When Wendy Kaufman, an energetic young Snapple employee with no acting experience, became the face of Snapple’s national advertising campaign in the early ‘90s, it was a defining moment for both Kaufman and the company.
“It was definitely controversial,” Kaufman told “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” over the weekend. “There were fights in the main office. ‘How are you going to take the fat girl from the order department and put her on national TV?!’”
But, Kaufman says, it’s a good thing they did ― not just because the “Snapple Lady” campaign was a boon for the business, but because the gig is part of what saved her from nearly a decade of severe cocaine use.
“I did try coke, and I loved it,” Kaufman reveals. “I started to do cocaine in 1980, right after I graduated college. By 1989, I could press my cheek and blood would come out of my nose. I was so sick that it really did bring me to my knees.”
Nine years into addiction, Kaufman was desperate for her drug abuse to end.
“I said to God, on my knees, hysterical crying, ‘Either kill me or please, please help me get well. I cannot live like this for one second longer,’” she says.
In 1991, Kaufman became known as the “Snapple Lady,” which she credits as helping her overcome her addiction. “What most people don’t know about me [is] Snapple was much more than a job. It was a lifeline and it was a way for me to stay sober,” Kaufman says. “And it was a vehicle to do wonderful, nice things for other people.”
People who watched Kaufman in her commercials seemed to become instant fans.
“People just loved me and I remember crying, literally, like, ‘What did I do to myself? What did I do to myself for all these years?’” Kaufman says, tearing up. “So, the addiction was great because, in a way, in made me really look at myself and re-evaluate everything.”
Kaufman re-evaluated things once again when she and Snapple parted ways in 2008, after nearly 17 years together. It was hard at first, she admits, to let go of her professional identity. “I’m the ‘Snapple Lady’ without being the ‘Snapple Lady,’” she says. “I had to embrace that the personal part of me was far greater than the Snapple persona and that it was time to move on.”
Kaufman is now writing a book about her time as the “Snapple Lady” and her experience with addiction. She currently lives in Massachusetts and also keeps busy by working on the patio furniture business managed by her husband, an old college friend whom she reconnected with and married in 2004.
“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. You can also watch full episodes ― like Kaufman’s ― on demand via the Watch OWN app.
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