'Deltalina' creates a stir in airline safety video
First published March 27, 2008
From now on, all Delta flights are smokin'.
Cigarettes are still banned. We're talking about Katherine Lee, aka Deltalina, star of the airline's cheeky new preflight video. A fetching redhead who scolds against lighting up with a saucy wave of her finger, Lee's causing turbulence on the Internet. As of Wednesday afternoon more than 345,000 viewers with, uh, safety on the brain had watched the clip on YouTube.
"It's crazy, " said Lee, who's as bubbly as a glass of champagne in first class.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, she has traveled ever since she can remember. Her father is from Puerto Rico and her mother is German; he was in the military, so the family moved around a good bit. Lee, 33, graduated from Stone Mountain High School in 1992 and was living in Melbourne, Fla., when she applied to become a Delta flight attendant in 1997.
"They hired me on the spot, " said Lee, who lives in Buckhead and likes to hike and travel in her free time.
A Delta flight attendant ever since, she was culled from an initial pool of 1,000 candidates for the safety video, winnowed down to about 80.
"It was really based on personality, comfort in front of an audience, and the ability to engage people, " said Chris Babb, Delta's product manager for in-flight entertainment and media.
The bit was filmed in January at Delta's Atlanta headquarters by a Hollywood production company hired for the job. (That tantalizing finger wagging was written into the script, by the way.) The casting director ultimately picked Lee. Babb says she was in his personal top two.
"Clearly, she shone, " he said. "The goal was to engage, and we thought it was important to introduce bits of humor. The idea is to get as many people to watch the video as possible."
Mission accomplished. The spot begins airing on 400 Delta flights in about a week, but it's already a hit online, where viewers have dubbed her Deltalina.
"I love Angelina Jolie. To be compared to her is beautiful, " said Lee, who's been fielding a steady stream of media requests and at least one marriage proposal. She's single, doesn't have a boyfriend, and says those pouty lips are all hers.
Asked if Delta has further plans to showcase its new star, Babb thought for a minute.
"We haven't brainstormed that yet, " he said. "But having an individual with a great personality talk directly to customers is the way to go."
Lee is working in training right now and looks forward to flying again soon. She's already getting recognized but doesn't mind.
"I'm such a people person, " she said. "It's so great because [the video] is bringing awareness of safety and how important it is. That's the bottom line --- it's all about safety."
This article was originally published in March 2008
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