Baton Rouge actress amused with own stock photo being used in national health care advertisement
Ronnie Hooks is the “angry mom” featured in a new ad for health care.
But Hooks, of Baton Rouge, said Sunday she had no idea her photo, bearing a stern expression and arms folded, would be used in the ad, which urges people in their mid-20s to sign up for the health care system.
“It’s really crazy,” Hooks, 50, said from her kitchen Sunday afternoon. “Wake up one morning, and boom, you’re the new face for the ad for Obamacare.”
Hooks earned $50 during a photo session four years ago for a company that sells photographs to advertising companies.
One of those photos found its way to the ad, which was released Wednesday on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Twitter page. The ad reminds people they have until March 31 to sign up under the Affordable Care Act or face a penalty. No one from DHHS was available for comment Sunday.
Some opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act have dubbed the ad the “angry mom” ad, a moniker that Hooks said she gladly accepts.
“It’s not a very cute picture, but I obviously did my job and look like a scary mom,” Hooks, an actress, said.
She has acted in several independent films and recently appeared in uncredited roles in the movies “Pitch Perfect,” in which she played the mother of one of the characters, and “Olympus Has Fallen,” in which she played a White House official.
Hooks said she showed the ad to her son.
“He shuddered and said, ‘Oh boy, somebody’s in big trouble,’ and ‘You’re going to scare America.’ ”
That look is something her 16-year-old son, Ryan Bodin, said he has seen often.
“She’s the perfect mom for the angry mom thing,” he said Sunday. “It’s pretty awesome.”
The mother of two refused Sunday to reveal her position on the controversial law. While she is fine with her photo appearing on the ad because she believes it could help with her acting career, Hooks said she does not want to be the spokeswoman either for or against the new health care law.
“It’s such a hot-button issue, and all the views and discussions get heated and out of hand,” she said. “I just really didn’t want to be in a public arena on that.”
The health care law passed in 2010 and has remained at the center of a bitterly partisan debate over the role of government in Americans’ lives.
The photo, Hooks said, was used without her knowledge.
“My only thing is I do not want to be harassed like the poor lady who was the face of the health care website,” Hooks said of the original Affordable Care Act website.
The woman whose photo initially adorned the healthcare.gov website said she was bullied and mocked.
“It gets so out of control and heated,” Hooks said of politics. “You can have some ill-conceived notions for and against (Obamacare), and I’m the face of it, good or bad,” she said.
Hooks said she has not heard from anyone in the White House regarding the use of her photo in the ad, nor does she expect to.
About a month before President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, on March 23, 2010, Hooks drove to New Orleans for a photo shoot.
She had responded to an ad for a company, DRB Images, asking for models, actors and actresses who wanted to build their portfolio and make a little cash in return for allowing the company to sell the images to advertising companies. After the shoot, she received digital copies of the photos.
She drove to DRB Images, signed a waiver that stipulated her photos could be used for various purposes (except for pornography) and began posing, using a gamut of facial expressions — from happy to sad to jumping for joy to the now-famous angry look — with the photographer.
For the angry look, she said the photographer told her he wanted her to look as though she wanted to kill somebody or someone had grievously wronged her.
The jovial Hooks said she enjoyed it and, after the two hours was up, she was paid $50 and drove home.
“I didn’t really expect anything from it,” Hooks said of the photos. “I figured it would be a little doctor brochure, maybe.”
It did not take long for the photos from that February day to begin showing up in the oddest places.
The first phone call came from a publicist friend in California who phoned her one day, saying he was staring at six 10-foot tall posters of her in a credit union ad in the lobby of the NBC Universal Studios in Hollywood.
She was wearing the same clothes as in the Obamacare ad, but this time, she was smiling.
Soon the calls from other friends came trickling in — when one friend, waiting in a Texas supermarket line, saw Hooks’ cheering face in a vitamin ad in Woman’s World magazine and another friend spotted a billboard outside the Stratosphere Casino in Las Vegas using the same photo as the magazine, touting the casino’s player’s club.
Hooks, prowling the Internet one day, also found herself in a pop-up ad warning children of unsafe websites. A photo of her yawning even made it to an ad in South Africa for an online health newsletter warning about sleep depravation.
Every time she learned of a new ad, she would call or email the photography studio and let them know about it.
But nothing prepared her for the frantic phone call from a friend Friday, saying he just saw her face on a FoxNews broadcast.
Soon, she was bombarded with emails and text messages from friends, so much so that she said she spent most of her Saturday responding to and deleting emails.
She said her friends have really become fans of the ad. At their behest, she created the Angry Mom Facebook page and her friends are thinking about making “Angry Mom” T-shirts.
“It just really started snowballing, I guess,” Hooks said.
She said she does not mind that people have called the picture ugly or have made derogatory comments about the ad. In fact, Hooks said she enjoys reading comments about it and seeing what people think.
Her favorite comments are: She looks like the creepy Old Spice moms, she looks like Nancy Pelosi and she could be Diane Feinstein’s sister.