Isaiah Mustafa Biography
Birth Name: Isaiah Mustafa
Mustafa was born on Feb. 11, 1974. He was a high school track and basketball star at Santa Clara High School in Oxnard, CA, and took up decathlon at Moorpark College, only to switch to football on the advice of a coach. He excelled at the sport, setting a single-season record that won him a scholarship to Arizona State University, where he also earned a history degree in 1997. Mustafa progressed his playing career to the NFL, where from 1997 to 2000 he was a member of four different teams: the Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks. But his football career was lackluster; he was farmed out to the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL Europe league while being relegated to practice squads on his NFL teams. Mustafa shifted gears and invested his life savings into opening a barbecue restaurant in Ventura, CA, called Jo Jo's Barbeque. The restaurant lasted only five months, leaving him broke and jobless. Not one to give up, Mustafa entered the quiz show "The Weakest Link" (NBC, 2001-02) and won $47,000, which he parlayed into acting classes. A new career was on the horizon.
In the mid-2000s, Mustafa began landing minor parts on television shows like "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-10), "NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service" (CBS, 2003- ) and the daytime soap "Days of our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ). A few years later, he became an overnight star when he starred in an Old Spice commercial as "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," which took the towel-clad actor from the shower to a boat to a horse on a beach in one seamless take. But in spite of the sharply scripted monologue, the character Mustafa portrayed was not planned. Apparently, the day before the shoot, Mustafa called college buddy and former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer to chat. When Plummer failed to pick up, Mustafa did an over-the-top improvisation of the script. His impromptu performance inspired him to do the same on the actual shoot, and the rest was pure television gold. The Emmy-nominated commercial debuted on YouTube on February 4th prior to Super Bowl Sunday, garnering some 30,000 views. But the Monday after it aired during "Super Bowl XLIV" (CBS, 2010), the clip's views skyrocketed to 250,000 and climbed exponentially in the weeks that followed.
Thanks to the massive attention his commercial received, plum job opportunities began to land on Mustafa's lap, including a talent deal with NBC that included opportunities on existing shows as well as possibilities for upcoming pilots. In July 2010, Mustafa took part in an edgy ad campaign where he reprised his Old Spice character to make humorous, personalized YouTube video clips based on questions he received from fans on various social networks. He responded to inquiries from everyone from daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to Olympian Apollo Ohno, and even gave President Barack Obama advice on how to win back female votes. That same year, Mustafa was cast in the feature comedy "Horrible Bosses" starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Jamie Foxx, as well as in Tyler Perry's "Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family." At the height of his overnight popularity, "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" won a Best Commercial Emmy.