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Actress Monica Ruiz on controversial Peloton ad: 'Honestly, I think it was my face'

Monica Ruiz, the star of a widely criticized Peloton ad, joked that she was OK and "not in a rehab for mental health" following a fierce blowback about the commercial online.
/ Source: TODAY

The actress who played the wife in a widely panned Peloton holiday commercial said in an exclusive interview Thursday that some of the criticism may have stemmed from her performance and the facial expressions she made.

"Honestly, I think it was just my face,'' Monica Ruiz told Hoda Kotb on TODAY Thursday in her first television interview since the ad went viral.

"My eyebrows looked worried I guess. People were like, 'You look scared.' I'm telling you, it was my face, that was the problem, and it just exploded from there. She looks worried," Ruiz said of her character in the 30-second spot.

In the commercial, Ruiz wears a frightened look as she begins a yearlong fitness journey after her husband gives her a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas. The commercial received swift backlash from viewers who saw it as sexist.

Ruiz said on TODAY Thursday that, initially, she was hesitant to speak out or do any press about the controversy.

But she decided to come forward after she saw some media outlets had published bits and pieces of old interviews.

"I just wanted to let everyone know I'm fine," she said. "I'm OK, I'm not in a rehab for mental health anywhere."

As the controversy was unfolding, Ruiz, a mom of two, poked fun at her newfound notoriety in a commercial for Aviation Gin, which actor Ryan Reynolds owns a stake in.

In that ad, a stunned-looking Ruiz toasts to "new beginnings" and gulps down a cocktail while being comforted by friends at a bar. Peloton is not mentioned, but Reynolds tweeted the spot along with the caption, "Exercise bike not included."

Ruiz met Reynolds for the first time when he surprised her on TODAY Thursday.

"I feel like I'm in an alternate universe right now," she told Hoda as the "Deadpool" star took a seat next to her.

Asked what was next for her career, Ruiz said she hoped she wouldn't be pigeonholed by her viral infamy.

"I hope people can see me as an actress," she said. "I like to do movies and TV, and I’m not actuality the Peloton lady, (so) let me work other jobs."

Days after the ad came out, Peloton released a statement saying it was being "misinterpreted." (NBC News’ parent company Comcast is an investor in Peloton.)

“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 company spokesperson told CNBC in an email.

“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.”