The original Gerber baby is passing the torch to a new generation.
Gerber has selected a new baby to represent the baby food brand over the next year; the first Gerber baby and the new Gerber baby were introduced on NBC's "Today" show Tuesday.
Ann Turner Cook, 85, has been the iconic face of the baby product line for just as long, while 8-month-old Mary Jane Montoya was selected out of 300,000 entries in Gerber’s Facebook Contest.
Mary Jane’s parents, Sara and Billy of Fresno, Calif., said they submitted her photos just hours before the contest closed.
"It took a little while to get that picture, too, because she would not stop looking at the grass and looking at the birds,” Sara Montoya told "Today's" Natalie Morales.
Asked if she thought they had the winning photo, Montoya said, “Of course we think our baby is adorable and beautiful, but every parent sees that in their child.”
Mary Jane won’t replace Cook as the Gerber baby; the original image will remain the face of the brand’s products. But she will appear in a nationwide ad throughout 2013, and also receives a $50,000 prize that her parents say will go toward her college fund.
A family friend, Dorothy Hope Smith, drew the portrait of Cook in 1927. Her mother then entered the image into a nationwide contest run by the then-new brand and Cook was selected at the Gerber baby in 1928. Gerber then trademarked the image in 1931; Cook’s wide eyes and apple cheeks have been synonymous with the brand ever since.
“It's been wonderful to me to be the symbol for babies,” Cook told Morales. “I can always be very proud of the product.”
Cook, who still bears some resemblance to her infant portrait, is a retired English teacher and novelist and lives in Tampa, Fla. Her four children are always proud to tell people that she is the original Gerber baby.
Cook said of Mary Jane, “She is just adorable, and she is a delightful little person.”