Wendy Kaufman On The Spot

Snapple’s “Letters” campaign, in which Wendy Kaufman read mail from customers, ended in 1995, but the “Snapple Lady” is still passionately dedicated to the company and her fans. Although she was laid off when Quaker Oats bought Snapple in 1994, Kaufman remained a cheerleader for the brand and was hired in 1996 as a consultant for Snapple’s then-owner, Triac. These days, the 46-year-old Long Island native is making spots for Snapple again, this time providing voiceovers in new ads by Cliff Freeman and Partners, and is appearing in two VH1 shows, I Love the 90s and Celebrity Fit Club.

Q: How is it being back as the Snapple Lady?

A: I have really missed it. That’s not to say I haven’t still been doing work with Snapple. But I’ve really missed the consumers, and to be back in the fold is just an awesome gift.

Are people recognizing you again?

I recently had the best week of my life: I got to help close the New York Stock Exchange. Ringing that bell is the most exciting thing in the whole wide world. And everywhere I went, all the guys were yelling, “Yo, Snapple Lady! Yo, Wendy!” Jack Belsito, the president of [Snapple], said, “Oh my God, it’s like walking with a rock star.”

Why were you dropped by Quaker?

I probably got as big as the brand, and I think [Quaker] was uneasy about that—that they didn’t develop me, and they didn’t come up with me. But I’m completely loyal to the brand. I love it like it was my own, because it basically to me is my baby. I don’t have children, but I have millions and millions of bottles everywhere.

What work are you the most proud of?

The “Letters” campaign with Kirshenbaum and Bond. It was something that came out of the blue, something that was completely unexpected. It was the greatest learning curve in my life. I just felt so loved and embraced by so many. It’s definitely a time I look back at with reverence and love. I miss so much of it. But of course, life does go on.

Would you consider doing a non-beverage commercial?

I would never do, obviously, another beverage. But the only thing I used to be addicted to is Cheez Doodles. I’m a huge fan of Cheez Doodles. Ironically, I’m also a huge fan of the Cadbury Crème Eggs. I might have a little toe in the door, [as Cadbury now owns Snapple].

You’ve also been a staple on VH1 lately.

This was a crazy year, because I also got married. We got a phone call right before the wedding from the VH1 people that they wanted me to be part of I Love the 90s. I had such a great experience, they called me again and asked me to be part of a show called Celebrity Fit Club. I had lost 30 pounds for my wedding, and 20 of it suddenly emerged out of nowhere again. I thought, you know what, they’re giving me a chance to get paid to get in shape and healthy again. I decided to do it. It was totally one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. To get weighed on national television is not an easy thing to do. Thank God I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, although I have too much of it. It was just a wonderful, exhilarating experience. And it turns out the show is a big hit.

If you weren’t working for Snapple, what would you be doing?

There’s a movie right now opening at the Sarasota Film Festival. It’s called Funny Valentine. I did a cameo appearance in that. So I love doing little cameo appearances. I would never want the stress of being a major player, but I love popping in. I was also in Vegas Vacation with Chevy Chase.

What was the last ad you saw that you liked?

It was funny, when I was so upset about not working anymore, I was getting jealous of the Pine Sol lady. I think Jared has a great gig going for Subway. His story is a similar story to mine—not exactly the same, but very, very cool. He loved his product, and he ended up becoming famous, and people just can relate to him because he’s a real person. Maybe one of these days if I’m really lucky, someone will give me an American Express card, so I can be like Ellen Degeneres and Robert De Niro.

What’s the smartest business decision you ever made?

The first year of the “Letters” campaign, I was a private corporate citizen at my desk. And what happened was at the end of the first year, we got a call from The Joan Rivers Show. She was on in New York, and syndicated, I think. And she had called to ask if I would go on her show. And that was really the moment where I had to make a decision whether I should just sit at my desk and answer the letters or maybe try and see what would happen if I took risk and went on TV. That risk paid off in spades.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

You just don’t realize sometimes when windows of opportunity open. Just to pay attention always, and just think about that—there’s always consequences to everything you do. Some consequences can be the most rewarding things in the entire world, while others are maybe a little trying. But whatever it is, you’re going to learn.

Describe yourself in three words.

Exuberant, grateful and fun.

Which three words would others use?

Loud. Decisive. Loving.

What’s your biggest fear?

Not to have a relationship with Snapple. If there was just nothing, no bond, I think I would be devastated.