If you're looking for a textbook example of overnight celebrity, you couldn't do much better than Ali Landry. Landry became a sensation in 1998 when she starred in an ad for Doritos that aired during the Super Bowl and also starred a pre-"Will & Grace" Sean Hayes.
The ad featured Landry performing stunts in a laundromat, much to the delight of her male admirers. To say it helped launch Landry's career would be a huge understatement; the ad changed everything. We caught up with the onetime Miss USA, who has since become a successful businesswoman, to talk about her memories of that famous ad, the scar it left behind, as well as what she's up to now.
The Doritos commercial is one of the iconic ads in Super Bowl history. How did it happen?
I hadn't had many auditions. I'm from a small town in Louisiana. Los Angeles was very overwhelming. I remember walking into this room with wall-to-wall gorgeous girls. And I remember thinking, "I'm not up for this today." I looked at the storyboards. They said, "You sort of have to dance around and do these tricks to James Bond music and pretend you're catching something with your mouth."
I was into dancing and gymnastics my entire life. And I think this is where my experience played a big part. And I got the job. I couldn't believe it. It was my very first commercial. They told me it was going to be on during the Super Bowl. I don't think I'd ever watched the Super Bowl before. My father's a big football fan, but I didn't know the commercials during the Super Bowl were a big deal.
So, we shot the commercial, and it was great and really fun, and I just thought it was really cool that I got a job. And then literally the next day, I had people calling me to see if I could sing, because they wanted to offer me a record deal. It was that crazy.
So there was a series of commercials.
Right. The first one was in a laundromat, and the next was on a tennis court. When we shot the one on the tennis court, they had to glue, with surgical glue, a chip to my forehead, and then they pulled it off with fishing wire. And then, for the commercial, they ran the footage in reverse. Well, I still have that scar from the chip. So, I always say, "I will be forever scarred by Doritos."
So you knew the commercial, the first one, was going to air during the Super Bowl?
I had heard that, but it didn't really faze me because I didn't know the significance of it. I didn't know that these were coveted roles. I didn't know people waited every single year to see what commercials were great. I had no idea.
I remember being at a Super Bowl party, and I didn't tell anyone that the commercial was going to be on. I just really didn't think it was such a big deal. So when it came on and I'm sitting with people who didn't know I was going to be on a commercial during the Super Bowl, and I saw everyone's reaction, it was a bit shocking for me.
Is there anything you regret about those commercials?
No, no, I loved it. It's fun when you're involved with something that people really respond to. Even four or five years after the commercials, people would still say, "Doritos girl." And I didn't mind, because I really had such an incredible experience. People look back on that commercial with really fond memories. For me to be a part of that, it's a good thing. And I've done so many things since then, I'm grateful.
So, you went to L.A. to become an actress. The Doritos commercials must have sped up the process quite a bit.
Actually, I never had aspirations to be an actress. I was in college in Louisiana. I was determined to not have my job be one where I bring somebody coffee. That was really important to me. I was not cut out for that.
I wanted to compete in Miss USA because I figured I could meet some great people and get a good job. After Miss USA, that brought me out to L.A. I wasn't even really interested in signing with an agency, but a friend of mine from Louisiana worked at William Morris. I met the agent, and I remembered I totally botched up the interview, because I said I wanted to be a businesswoman.
Then, after the Doritos commercial aired and I started getting all these calls, it forced me to re-evaulate my goals and look at the opportunities that were in front of me at the time. That's when I decided to get into acting. Even as a child, I've been involved with everything. I performed, and I danced, so it was definitely something I always enjoyed, but it wasn't my goal.
And what are you up to now? You now have a children's clothing line, correct?
I do have a children's clothing line. I just sold my very first television show. That's going to be on the TV Guide Network. I have a product review website I'm about to launch, called 'Spokesmoms.' I feel like, over the past two years, I've come into my own. I have a family now. I feel like I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do.
It sounds like you were right when you said you wanted to be a businesswoman. Because that's what you are today.
Yes. I do love that. But I also love creating things. It's very exciting to me to go out and sell a project, pitch a project.
It's fair to say your life has changed dramatically since the Doritos days.
Yes, dramatically. But I would have to say Doritos really opened the door for me.
Would you ever consider doing another commercial for Doritos, a sequel?
If they would have me, I would absolutely do it.