is now the spokesperson for Astral tequila and even makes a quip in the ad about “not always drinking beer.”
22. What Are You Wearing?
You will be pleased to know that Jake from State Farm is actually named Jake Stone in real life and he really works for State Farm. According to Stone, one of his friends in marketing suggested him for the commercial, even though he didn’t have any formal acting experience. In the commercial, a husband is caught talking to someone on the phone at 3 am. The wife takes the phone, thinking that its another woman on the other end, and asks “what are you wearing?” Jake from State Farm simply responds, “khakis.”
The commercial was a massive hit and Stone became a household name almost overnight. The pop culture sensation appeared in a sequel of the same commercial a few years later but featuring coneheads calling planet State Farm at three in the morning.
23. I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
Edith Fore will forever be known for her famous line “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” in Life Call commercials. Fore played the role of “Mrs. Fletcher,” promoting the lifesaving emergency alert device. What you may not know though, is that before making her commercial appearance, her life was actually saved by Life Call.
After falling and hitting her head, Fore activated her Life Call device and relayed her now-famous line to the dispatcher. Life Call notified paramedics and her family, saving her life. Her appearance in the commercials was not as an actor, but as a testimonial.
24. Go Daddy Kiss
Jesse Heiman kissing Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli is the Super Bowl commercial from web hosting company GoDaddy you wish you could forget. For an unbearable 10 seconds the two locked lips, making audiences cringe nation-wide. “It was like kissing paradise. Like kissing God’s hands,” Heiman told the New York Daily News.
The couple reportedly took around 60 retakes of the awkward kissing scene. They also made two other versions of the commercial that were rejected by CBS for being “too indecent.” So maybe we dodged a bullet there.
25. Better Than Rancid Milk
Orlando Jones’ career started to take off during his role in the original cast of sketch comedy show MADtv. During that time, he also landed his a role as spokesperson for 7-Up. He reigned as the lemon-lime soft drink pusher from 1999 to 2002.
One of his ads featured Jones giving taste tests to blindfolded guests, a spoof of the Pepsi challenge, but instead of taste testing against the obvious Sprite, they were given liquids such as rancid milk and dishwater. Classic. Today, Jones is still acting, most recently he has appeared in TV series such as Sleepy Hollow and American Gods.
26. Life Cereal
Little Mikey, Mikey John Gilchrist, began starring in Life cereal commercials in 1972. The campaign was so popular that it was aired for over 12 years, making it one of the longest running commercials ever. A few sequels were also produced in the ’80s with a college student Gilchrist.
Little Mikey is all grown up now and is the director of media sales for the MSG TV network, based in New York. He has stated that he doesn’t really remember filming the popular commercial since he was around three and a half years old at the time. And yes, Gilchrist says he still enjoys Life cereal and keeps it around the house.
27. Mean Joe Greene
Mean Joe Greene is considered one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL, but for many, he is also known for his Coca-Cola commercial. Coca-Cola aired their “hey kid, catch!” campaign during Super Bowl XIV in 1980.
Greene came to be known as a “tough football player who’s a nice guy,” breaking his reputation for being hostile and unapproachable. After his football career ended, Greene went on to become an assistant coach for the Steelers, then the Dolphins and the Cardinals before retiring.
28. Apple 1984
Anya Major is an English athlete, actress, model and singer who appeared in Apple’s 1984 commercial to introduce the first Macintosh PC. The commercial portrayed a dystopian future similar to that of George Orwell’s novel 1984.
In the commercial Major raced down streets and into a theater carrying a giant hammer. She threw the hammer into a screen showing Big Brother. The commercial was used to quell the fear that computers would enslave mankind. After the commercial, Apple received a cease-and-desist letter from the estate of George Orwell.
29. The Dime Lady
Candice Bergen is a world-renowned actress and model. While starring as the lead role on the television sitcom Murphy Brown, Bergen became the spokesperson for Sprint telephone commercials. She was commonly referred to as the “Dime Lady,“ not for selling dime bags of drugs but because Sprint’s rate was 10 cents a minute.
Bergen already had a successful modeling and acting career prior to starring in Sprint commercials but the additional publicity certainly helped her further her career. She went on to host her own show on the Oxygen network and has appeared in endless films and television series.
30. Easy As Dell
Ben Curtis quickly became a national sensation as the “Dell Dude” in the early 2000s. He starred in around 26 different Dell commercials, all including his famous catchphrase, “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell!” He was fired from the role after being arrested on marijuana charges in 2003.
He was caught by an undercover policeman who was following a known drug dealer. Curtis was caught on the street wearing a kilt, buying drugs from a guy on a bicycle… Not suspicious at all. After that, he went through a bit of a rough patch finding work. He stated in an interview that he felt “blacklisted.” But recently he’s been making an acting comeback and even started his own wellness company. His main goal, according to himself, is to land a role on Orange is the New Black. Hopefully we’ll be seeing him soon.
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