While you may not recognize Vanessa Branch's name, you almost certainly know her face and voice. Anyone who's turned on a TV in the past eight years has seen the actress as the blond, perky Orbit gum spokeswoman with gleaming teeth that are the color of pearls. Somewhere between a 1970s flight attendant and Glinda the Good Witch, Vanessa's character possesses the amazing ability to make us believe that peppermint gum could actually be part of a healthy dental regime.
Vanessa has been the beatific face of Orbit since 2002, a run that puts her in league with classic advertising mascots, like the Maytag Man and The Noid. That said, we know very little about the woman behind the shiny, happy character. (Up until recently, we thought she was a magical, gum-providing wood nymph.)
We spoke to Vanessa about the popular ad campaign, getting recognized in public and working with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Sil from "Species" over the course of her successful acting career. Check out the 10 things you didn't know about Vanessa Branch, aka the Orbit Gum Girl.
1. She Created a "Fabulous" Catchphrase
While Orbit came up with the pitch ("Dirty Mouth? Clean it up with Orbit gum!"), Vanessa coined the character's popular catchphrase. "For the tagline, they originally had a different word, but I thought 'Fabulous!' was funnier. They liked it, and I suggested this should be the word we always use."
2. She's a World Traveler
Though born in London, Vanessa has lived in Bermuda and several states in the U.S. She attended Middlebury College, where she was voted "Miss Vermont." (Let's see the Free Credit Report guy claim that.)
3. She Was in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" Movies
Vanessa Branch turned up in all three of the "Pirates" movies as Giselle, a saucy wench jilted by Capt. Jack Sparrow. "People don't always recognize me from the Orbit ads, which is nice. I've done 25 films, some TV stuff. I have two very separate careers, which is great. " (Astute "Lost" fans will remember Vanessa as Karen, the wife of Charlie's brother Liam in the episode "Fire + Water.")
4. She's Multilingual
"I speak Chinese and French. I've also made some films in China for the Chinese market." (Her next Chinese film goes by the awesome title "Kung Fu Man.")
5. Celebrities Are Fans
"People get really excited when they realize I'm in the Orbit commercials. I was on a set with Natasha Henstridge, on the show 'She Spies.' And after five days of working together, she figured out it was me and was like, 'Can I get your autograph for my children!'"
6. Her Presence Causes People to Freak Out
"People are always like, 'I think I know you. Didn't we go to high school together?' But it's not right away that they recognize me. As soon as they find out it's me they're like, 'Oh my God!' I had one woman tell me that her boyfriend had pictures of me plastered all over his wall, and that I'm the only woman she'd be OK with him doing that for because I seemed so nice. It's extremely strange."
7. She's About to Fight Aliens on the Small Screen
"I'm shooting a movie in Louisiana now called '51,' which will be on the Syfy Channel. It's really fun."
8. She's Working With Nick Fury
"I'm also shooting a small part in 'Deathgames,' [now called 'The Killing Game'] with Samuel L. Jackson and Kellan Lutz. (Sadly, she doesn't have any "Avengers" spoilers.) Also look for Vanessa in the romantic comedy "The Six Month Rule," out this fall.
9. She Was the Inspiration for a Video Game Heroine
"I was in 'Red Alert 3,' which was live-action with me on-camera. But for 'Dante's Inferno,' we did it all motion-capture, so the character actually looks just like me. When you see yourself as a cartoon character who looks like you and moves like you and sounds like you, it's bizarre, but also really fun."
10. She Knows Snoop Dogg's Greatest Fear
The Doggy Dogg joined Vanessa for some hilariously surreal Orbit spots a few years back. "[Snoop] was my favorite celebrity to work with. You would be shocked by how gentlemanly and nice he is. He was terrified of the goat we had on set. I had to hold this goat and he was so scared. You would have thought it was an alligator. It was really cute and funny."
Check out Vanessa Branch, Snoop Dogg and a mischievous goat below.