Toyota's Super Bowl 55 commercial featuring Paralympian swimmer Jessica Long is being described as inspirational and deeply moving. The ad delivered a powerful message of hope, making it clear that issues like appearance and disabilities do not define our self-worth.
Long, 28, was born in Russia with a birth defect and both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee. Her birth mother was unable to care for her so she was placed in an orphanage.
Her adopted parents, Steve and Beth Long, were made aware of the challenges they would face if they accepted this child but they chose to adopt her anyway.
The commercial shows Long swimming through several milestones in her life, from learning to walk with crutches to competing in swim meets as a young girl.
Long joined a swim team when she was 10-years-old and kept going back because the girls treated her like a friend rather than someone with a disability.
"They didn't notice or seem to care about the fact that I didn't have legs," she said. "I am positive if they treated me differently I wouldn't be the world class swimmer I am today."
Long, who was raised in a strong Christian household, knew that becoming an accomplished swimmer would take dedication and perseverance, which she says comes from God.
"I got through every single challenging moment of my life because of my determination that God gave me," she said.
And she hopes her story will inspire others.
Long is affiliated with the advocacy group "Fight for the Fatherless," a movement led by Christian athletes that aims to encourage orphans and those affected by a disability.
"Life is hard and not every single day is easy, but setting goals and knowing you can achieve anything is important with a good attitude," she said. "Also to believe in yourself! Believe you are capable of incredible things and that God has a plan for every individual. I want you to embrace who God made you to be. To love every part of yourself, flaws and all."
Long said the one-minute Toyota commercial highlighting her life story was touching, but the idea of appearing in a Super Bowl ad never crossed her mind.
"It's such an emotional spot," Long explained. "It's so raw. The way Toyota was able to capture all of that, it brings all of these emotions out that I kind of forgot about. I didn't start out the sport thinking that I was going to win gold medals or to be in a Super Bowl commercial. I started this sport because I truly loved the water. It was a place that I felt really free."
In an Instagram post, Long thanked Toyota for sharing her story and her parents for their faithfulness.
"No words will ever amount to how much this means to me. To have my story shared in such a way brings absolute chills. Thank you to Toyota for bringing my story to life. Thank you to my parents for adopting me and giving me the best life."