'Net-savvy Merced native featured in Gap ad campaign

December 4, 2010 

Mercedians might see a familiar face while Christmas shopping this season -- the city's Alisa Leonard is part of Gap's holiday advertising campaign.

Along with nine other actors, models, dancers and business people, Leonard's image looms large on store displays and stares back from the pages of Vogue as she models Gap's faux fur trapper hat and poncho sweater.

Leonard isn't a model. She works for an online social media company called iCrossing and serves as communications chairman of the Data Portability Project, but she played the part well, looking pretty and comfortable wearing a lace-trim skirt and bulky sweater in cold New York City.

A behind-the-scenes video of the photo shoot shows Leonard and others getting plenty of attention from stylists and makeup people -- never mind the half-dozen lights and snow machines pointed in her direction.

"I'm known in certain circles online, but they tend to be geeky and Internet-focused," she told the Sun-Star. "This is a different kind of exposure. I've seen my picture on buses in New York City."

The ad campaign, called "Want," also featured actors Ryan Kwanten and Donald Glover, model Lauren Bush, and Foursquare founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. For her part, the campaign bills Leonard as its "social media whiz."

Videos of each person featured in the campaign can be seen on Gap's Facebook page. For every "like" vote a video receives, Gap will donate a dollar to the charity of that model's choice. Leonard's charity is Goods for Good, an organization that provides school supplies, clothing and health products to orphans and needy children around the world.

"I kind of developed a newfound respect for models in a way -- the way they have to jump and manage all these clothes while doing certain things. It's an entirely different world," she said.

Think she's not a geek? In the video, she says one of the best gifts she ever received was an Internet domain name. "It's a little nerdy, but it's one of those things my friends knew I'd be really amped about," she said.

Leonard graduated from Golden Valley High School in 2000 and obtained an English degree from Brigham Young University before moving to New York to work as a research assistant for an investment bank. She quickly discovered she didn't enjoy the world of finance, but her research into the Internet and tech companies inspired a passion for social media. She joined the iCrossing consulting firm in 2007, where she works with Fortune 500 companies to develop digital and social media strategies.

Back home, her family is understandably proud and excited about her national exposure, but she says she's not letting it go to her head.

"I'm not a model by any means. I'm an unabashed geek," she said. "While it's all very cool, I'm more comfortable in my geeky Web circles."

But she kept the faux fur hat.

Online Editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or bbowers@mercedsun-star.com.

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