She’s got copper-colored locks, a peppy personality, an ethnically diverse group of friends, and she knows how to talk millions of Americans into buying a Monterey Ranch Crispy Chicken Sandwich.
She’s the Wendy’s Girl.
The actress who has played the all-knowing, slightly kooky burger lover for two years is a 28-year-old Alabama native named Morgan Smith Goodwin. (She added her second surname after marrying Dave Goodwin, manager of New York City restaurant Gramercy Tavern.) And while her character has remained nameless in the fast food chain’s TV commercials, it’s not a far stretch to assume she’s Wendy, the freckled little girl with red braids on the company’s logo, all grown up.
Unlike Wendy, though, who was based on founder Dave Thomas’s real-life daughter, Smith Goodwin isn’t a natural redhead. Her dye job, from dark blonde to an orangey red that rivals Carrot Top, has ”given me a ton of exposure,” she told Canada’s Metro News earlier this year. ”You have to be forever grateful and very flattered when a company will trust you with their brand. So I don’t take it lightly.” Prior to the this job, the actress had a few stage roles and no TV or film experience to speak of.
Now, though, Wendy’s Girl is a star: She shames a co-worker for buying from another chain; relieves her cheapskate date by choosing burgers over pricey steakhouse fare; counsels a stranger on how to improve her life with side dishes; and cheers up a losing little leaguer with a Frosty (though what Wendy’s Girl is doing lurking around a kids’ ball game is unclear). She’s such a star, in fact, that Wendy’s is giving her a name.
In a new commercial set to air later this month (a goofy music video spoof touting the return of Wendy’s pretzel sandwiches) Wendy’s Girl will be dubbed—wait for it—”Red.” Yahoo Food has an exclusive copy of the ad below.
“We’re thrilled that Morgan Smith Goodwin, who we call ‘Red,’ has resonated with our customers since we first introduced her in our advertising April 2012,” Liz Geraghty, vice president of brand marketing for Wendy’s, told Yahoo Food in an email statement. “‘Red’ has been our most successful effort since the Dave Thomas advertising campaign in the 1990s.”
Morgan Smith has benefited from this success, too. There are Wendy’s Girl fan sites and Facebook pages dedicated to the actress. And while much of it seems innocent enough, with links to various commercials, her bio, and updates from Smith Goodwin’s Instagram page, some are downright creepy. “She enchants me. She is all I want and I desire,” the webmaster of wendy’s-girl.com wrote on the site’s homepage, where he also noted that he has been “working tirelessly” to find out if the rumor that compromising photos of Smith Goodwin exist is true.
With the fans come the haters. There’s an “I hate the Wendy’s girl”Facebook page, and a Twitter search of the phrase “Wendy’s girl” brings up a batch of mostly negative recent tweets. “The Wendy’s girl actually makes me want to eat there less,” reads one. “The girl in the Wendy’s commercials gets on my nerves a bit. And the commercials just keep getting cheesier,” proclaims another. (Smith Goodwin could not be reached for comment.)
Others have criticized the company for replacing the real Wendy Thomas (now a 52-year-old woman who most recently appeared in a Wendy’s commercial in 2011) with a younger, more attractive girl-next-door type, flawless skin, flowing hair, and green eyes included. (She’s been compared to “How I Met Your Mother” actress Alyson Hannigan.) True, Red holds her juicy burgers in her powder pink manicured little hands, and she never smudges her lip gloss by taking a hearty bite. ”Wendy Thomas was the real Wendy. Morgan Smith Goodwin was the hot Wendy,” author Amy Van Sant wrote in a 2012 blog post.
Geraghty insists that’s not the case. “Morgan is not meant to replace Wendy, who stands alone as the original namesake,” she wrote to us. “Instead, Morgan is a brand advocate with a quick wit and engaging personality that America has gravitated toward.”
Finally, there have been comparisons to another famous company spokesperson. “The Wendy’s girl has replaced Progressive’s Flo on my list of annoying company commercials,” one Twitter user announced this week.” Others agree: “Idk who’s worse. Flo from the progressive commercials or the Wendy’s girl.”
They’re talking about Flo, the (somewhat irritatingly) helpful saleswoman who’s never without her trademark headband, teased hair, and pancake makeup on Progressive car commercials. She who has starred in over 50 commercials. She who has become as ubiquitous as the Geico gecko. She who currently has more than 5 million Facebook followers.
Wendy’s Girl probably wouldn’t mind the comparison at all.