Before Wendy Kaufman became "Wendy the Snapple Lady," she struggled with a crippling decade-long drug addition


Long Island native Wendy Kaufman grew to fame in the ’90s, answering customer letters in a series of heartwarming and hilarious Snapple commercials. But before “Wendy the Snapple Lady” became a household name, she struggled with a crippling decade-long drug addition.

In a preview for Saturday’s episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, the 58-year-old explains how the she always felt “less than” in her life — feelings amplified by what she calls “a weight problem.”

That feeling lead Kaufman to numb the pain with substances — first cigarettes at the age of 13, then alcohol and, by her college graduation, cocaine.

“I started to do cocaine in 1980,” she said on the OWN show. “By 1989, I could press my cheek and blood would come out of my nose.”

NEW YORK CITY - MARCH 31: Wendy Kaufman attends Psychedelic 60s Pop Op Peace Show on March 31, 1995 at 26th Street Armory in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Eventually, she realized the addiction had destroyed her health.

“I was so sick that it really did bring me to my knees,” Kaufman confessed. “I said to God on my knees, hysterical and crying, ‘Either kill me or please help me get well. I cannot live like this for one second longer.’ What did I do to myself? What did I do to myself for all these years?”


After getting fired from her family business, she took a job at Snapple in the company’s order department. Eventually she stared answering the their fan letters in her free time. In 1991, executives took notice and built a national campaign around Kaufman and her energetic personality.

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The move, Kaufman says, saved her life and helped her get sober.

“Snapple was much more than a job,” she says. “It was a lifeline and it was a way for me to stay sober and it was a vehicle for me to do wonderful nice things for other people.”

Looking back at the time, she says she’s grateful for the experience. “The addiction was great because in a way it made me really look at myself and reevaluate everything,” Kaufman explains.

Oprah: Where Are They Now? airs Saturdas (10 p.m. ET) on OWN.