While we often think of television personalities as people from sitcoms or reality shows, one of the most recognizable TV faces out there is that of Lily, AKA the woman from the AT&T commercials. Lily has become a TV mainstay over the years — NBC News noted that the role was cast in November 2013.
Just who is Lily? In real life, Lily is an actress named Milana Vayntrub and she’s kind of a big deal. Aside from having starred in the AT&T commercials for years, she has dozens of other acting credits under her belt. Per IMDb, Vayntrub’s credits date back to 1995, when she appeared in three episodes of ER as Tatiana. She’s also had small roles on some other pretty big shows like Days of Our Lives and Lizzie McGuire.
One of her most recognizable roles — outside of Lily, that is — may be that of Sloane Sandburg on This Is Us. She’s also appeared in several comedy videos for CollegeHumor. Other credits include roles in TV shows and films like The Clandestine, Klaus, House of Lies, Californication, Other Space, All Nighter, Threads, The Mad Ones, That Moment When, Mother’s Little Helpers, Die Hart, and Dad.
The AT&T commercial girl was born in Uzbekistan
Vayntrub was just 2 years old when her family moved to Los Angeles. She was born in Uzbekistan, which was then a part of the Soviet Union. In 1989, her family fled their home due to religious persecution. “There was a lot of discrimination against the Jews at that time,” she told NBC News. “Both my parents were born there but we were considered outsiders. We had some family in LA who offered to help us get there. So when they got the chance to leave, my parents took it.”
Vayntrub was later inspired to help Syrian refugees through Can’t Do Nothing, an organization she started which raised thousands of dollars for refugee relief. While the website is no longer available, a Facebook page still exists although it hasn’t been updated in years.
“It’s been a tremendous help to us,” Lexi Shereshewsky, the executive director of The Syria Fund told NBC News in 2016. “It’s raised thousands of dollars in donations for our organization. And it’s brought in a whole new community of people willing to get involved.”
Milana Vayntrub, the AT&T commercial girl, has had to deal with online harassment
The public’s obsession with Lily took a nasty turn when people began to circulate old photos of Vayntrub, sharing them as memes which generated some lewd comments that distressed the actress. In an August 2020 Instagram livestream that someone later shared to Twitter, Vayntrub spoke about the harassment.
“Maybe it just has to do with being a person on the internet, or maybe it’s specific to being a woman on the internet,” said Vayntrub. “But all of these comments… it hurts my feelings. I’m hurting and it’s bringing up, like, a lot of feelings of sexual assault. I am just like, you know, walking my dog and getting messages from people who have distorted my pictures to get likes on their accounts.”
Things got so out of control that AT&T had to issue a statement. “We will not tolerate the inappropriate comments and harassment of Milana Vayntrub, the talented actor that portrays Lily in our ads,” they said (via Deadline). “We have disabled or deleted these comments on our social content that includes Lily and we will continue to fight to support her and our values, which appreciate and respect all women.”
Milana Vayntrub almost quit acting before she became the AT&T commercial girl
Vayntrub was still a kid when she landed her first acting roles, but for a time she wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue acting as a career in adulthood. “I just kind of stopped for a while because I didn’t think I wanted to do it,” she explained to Esquire. “I stopped around middle school and high school because I remember thinking, ‘I should probably focus on something more realistic. This is probably not going to work out. I have high hopes but that’s probably not enough to make it in film.'”
Fortunately for her many fans, Vayntrub eventually changed her mind, saying she got back into acting because of “a little bit of boredom and sadness in college.” Said the AT&T star, “I went to UC San Diego and I didn’t really like the school or anything. But they had a really great theater program so I just took theater classes so I could not go crazy and keep myself busy. I totally got sucked back in.”
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