Curious to know more about Lily the AT&T girl? Since 2013, the telecommunications giant has relied on a humorous marketing campaign to promote their products. At the center of it all is actress Milana Vayntrub, who has charmed viewers in her role as the bubbly, witty AT&T salesperson Lily Adams.
But what few viewers know is that Vayntrub has a fascinating background—and that her acting gigs are not limited to commercials. AT&T may be her claim to fame, but it’s really only one chapter in a long, successful career.
Who Is Milana Vayntrub?
Vayntrub was born on March 8, 1987 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. As the child of Jewish parents, she and her family fled their home country when she was 2 to escape anti-Semitism.
“There was a lot of discrimination against the Jews at that time,” she told NBC News in 2016. “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.”
After a harrowing journey through Europe, her family settled in West Hollywood. There, Vayntrub said she grew up “feeling like an American.”
“Once here, my parents worked their butts off to give me a good education and upbringing,” Vayntrub told Elite Daily. “They did a great job.”
However, her immigrant experience has always remained a crucial part of her identity. In 2016, she established Can’t Do Nothing, an organization “designed to help everyday individuals have a real positive impact and assist refugees worldwide.” It was inspired by a recent vacation in Greece, where she witnessed the Syrian refugee crisis firsthand.
As someone in the entertainment industry, she took action by grabbing a camera and producing this short documentary.
But Vayntrub’s ultimate goal is for millennials to realize their own power. She believes that even the smallest actions can inspire monumental change.
“There’s this outdated [expletive] notion that it’s OK to talk about your car and your vacation and your hamburger on social media, but it’s not OK to talk about the good you do,” she said. “But I feel like that’s antiquated, and doesn’t really apply to our generation. When people talk about the good they do, how can you hate on that? #CantDoNothing gives people permission to talk about the good they do and the things that matter to them, and to challenge other people to do the same.”
Aside from her passion for political activism, Vayntrub keeps details about her personal life private. We do know that she dated John Mayer when she was 19, but she doesn’t comment on the relationship. It appears that she only wants recognition for her professional work.
She First Appeared As ‘Lily From AT&T’ In 2013
Vayntrub is best known for starring in more than 40 AT&T commercials between 2013 and 2017. In them, she plays Lily Adams, a fictional AT&T salesperson who can charm even the gruffest of customers (including hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay.)
Viewers enjoyed her likable demeanor—she was akin to Jake from State Farm, only she sold plans for phones instead of insurance. Check out a compilation of old AT&T ads and decide whether you’d let Lily talk you into buying a new iPhone:
Her Other Acting Credits
Vayntrub says most people on the street recognize her from the AT&T ads, but the actress has extensive experience in show biz. She began acting at age five, appearing in Mattel Barbie commercials. By 8, she was acting with George Clooney on three episodes of ER. More recently, you might recognize her as Sloane Sandburg from This is Us, or as the voice of Squirrel Girl on the Marvel Rising series.
But her sweet spot is comedy. Vayntrub is an alum of the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade, and she’s had roles in everything from Silicon Valley to Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken. In 2011, she and friend Stevie Nelson hosted Live Prude Girls, a YouTube web series in which they interviewed guests including Matt Damon, Bob Odenkirk, and BJ Novak.
In 2018, she starred in That Moment When, an interactive comedy on the platform Eko. The program was groundbreaking in that it had a Choose Your Own Adventure set-up: multiple versions of a single story were filmed, and viewers could decide how an episode would unfold. Vayntrub played Jill, a “hot mess” who is thrown into awkward situations. The viewer’s choices will “either leave her somewhat dignified or even hot-messier.”
“This was far more challenging [than shooting AT&T commercials] because there’s so many more lines,” Vayntrub told Popsugar. “Like, I wish that in the AT&T spots, they showed all of the improvised versions that we came up with, but they’re dead now and you’ll never get to see that. The beauty of this is that you do get to explore all of the other improvised versions that we came up with. That’s why movies have deleted scenes, and that’s the beauty of digital reels that are dug up on the internet.”
She Doesn’t Want To Be Known As A Sex Symbol
If there is one downside to Vayntrub’s fame, it’s having to deal with unwanted attention from bizarre trollers. Over the last year, social media users who are obsessed with her breasts—which they refer to as “milkers” (how mature)—have turned her into a sexually charged meme. Digitally manipulated images and leaked photos from her college days have led to comments sections being flooded with nasty remarks about the actress.
In August, she live-streamed her thoughts on the matter on Instagram.
“All of these milk and milkies comments, it hurts my feelings,” she said. “It’s just dehumanizing, a little objectifying, and sad. It makes me sad. I know what you guys are trying to do is be funny, and connect to each other and get props from your friends, but it really bums me out.”
She said it would be impossible to report every instance of harassment, but AT&T took action to protect its popular spokesperson. “We have disabled or deleted these comments on our social content that includes Lily,” a company rep told Vice. “We will continue to fight to support her and our values, which appreciate and respect all women.”
AT&T Brought Back Vayntrub To Play Lily In 2020
Vayntrub’s Lily character proved to be so popular that in 2020, after a three-year hiatus, she returned to star in new AT&T ads. Many of them are a humorous nod to the Covid era; Lily is no longer at an AT&T brick-and-mortar, but self-quarantining at home (and questioning the current sourdough bread baking trend). In another ad, she is part of an ensemble singalong that includes LeBron James.
According to Adweek, Vayntrub shot and produced the spots herself (with the help of her boyfriend) at home. We are glad to see Vayntrub back in her old AT&T uniform. At a time when people felt trapped at home, it was easy to take anything and everything possible to keep spirits up—even a perky personality in a TV ad.