After countless commercials over 24 years, she’s the gift that keeps giving.
If you feel like you know Diane Amos, that’s because you do. You’ve known her for more than two decades, in fact, because, incredibly, that’s how long she’s been the Pine-Sol Lady, that effervescent, benevolent wonder woman who arrives in the nick of time to solve your cleaning issues, whatever they may be, and to remind us all, “That’s the power of Pine-Sol, baby!” The Pine-Sol Lady—and, by extension, Diane Amos—is your best friend, your sister, your mom, your favorite teacher, your next-door neighbor or the woman you want to be your next-door neighbor all rolled into one. She’s also an actress, stand-up comic, improv performer and voice artist.
Amos was recently featured on an episode of “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” where she recalled working with Robin Williams for many years, beginning at age 19. “He called me the Closing Queen. When someone of that calibre says something like that about you at that age, right on!” In 1993, then a struggling single mom, her life changed overnight when she landed the Pine-Sol gig. “There are a lot of reasons why a company might not hire me to be their spokesperson,” Amos told Oprah. “I’m a big woman, and I’m black, my teeth are gapped….” But Pine-Sol did hire her, showcasing her charm, wit and sincerity in a series of ads that evolved from spots offering straight-forward cleaning advice to elaborate romcom fantasies.
In 2013, Pine-Sol proudly celebrated her 20th anniversary as the Pine-Sol Lady. Amos is also proud—proud to be one of the first and one of the few black brand spokespersons. In conversation, she is as lovely and endearing as you’d expect, and when she laughs, you laugh. That’s the power of Diane Amos, baby!
How many Pine-Sol commercials have you been in?
I really have no way of knowing—it’s been 24 years! They’re trying a new commercial campaign now but I am still their spokesperson. I do all of Pine-Sol’s online and personal appearances. How many commercials have I done? Countless!
Which is your favorite?
The very first one. We did it just when commercials were starting to feature real people, as opposed to someone in a satin gown talking about how she needs her floors cleaned. It’s got a real-people feel, and I was instrumental, I think, in that transition for Pine-Sol. That commercial also features voice-over actor Jim Crenna, whom I love. He started my career when I was 15. He was one of the people who taught me improv and founded one of the most fabulous improv groups in San Francisco, the National Theatre of the Deranged. So, it really is dear to my heart.
Are you recognized in public?
Any memorable fan reactions or experiences?
There are so many! For me, some of the best are when kids recognize me. When I started, I would be in a store, or wherever, and kids would come up to me and say, “You’re the Pine-Sol Lady!” And they would go back to their moms and say, “Momma, momma! It’s the Pine-Sol Lady!” And their moms would go, “Leave her alone. You don’t know her.” I always had Pine-Sol coupons with me and I would give the kids coupons to take to their moms, as proof. And they would run back to their moms and say, “See! I told you she was the Pine-Sol Lady!” Kids are my favorite because they’re so verbal. And then there are teenagers. Some of them act so hard and cool and standoffish and they break down and act like kids when they see me. And then, when I leave, they go right back to their hard exterior. So funny! I love that. Right up the line are older people, who tell me that they’re happy that I’m representing them in a good way because they are old enough to understand that there was a time when there weren’t any black spokespeople. It means something to them. And those are my most heartfelt because it comes from a place of support, love and gratitude.
Do people ever ask you for cleaning advice?
They do, but more often they give me cleaning advice! Men come up to me and say, “Hey, just so you know, I’m the one who really does the cleaning.” And I’m like, “Oh, really?” And they say, “Yeah, yeah,” and they brag about how they get down and get it done with some Pine-Sol, especially on their outdoor stuff. They’ll even tell me their favorite scent! Most men seem to like the original but I’ve noticed that some like one of the newer scents.
What’s the best thing about being the Pine-Sol Lady?
It’s an interesting honor. I’m an actress, all around. Being a commercial artist used to have a stigma. People who felt that their talents were beyond that didn’t want to do commercials but that has changed significantly. It’s a special talent to be able to grab an audience in a few seconds and that is part of my ability, part of what I love to do. Being the Pine-Sol Lady has given me a chance to go into schools and speak to kids because they see me as a role model. There haven’t been any scandals—I’m all good! I’m a family woman, I have kids, I’m out there working like everyone else. I think people appreciate that. Young people walk up to me and say, “I want to be an actress. I want to be just like you.” Well, that is exactly what someone like me wants to hear. Pine-Sol has given me a lovely platform to do things that mean something to young people.
Is there any downside?
I have to say that I haven’t found a downside except that maybe in the industry there’ll be people who want to cast me and feel like they can’t because my face is too well known. That used to be very true. I think that’s lessening more and more because now so many very famous actors are doing commercials so no one can really use that as an excuse for not hiring me. But I think there are times when someone doesn’t because they feel like maybe that’s all I can do. I implore them to take a closer look, delve into what I do. I’m multifaceted.
What’s the biggest difference between you and the Pine-Sol Lady?
That’s such a funny question to me! In my real life, I am not as obsessed with cleaning as the way the Pine-Sol Lady might come off to some people. I like my house lived in. You will not find cleeeaaannnn surfaces in my house with, like nothing on them except pretty flowers. That’s not going to happen. Somebody will read a book and set it down. My grandson’s visiting, so there’s a train here or a little sports car there. My house is the house people come in and they feel comfortable. I’m probably more laid back than the Pine-Sol Lady comes off, but I’m hoping that she comes off pretty mellow, too.
Are there any perks to being the Pine-Sol Lady? Do you have a free lifetime supply of Pine-Sol?
Oh, my goodness, there are many perks to being the Pine-Sol Lady! I definitely do get free Pine-Sol. And it’s funny, because the first year we were working together they sent me cases of Pine-Sol and I said, “This is not a good plan!” Where am I putting all of this Pine-Sol in the time it takes me to use it? So, of course, I gave it away to my family and friends. But then we got smart and Pine-Sol started sending coupons instead, so I could just go get some when I needed it. I also give them out as the Pine-Sol Lady at Comedy Day in the Park when I’m doing stand-up. I challenge anyone in the crowd to tell me a joke and if they make me laugh I give them a coupon. I give them out to kids. I give them out to people at the supermarket.
But mostly the perks have to do with the fact that people recognize you and engage with you and that has always been important to me. It’s a real perk to talk to as many people as I do all over the country and, really, all over the world. I was on an island off Jamaica, in a little hut—a shack!—that sold souvenirs. I didn’t even see a TV in there. And this huge Rastafarian brother is looking at me and he goes, “Aay.” And I said, “Aay.” And he said, “You the Pine-Sol Lady, mon!” And I said, “Yes, I am!” Now that, to me, was funny as hell, right? Pine-Sol has given me a chance to connect with a whole lot of people who might not necessarily have spoken to me and I enjoy that. And as we go on in this political climate, I’m hoping that people continue to talk with each other because that is the only way we’re going to be able to figure this mess out, in my opinion.
Who’s your favorite brand spokesperson?
I don’t really have a favorite—I look at them as fabulous peers. I look at their work. I admire what they do in the commercials. I know their niche so I’m really supportive and if I ever ran into any of them, we’d be like, “Hey! What’s up?” Right? So, it’s kind of a little inside camaraderie that I feel.
Where else can we see you?
I’m doing standup in Mill Valley on February 24 for our West Coast audience. And I have a group called The Bad Aunties, three women, and we do improv comedy. We’re probably booking much later in the summer but right now I’m just writing. I’m working on a cook book and I’m trying to work on a show about the Summer of Love because I have an interesting and fun take on that.