Peloton actress on ad's viral infamy: 'Honestly, I think it was just my face'

The ad featuring a wife whose husband gave her the stationary bike as a gift was widely panned as sexist.

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By Ben Kesslen

The actress in a now infamous Peloton commercial spoke out about the viral ad exclusively on the “TODAY” show Thursday, saying she thinks the reaction to the commercial was largely in response to her facial expressions.

"Honestly, I think it was just my face," said actress Monica Ruiz, saying her expression in response to the gift of the stationary bike from her husband looked fearful.

"My eyebrows look, like, worried, I guess," Ruiz said. "People were like, 'She looks scared.'"

Monica Ruiz is pictured in this screengrab from "The Gift That Gives Back" exercise bike commercial by Peloton.Peloton / Reuters

The ad, which was made in November but went viral recently, featured Ruiz playing a wife whose husband has purchased her the piece of fitness equipment as a gift. Ruiz’s character subsequently documents her “fitness journey" in the ad, which is titled, “The Gift That Gives Back.” The wife says, "I didn't realize how much this would change me."

On social media, many people roasted the ad, calling it sexist and classist.

Ruiz said she didn't expect that reaction, and then was surprised that the backlash did not blow over quickly.

"I'm telling you it was my face, that was the problem, and it just exploded from there," she said.

Peloton responded to the criticism, saying in a statement that it was "disappointed" its holiday commercial had been "misinterpreted."

When asked about the ad by NBC News on Monday, Peloton CEO John Foley said: “That was last week.”

In a follow-up to the Peloton ad, Ruiz appeared in a commercial for Aviation Gin, a liquor brand owned by actor Ryan Reynolds, that poked fun at the Peloton ad.

Ruiz is shown is the liquor ad downing a martini, presumably from the stress of her viral fame. Reynolds tweeted the 41-second advertisement with the phrase, "Exercise bike not included."

The actress said her first reaction to the proposal that she do the liquor ad was, "Oh, I don't think so," because she said she had an "amazing experience" shooting the Peloton commercial and didn't want to look like she was mocking the company.

But she said that she was assured that the gin ad "was an idea that was just taking air out of the situation."

Reynolds joined Ruiz on the "TODAY" show, saying he wanted to make a funny ad "without contributing to the divide."

“For us it seemed like a no-brainer," Reynolds said of the gin ad. "It was a lot of fun to do, and it was a rush. We did this thing in 36 hours."

Ruiz, a mother of two, said she hopes the backlash to the Peloton ad won't limit her acting opportunities. "I hope people can remember that I'm not actually the Peloton lady and let me work other jobs."

Sean Hunter, the actor who played the husband in the Peloton spot, didn’t seem to find humor in the situation.

“People turned down a pretty dark path, and it turned into a nasty thing,” the actor told "Good Morning America" in an interview. "Once something goes viral, and it turns viral, people jump on that negative bandwagon and start to create any dialogue they want."