“There’s always plusses and minuses to everything, and losing my privacy in general has been one of the minuses,” declared Jared Fogle at the other end of the phone line.
Fogle, the celebrity speaker for this week’s Sunset Stampede race in downtown Asheville, had by then been talking for a good five minutes about his strange road to fame.
“I can’t go out anymore,” he continued, “without being recognized and having people want an autograph or a picture.”
Unlikely as it still sounds, Fogle is famous for losing weight on an all-fast-food diet. For four years now, he’s been the fit (if not svelte) everyman at the front of Subway’s aggressive low-fat marketing campaign. And though he’s recognized across the nation, it is a rare thing indeed for him to meet a fan that even knows his last name.
To America, he’s simply The Subway Guy.
“I’m one of those one-name celebrities,” jokes Fogle, his self-deprecating patter obviously well-practiced. “Madonna, Prince, Cher … Jared.”
Yet there’s no doubt that fans want a piece of him.
“When I’m at a restaurant, people are curious about what it is I’m eating, even though I’ve had the weight off for more than five years,” he says, sounding more reflective than exasperated.
Well, it comes with the territory for a man who lost close to 250 pounds in a year by only eating subs — and who, for better or worse, chose to make a career of that feat.
“Most people have a good-hearted nature, so I don’t mind it so much,” Fogle comments. “But there’s no more private moments with my wife when we go out.”
As though on cue, a doorbell rings on his end. Fogle excuses himself to go answer it.
It’s the FedEx man, dropping off a package. His exclamation of surprise is actually audible: “Wow! You’re Jared from Subway. I didn’t know you lived around here.” There follows a brief, pleasant exchange. The door shuts. Seconds later, Fogle’s back on the line.
“Yeah, it’s taken some adjustment,” he says, laughing. “It’s tough, because as soon as I leave my house or my hotel room, I’m on. Even when I’m having a crummy day, I still have to smile, because I’m in the spotlight.”
By now, Fogle sounds the same as any experienced customer-service rep — his voice is bright, his tone helpful, his emotions obscured. As fad celebrities go, he’s had an unusually long run, going well beyond the 15-minute mark appropriate for the shill of a fast-food chain.