Isaiah Mustafa is known for his star-making turn as the main character in Old Spice’s commercials, but it was a long road to get there. Mustafa, who is now an actor in movies and TV, was a football player, restaurateur, and contestant on a game show that changed his life.
Mustafa was always athletic, playing basketball and running track while in high school. He didn’t play football in high school, but went out for the Moorpark College team, hoping for an athletic scholarship. He became the team’s wide receiver, then transferred to Arizona State University, where Mustafa was the starting wide receiver.
After graduation, Mustafa planned on becoming a high school teacher, but a sports agent suggested he give the NFL a try. He was put on the practice squads of many teams, including the Tennessee Oilers, the Oakland Raiders, and the Cleveland Browns. He also attended the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp, after a stint playing for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe.
After leaving football behind, Mustafa opened a barbecue restaurant that ended up going under, leaving the actor feeling like “a bit of a lost soul.” One day, while watching the game show The Weakest Link, Mustafa decided he could do well on the show. He became a contestant on the show and ended up winning $47,000, which helped him launch his acting career.
His Big Break
Mustafa used the money for acting classes, which ended up paying off. He scored bit parts in shows like Ugly Betty, Days of Our Lives, and NCIS, but his big break came in 2010 when he auditioned for an Old Spice commercial.
He got the part and the commercials went viral. The campaign, titled “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” blew up online, with people loving the over-the-top monologues Mustafa delivered — all while shirtless. The commercials were such a hit that they even scored the Emmy for Outstanding Commercial in 2010.
Mustafa has gone on to star in blockbusters like Horrible Bosses and It Chapter Two and appear in TV shows like The Kroll Show, and Shadowhunters, but he hasn’t stopped showing up in commercials. Most recently, he and Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man Alive Jonathan Goldsmith gave Idris Elba some spokesperson advice in a new commercial for booking.com that aired during the Super Bowl.
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