Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2005 | People

Poster Child: Jennifer Palmer

By Angie Toomsen
Jennifer Palmer

Since she was 12 years old and her family drove through the sea of roadside billboards on trips into Chicago, sophomore Jennifer Palmer has always wondered what it would be like to see her own face plastered on an advertisement. That childhood fantasy is now a reality, thanks to The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“There’s a segment on the show called ‘Oh Yes, You Can’ where Ellen makes dreams come true,” Palmer says. “I sent her an e-mail saying I would endorse any and all products [if I could be on a billboard]. Two days later, they called me and said they loved the idea.”

On May 17, Palmer joined an assembly of 80 friends and family at the Highway 61 bypass in her hometown of Muscatine. DeGeneres gave a signal from her studio in California and a tarp fell away to reveal a 12- by-15 foot billboard with Palmer’s smiling face and—characteristic of DeGeneres’ dry wit—a caption stating: “Jenny Says: Buy Any and All Products.”

Until then, Palmer hadn’t spoken to DeGeneres herself. Suddenly, she found herself on live TV, relating her billboard aspirations to her favorite television host (and 2.6 million viewers) via telephone.

“I watched Ellen just about every day when I was at school,” says the pre-business and art history major. “It didn’t hit me at the time that I was actually talking to her.”

Since then, Palmer has been interviewed by countless area publications, has appeared on local television, and has received calls from people she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years. The biggest surprise, however, is being spotted by strangers.

“Everywhere I go, I hear, ‘Hey, you’re the billboard girl!’” she says. “It’s been crazy.”

Still, Palmer is taking her 15 minutes of fame in stride. She’s currently awaiting the results of her application to the UI business school, where she hopes to study marketing.

“I guess this could be a helpful experience in the future, but I really have no idea what I want to do,” she says. “I’m just taking it slow. This is enough for now.”