The star of Peloton’s controversial bike commercial isn’t backpedaling her participation in the now-infamous ad. But she does want everyone to know she’s OK.
In her first live interview since the ad went viral, actress Monica Ruiz addressed the controversy Thursday on the “Today” show, weighing in on the debate about whether its narrative sends harmful and offensive messages.
During the conversation, she also dished on her latest project, for which she was scouted by blockbuster star Ryan Reynolds.
“Last week, I started getting all these messages from friends and family, and it was just links and screenshots of, ‘Everyone’s really upset,’ and I’m like, ‘About what?’” Ruiz said, recalling the moment she first heard of the Peloton backlash. “And I’m starting to read some of it, and some of it was really negative, so I’m like, ‘OK, I can’t read any more.’ So I stopped reading it, thinking it’s going to blow over, but it didn’t really blow over as quickly as I thought it would.”
In the polarizing holiday commercial, Ruiz’s character receives a stationary Peloton bike from her partner as a gift. After enthusiastically accepting her present, the already healthy and trim woman goes on to document her fitness journey, which she later presents to her proud partner in a compilation video.
Responses to the promo were mixed. Many slammed it as creepy and sexist, arguing that a man has no business trying to steer his partner’s exercise habits. Others found it innocuous, accusing its critics of over-analyzing the 30-second ad.
Nothing says “maybe you should lose a few pounds” like gifting your already rail thin life partner a Peloton pic.twitter.com/E2M9gFdD5A— Siraj Hashmi (@SirajAHashmi) December 2, 2019
I would love a #peloton bike as a Christmas gift from my husband. I think it’s a sweet commercial. Why the hate?— Camille Meyer (@TheRealCamilleG) December 10, 2019
Much of the cycling startup’s skeptics hinged their disapproval on a single frame from the commercial in which Ruiz’s character turns on the selfie camera before pedaling away on her new equipment, flashing a “nervous” smile.
“I think it was my fault. My eyebrows looked worried, I guess? People were like, ‘She looks scared!’” Ruiz said, laughing. “I’m telling you, it was my face. That was the problem. And it just exploded from there.”
Ruiz also explained why she was reluctant, at first, to give on-camera interviews about the ad, never expecting the conversation to persist so far beyond the initial social-media reaction.
“I’m like, ‘Maybe I should just wait for it to blow over,’ and then it won’t just seem like I’m trying to keep myself in the press and in the news,” she said. “When it didn’t blow over, and people started answering for me, and I saw some articles where they grabbed some stuff from very old interviews, I was like, ‘OK. I’ll just let everyone know I’m fine. I’m OK. I’m not in rehab for mental health anywhere.’”
Later in the segment, Reynolds joined Ruiz to chat about a recent commercial he made for his liquor brand, Aviation Gin, as a response to the Peloton spot. After a colleague showed him the viral video, the “Deadpool” star began devising a way to capitalize on the moment, inviting Ruiz to star in the project.
“I watched [the Peloton ad]. I went, ‘Oh, wow. I see why there’s some backlash,’” Reynolds recalled. “I said, ‘Can we just send her a year’s supply of gin.’ ... And then that sort of evolved from there. We love acknowledging and playing with the cultural landscape, and we thought this is a great opportunity to do something.”
The Aviation commercial plays like a sort of sequel to Peloton’s, in which a seemingly distraught Ruiz indirectly reprises her role as the “Peloton wife,” downing drinks at the bar with her girlfriends, who tell her, “You look great, by the way!”
While Ruiz thanked Reynolds for the opportunity, she insisted she’s ready to move on.
“I hope people can just see me as an actress, because that’s what I am,” she said. “I hope people can remember that I’m not actually the Peloton lady and let me work other jobs.”