Peloton ad actress speaks out about her viral infamy

"To say I was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention this week (especially the negative) is an understatement," said the actress, Monica Ruiz.
Caption: Monica Ruiz in the Peloton ad called "The Gift That Gives Back."
Monica Ruiz in the Peloton ad called "The Gift That Gives Back."Peloton

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By Kalhan Rosenblatt

The woman at the heart of the fervor over a holiday commercial for cycling fitness brand Peloton has finally spoken out.

The Peloton ad — which was released in November but recently went viral — earned the ire of the internet, and the actress at the center of the controversy has now been identified by Deadline as Monica Ruiz.

Ruiz said her viral fame is something she never anticipated.

"I was happy to accept a job opportunity earlier this year from Peloton and the team was lovely to work with," Ruiz said in a statement to Deadline through her agency, LA Talent. "Although I’m an actress, I am not quite comfortable being in spotlight and I’m terrible on social media. So to say I was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention this week (especially the negative) is an understatement."

The actress went viral a second time when she appeared in an ad for Aviation Gin, a liquor brand owned by actor Ryan Reynolds, that poked fun at the Peloton ad.

Ruiz said the follow up advertisement helped the actress cope with the overwhelming situation.

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“When Ryan and his production team called about Aviation Gin, they helped me find some humor in the situation," Ruiz said. "I am grateful to both Peloton and now Aviation Gin for the work and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do."

In the Peloton ad, Ruiz plays a wife whose husband has purchased her the stationary cycling bike as a gift. Throughout the commercial, Ruiz's character documents her "fitness journey" in videos.

She's shown to go from dreading riding the bike to loving it, culminating in a video she shows her husband of a montage of videos she's taken while on the Peloton.

At the end of the ad, titled "The Gift That Gives Back," she remarks: "I didn't realize how much this would change me."

Twitter users dragged the commercial, calling it "creepy," "disturbing," and "cringeworthy," with some implying it was sexist and classist.

Peloton said in a statement that it was "disappointed" its holiday commercial had been "misinterpreted."

“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.

“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”

Peloton also saw shares drop after the backlash to its advertisement reached full force.

The follow-up advertisement for Aviation Gin shows Ruiz reprising her role as the wife, but this time she appears to have escaped her husband with the help of two friends.

Reynolds tweeted the 41-second advertisement with the phrase, "Exercise bike not included."

But Sean Hunter, the actor who played the husband in the Peloton spot, appeared to find less humor in the situation than Reynolds and Ruiz.

“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."