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Who Is Billy Blanks From The Geico Claims Audition Commercial?

Kids today, with their apps and their Quibis and their Homestar Runner cartoons. They don't have a proper appreciation for mass-marketed VHS workout tapes or the people who recorded them. Why, folks of a certain age probably didn't even know who Billy Blanks was when he popped up in Geico's latest addition to their pantheon of staggeringly expensive 30-second advertising non sequiturs.

The ad in question features the aforementioned Blanks, auditioning for a Geico commercial with a series of kickboxing-related improvisations — first punching because he's sad, then because he's upset, then because it's time to celebrate. Such enthusiasm for cardiovascular exertion would be uncharacteristic of nearly anyone else, but not Blanks. 

If you were lucid in the late '90s, you'll remember him as the face of Tae Bo, the high-energy, feel-good workout routine that swept the United States around the same time that Y2K had people convinced that the worst thing their computers would ever do was fail to count all the way to 2000. According to interviews with Blanks, he was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, one of 15 siblings. He's described his childhood as challenging, with compounding issues of chronic shyness and undiagnosed dyslexia, but a local community center's martial arts classes helped him to find himself.

Billy Blanks turned sweat and VHS tapes into gold

Despite struggling to pick up on aspects of the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do, Blanks claims to have stuck with it, citing both his father's hard work and the fact that his sensei bet him five dollars that he'd quit as the reasons for his perseverance. "I was actually the first black belt that that instructor promoted," he recalled to 2nd Act TV.

In 1988, The Herald Journal reported that Billy Blanks was hired as Dukes of Hazzard's Catherine Bach's bodyguard while she shot the film Driving Force in Manila, and managed to turn enough heads on set that he was written into the film. A handful of other roles, generally in martial arts films, kept Blanks busy through the early '90s, but what really rocketed him to stardom was a series of at-home exercise videos, popularized via infomercials near the turn of the century.

The videos featured Blanks teaching his proprietary kickboxing workout routines, called "Tae Bo," a combination of taekwondo and boxing. The videos moved like gangbusters, with over a million copies reportedly sold in the first year alone. Blanks, his VHS tapes, and their complimentary inflatable punching bags became a staple of suburban living rooms across the country.

Today, the 65-year-old fitness guru continues to produce fitness videos, albeit with a more age-specific tone. Currently, his YouTube page features a series of workouts focusing on post-hip surgery physical therapy exercises.