Iced Tea and Sympathy

updated 08/22/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/22/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AT THE EAST MEADOW, N.Y., HEADquaters of the Snapple Beverage Corp., employees like to compare their home-grown spokeswoman with her opposite number at Lipton. "They have Ven-dela," the Snapple folks say, referring to the sultry Swedish supermodel. "We have Wen-dela."

Wen-dela is Wendy Kaufman, the attention-getting star of Snapple's national You Asked for It-style ad campaign. On-air, Kaufman introduces the ordinary people who get their Snapple-related wishes (such as a case delivered to a high school detention hall) fulfilled. Off-air, with two helpers, the 35-year-old marketing associate answers the 2,000 letters that pour in every week describing libationary fantasies involving Snapple flavors such as Mango Madness and Amazin Grape. Kaufman's specialty isn't the snappy response but the heartfelt, slightly sappy one. "I am the Ann Landers type of person," she says. "I definitely have a mothering instinct." Recently, for example, she gently informed several lovelorn female correspondents that Jeff Sheahan, the fellow in that detention-hall ad, already has a girlfriend (sigh!).

Kaufman majored in film and sociology at Syracuse University and joined Snapple's order department in 1991, after eight years of dispatching trucks at her father Ronald's metal warehouse. "The beverage business," she says with a giggle. "Who expected glamor?" Now, though, she has a legion of fans who chided Snapple for hiding Kaufman's zaftig form behind her desk in the early ads. "It's the only area in the office that was marked with a Snapple logo," she explains. Besides, Kaufman, who is single, revels in her frame and fame. "I'm getting letters from kids who are heavy, and they say, 'You're a role model' It gives me goose bumps. You don't have to be a size 4 to go to bed with a smile." Put that in your teacup, Ven-dela.

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