We have a new Gerber baby! Isla Welch is a 7-month-old dimpled cutie from Troy, Mich. and the winner of the 6th annual Gerber Baby Photo Search 2015, the brand announced on Wednesday.
In the winning shot, which beat out more than 170,000 other submissions, Isla is leaning toward the camera, her hands folded underneath her smiling face. “It’s very exciting,” Isla’s father, Grayson, 29, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It still hasn’t sunk in that she’s the one.”
Back in September, the dad was scrolling through photos of Isla and her 19-month-old sister, Nora, on his phone when he came across a particularly adorable shot of his youngest, with her “crazy” hair sticking straight up. “I had been taking photos of the kids that day and snapped Isla in a perfect pose while she was horsing around on the living room couch,” he said. On a whim, he submitted the photo to Gerber.
“A few months later, I got an email from Gerber which knocked me off my feet,” says Grayson. “My wife, Rachael, was shocked and thought I was pranking her.” Isla’s family won a $50,000 cash prize and $1,500 in Gerber’s Childrenswear, and as the “Spokesbaby,” Isla has the opportunity to star in upcoming Gerber ads.
Isla Welch, as a younger baby with her big sister Nora and parents Grayson and Rachael Welch. (Photo: Gerber)
As adorable as Isla is, Bernadette Tortorella, a senior media marketing manager for Nestle Infant Nutrition, tells Yahoo Parenting, “This is not a beauty contest. We look for happy and healthy babies who are judged on their visual appeal and expressiveness.” Each year, a “secret panel of experts” pore over thousands of images of babies from birth to 48 months, in search of bright eyes, smiley cheeks, and that certain something that grabs a judge’s attention. There are no hard and fast rules about retouched photos, but the image has to “spark something” in the judge.
Isla replaces Grace, a baby from East Petersburg, Penn., who won the crown last January.
Grace, last year’s Gerber Baby. (Photo: Gerber)
While the annual contest was launched in 2010, the baby known as the “original Gerber baby” was discovered in 1928. Back then, a woman named Dorothy Hope Smith submitted a charcoal drawing of her neighbor’s newborn baby, Ann Turner Cook, hoping it would get chosen for the Gerber company logo — and it did. Now a retired English teacher, Cook 89, recently told CBS Sunday Morning, “I always had that expression with my mouth hanging open. Kind of a quizzical expression.” She added, “I can’t think of anything nicer than to be a symbol for babies. It reminds people of their own babies. Everybody says, ‘my baby or my grandchild looks like the Gerber baby. And it doesn’t matter the ethnicity. And I say, ‘Yes, I’m sure they do!’”
As for Isla, who loves reading, jumping, and blowing raspberries (and only gets grumpy when mom or dad washes her face), she’s gearing up for a busy year of fame. Congrats, Isla!
(Top photo: Gerber)
Ann Turner Cook, the original Gerber Baby. (Photo: Gerber)