"Operation 'Make Space for Women' is ready for lift off."
The above line, from Olay's new space-themed Super Bowl commercial, also describes the 30-second spot itself. The skin care company launched the full ad online on Thursday (Jan. 30).
"There is so much space up here," remarks YouTube personality Lilly Singh, who plays an astronaut in the commercial.
"Well I could have told you that," replies Nicole Stott, a real-life astronaut playing an astronaut in the ad. Stott was a space shuttle mission specialist who logged more than 100 days in Earth orbit, including three months aboard the International Space Station.
The commercial, which also stars journalist Katie Couric, actress Taraji P. Henson and comedian Busy Philipps, uses a fictional space mission to promote Olay's pledge to donate up to $500,000 to Girls Who Code, a non-profit that engages young women in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities. The spot, which includes the call to action to use the hashtag #MakeSpaceForWomen on Twitter to increase Olay's donation, is set to air during the first quarter of Super Bowl LIV (54) on Sunday (Feb. 2).
collectSPACE spoke with Stott about the ad, her roles as real-life and made-for-TV astronauts and whether or not she used Olay products in space.
collectSPACE (cS): Were you surprised that Olay wanted a real astronaut for a commercial that was going to have actresses and comedians playing astronauts?
Nicole Stott: "Whether it was me they hired or another astronaut, I was really impressed. The others who are involved in the commercial are very strong women and are prominent in their fields. We've been using the word trailblazing.
"But young girls seeing those women present, and then including a real astronaut, too, in this space-themed advertisement, I think it was genius. I think it allows it to be a very legitimate medium for a campaign that is encouraging young women in STEM."
cS: Beyond featuring you, the commercial also includes visuals that appear to be based on real space hardware. For example, Olay's rocket looks a lot like NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, just with a different color palette.
Stott: "With the exception of where they were tweaking it for the Olay brand, the comm caps looked like [NASA] comm caps. The spacesuit felt like a spacesuit.
"When Busy and Lily are doing the spacewalk in the ad, the EMU [Extravehicular Mobility Suit] they used looked so good, down to the detail of where the hoses and adapters were.
"And oh my gosh, the mockup they had! The spacecraft that we were in for some of the shoot was a space shuttle cockpit. I am not sure what the pedigree of it was, but it certainly looked real. It was as good as any high fidelity simulator that we used [at NASA].
"Of course, Olay modified it with red lighting and then there's a big red Olay button that I got to push at one point. So there were things like that to creativity brand it."
cS: Speaking of spacesuits, Olay said the commercial was inspired in part by the recent all-women spacewalks by Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. Olay timed the release of the ad's teaser video to Koch and Meir's second spacewalk together on Jan. 15, and made a $25,000 donation in each of their names to Girls Who Code.
Stott: "Indeed, the ad was based on the spacewalks and not just because it was them or because they were the first all-female spacewalks. Those spacewalks happened because they were the crew members who were on the International Space Station, not because NASA contrived it in any way or forced it to happen.
"It's just that we are in a place in human spaceflight where astronauts are astronauts, we are all trained the same, and sometimes it just works out that two women are going out the door at the same time.
"And I think we've seen in three spacewalks now, they have rocked it every single time."
cS: One more question about the spacesuits — did you get to keep yours?
Stott: "I did ask, but I did not get to keep the suit.
"They did very kindly give all three of us our patches and name tags, which was very cool."
cS: There is a good chance that more people will see you in Olay's ad on Super Bowl Sunday than saw you during your 90 day stay aboard the real space station. What does that say about the reach of our activities in space?
Stott: "While we might not have the same reach through NASA TV or media coverage, what I love is that a company like Olay doing a Super Bowl commercial chose space as their way to reach their audience. By doing that and people seeing me and the rest of the crew in the ad, they will be encouraged to check out what's happening in real spaceflight.
"In addition to the young women being inspired by what they see, and I hope they are, I hope that the whole audience who sees this commercial will get the 'spot the space station' app on their phone and want to see the station fly over and know that six people from different countries are on board. I think there is inspiration that way, too."
cS: Thinking about life on the space station, did you use Olay products in orbit?
Stott: "Skin care is a concern in space. I was very fortunate that I didn't have issues with a rash or my skin feeling irritated, but that does happen to many crew members.
But, just coincidentally, I took Olay face wipes with me to wash my face. So it is kind of cool that I am now coming back around and supporting a Super Bowl ad for them. There was nothing planned about that back in 2009."
Click through to collectSPACE to watch Nicole Stott in Olay's Super Bowl LIV commercial.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.