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Our Frugal Vampire Slayer: Sarah Michelle GellarBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Who would ever think of kick-butt vampire slayer Buffy Summers as being frugal? Turns out, though, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played the title character of that TV cult favorite for seven seasons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a thrifty gal.
In an interview published in the October 2007 issue of Self magazine (she also graced the issue's cover), the actress shared that she had to adjust to living in Los Angeles for the show, being a New York native.
Sarah was still young when she was signed on to the show, and had earned TV commercial and soap-opera wages until then.
So, that may shed some light on why during the first season of Buffy, her preferred mode of transportation was an inexpensive, green Chrysler LeBaron.
In the Self interview, she explained, "You hear about people who come out to LA, get their first pilot and get the Porsches and the this and the that, but I just couldn’t do it."
Now, instead of driving a car, she prefers to ride a bicycle, an urban/cruiser Electra Townie 3, to get around New York City. And it's not just any bike. "Not only is it bright pink, with the bell and streamers and the whole thing, it has Hello Kitty tires," she said. "Every time I leave my apartment, my doorman just shakes his head."
That Hello Kitty quote apparently rankled some cyber-reviewers, who gave her a lot of churlish grief in nasty write-ups on the Internet. They must have felt that a former vampire slayer should own a cooler, meaner bike. Who knows?
My take on it, though, is that it's endearing and perhaps indicative of her wanting to recapture her youth or to just not take herself too seriously. After all, while the rest of us were going to Scout meetings, building forts, and playing on the school playground as kids, Sarah was working her fanny off as a TV child actress and attending a demanding private school.
Being raised by a single mother, Sarah recalled that finances were tight. She took up acting at age 4 in an attempt to make extra money for private school. She noted, "By the way, 100 commercials still doesn’t cover a private school education, which is really scary! I had a scholarship, too." Education was a priority, and if Sarah's grades dropped, "there were no auditions." Her commercial work eventually lead her to her Emmy-winning role of Kendall Hart on the daytime drama All My Children. Surprisingly, she was never nominated for an Emmy for her role as Buffy, although she did win six Teen Choice awards and a Saturn award.
Sarah was catapulted to unexpected fame as a child actress for a controversial series of Burger King commercials in the early 1980s. In the commercials, the 5-year-old moppet she was at the time challenged McDonald's for not making their burgers as good or as meaty as those at Burger King. The ads were successful, and she made a number of them. The stress that put her under was great, because the burger giant fought back. McDonald's filed a lawsuit in which she, a child in elementary school, was named along side Burger King and the ad agency. The dispute was later settled out of court. Contractually, she had to eat at Burger King for years. She later confessed, in an interview as an adult, that she really wanted to eat at McDonald's and it was upsetting that she couldn't.
Here are two of her vintage commercials, courtesy of YouTube.
In this, her first Burger King TV ad, the naturally brunette Sarah Michelle Gellar was just 5 years old.
This Christmas Burger King commercial was aired during her 1998 interview with Jay Leno on NBC's The Tonight Show: We got a kick out of her munchkin-like "Merry Christmas, McDonald's!" at the end.
Other frugal efforts on her part were discussed in the Self interview. Sarah said, "I take my reusable bag to Whole Foods, so I get a discount. I go to Bloomingdale’s on double-rewards days. I always print my dry cleaning coupons before I go."
Despite her busy schedule, Sarah gives back to the community. In addition to charity work she's done for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Young Survival Coalition, Sarah is an active advocate for the CARE organization, whose main mission is to fight global poverty. "My first trip with them, we went to Guatemala," Sarah told Self. "I got off the plane, and I had a momentary bit of 'Can I really do this? I'm a city girl. I don't pee on the side of the road. I shower twice a day!' But I thrived there. I realized the difference we were making in people's lives."
When asked in 2004 during a RadioFree interview why she does so much charity work, she responded, "I started because my mother taught me a long time ago that even when you have nothing, there's ways to give back. And what you get in return for that is tenfold. But it was always hard because I couldn't do a lot. I couldn't do much more than just donate money when I was on the show because there wasn't time. And now that I have the time, it's amazing."
She did a series of sexy ads for Vaseline's "Skin Is Amazing" campaign in early 2008—we wonder if its frugality and versatility as a classic moisturizer could have, in any way, influenced her decision to sign on to be the company's "mystery celebrity." The proceeds from auctioned special portraits of Sarah in the ads benefited the Coalition of Skin Diseases. The video below gives a behind-the-scenes look at her work in that campaign.
Whether she rides a pink bike with wacky Hello Kitty tires or is cautious about spending her money like a...well, like a normal person, Sarah Michelle Gellar has affirmed that not all young and beautiful celebrities are empty-headed, self-indulgent, or wastrel. And that is what we expect of our Buffy. To be well-grounded on things that matter. To give back to others who have so little in their lives.
There is honor in her thriftiness, in her charity work—so befitting a former vampire slayer who had to selflessly save the world from destruction and demons from the Hellmouth in Sunnydale for seven years. It doesn't matter what caustic drivel a handful of unknown, bitter pseudo-journalists may spew. We are inspired by Sarah and love her all the more for it, because she is passionate about making the world a better place.
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Bried, Erin, Self, "The Star Next Door," October 2007.
FitSugar.com, "Sarah MG's Bike: Electra Townie 3" (http://www.fitsugar.com/393326), July 15, 2007.
Malkin, Marc, E! Online, "Buffy: From Vampire Slayer to Cost Cutter" (www.eonline.com/gossip/planetgossip/detail/), September 19, 2007.
RadioFree.com interview, (www.radiofree.com/profiles/sarah_michelle_gellar/interview02.shtml), October 9, 2004.
Video embeds provided here for review purposes only. All copyrights honored and attributed to producers.