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How Actor Kevin Miles Became “Jake from State Farm”

Kevin Miles feels he has nothing to offer. The actor lets that slip less than five minutes after we meet. We’re walking to a sports bar a dozen blocks south of Radio City Music Hall, where he’s about to go see comedian Matt Rife, his old neighbor and friend, perform. Miles is dressed in a light gray Alo overcoat, a black Fear of God tee and black Jordans. A pearl necklace with a buskin charm, a replica of one worn by his actress great-grandmother, swings around his neck. It’s all very Los Angeles-guy-in-New York, which he is.

“Right now, I don’t have a lot of other things” — as in roles, projects — “that I feel like are what I want,” the 33-year-old says, with a small, ultra-white smile. “Besides Jake.”

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Jake is Jake from State Farm or “Jakefromstatefarm,” the character Miles has spent the last four years playing on and off television. Jake is an avatar for neighborliness and positivity. Jake lets you know that bundling home and auto insurance will help you save money. Jake has more than a million followers on TikTok. Jake attends NFL games while his commercials — on which State Farm spends roughly $1 billion annually — run through the TV timeouts. Jake goes on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and holds golden retriever puppies. This year, Jake will work out with Arnold Schwarzenneger during a 30-second Super Bowl spot.

America knows Jake, and America loves Jake. America doesn’t really know Kevin Miles.

Why? Because, crucially, wherever Kevin Miles goes — on the street, at a game, at a bar like the one we’re about to enter — people simply see Jake. And they want to talk to him. They want a picture, a video. To connect. “When someone comes up and says something, it’s like I am Jake for that moment,” says Miles.

The effect is deeply strange, like a Black Mirror version of method acting. Even Flo, perhaps the most recognizable insurance company avatar, has no real presence outside of Progressive ads. But Kevin Miles the actor must inhabit Jake off-camera — not because he wants to know the character’s inner life more intimately, necessarily, but because he’s become an extension of an ultra-successful corporate marketing strategy.

Put another way, wherever Kevin Miles is, Jake must show up, too. Ready to bring the good vibes. Ready to play.

Kevin Miles Headshot
Kevin Miles

Miles got the State Farm gig in January 2020. The initial concept was to reboot a viral 2011 campaign featuring Jake Stone, an actual State Farm employee from Indiana, with an actor in the role — someone more believable than the genuine artifact. The first spots with Miles seem odd now: One was an updated version of the OG Jake ad, while another riffed on The Bachelor.

Then COVID-19 hit. On Miles’ 30th birthday that July the company flew him down to Austin, Texas — his first time on a private jet — and moved him into a sprawling ranch complex outside the city. He’d never lived alone. In L.A., he’d had roommates, and in his home city of Chicago, he’d lived with his family.

In semi-solitude, Miles spent four or five months filming content for State Farm — including one ad he thinks changed the trajectory of his career. In the ad Jake from State Farm accepts a pizza delivery in a form-fitting red T-shirt. “It was kind of surreal to be there for so long,” Miles says. “But it was a great time. I feel like I learned a lot.”

By the time Miles emerged from his Hill Country chrysalis, people recognized and approached him. When he wore sweatshirts and sunglasses and colors other than red, they still recognized his voice. He gave some early interviews about his upbringing and how State Farm was the opportunity of a lifetime, but his transformation — from a friendly face on TV to a ubiquitous cultural figure — was nowhere near complete. The golden khakis had not become golden handcuffs.

Things continued to escalate. In 2021, in his first Super Bowl ad, Jake bantered with Drake and Patrick Mahomes. In the last six months alone, Ludacris, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler have joined Jake onscreen.

And, last October, the character stepped off the screen to sit next to Donna Kelce, Travis and Jason Kelce’s mother, at the Eagles-Commanders game, a week after Travis’ relationship with Taylor Swift blew up. He was there because Maximum Effort, Ryan Reynolds’ marketing agency — which specializes in launching campaigns that capitalize on viral moments — saw an opportunity and arranged for it. But there was also a natural synergy. Jake has ties to the NFL, already: The character is canonically friends with Kelce and his fellow Chiefs star, quarterback Mahomes, who are both State Farm pitchmen themselves.

As it happens, so is Miles.

“That’s my guy,” Miles says of Mahomes. He picks up a buffalo wing. “I love that guy all around — 100 percent. I not only love who he is as a brother, but I love how funny he can be, how relaxed he can be. He also has the strongest focus when he talks about football. I love how I’ve seen his growth.”

Miles also speaks fondly of Kelce. He admires how easily the Chiefs tight end plays himself on camera when they’ve worked together for State Farm, how much of a natural he is. “Travis is funny as hell,” Miles laughs.

Meeting strangers, though, proves a little more complicated now.

Miles is single. He wants to share his life in new ways. But it’s tricky. He’s recognizable. So he has a policy: If his dates sit down and call him Jake — which they have on multiple occasions — that’s it. He’s polite about it — he doesn’t say what he’s thinking — but it is what it is.

“I’m like, ‘Man, you don’t realize you just turned it all off,’” Miles laughs. “I’m just immediately like, ‘All right, I’m happy to get to know you, but after this, I’m gonna go home…. I want to find that person that’s like a high school sweetheart, where you’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re about to go the distance.’”

***

When Miles (born Kevin Miles Julian Mimms in 1990) was growing up on the south side of Chicago, he wanted to be a basketball player, a football player, an officer in the military. He wanted to be on a team. He wanted to wear a uniform.

And he had the look of an athlete, too — maybe a slot receiver. He was handsome, smart and talented. But his dad didn’t push him toward sports. He pushed him onstage. After attending Chicago’s Academy for the Arts, he decamped to St. Louis to study at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.

After he graduated with a BFA in acting, he considered where to go next. Ultimately, he decided on L.A.

For his first two years there, he worked without representation, booking commercials for 5-Hour Energy, McDonald’s and T-Mobile. His drive got him noticed. In 2014, at 24 years old, he signed with an agent. He appeared on Criminal Minds and SWAT, both on CBS, and the Paramount+ iCarly reboot. He booked commercials for Hyundai, Pepsi and Coors Light.

When Miles tried out for the State Farm role, he was doing a lot of auditions. That may explain why he wasn’t totally prepared; he’d failed to read the wardrobe briefing that called for the OG Jake’s infamous red polo and khakis. He only read the script to that Bachelor spot — and added his own flair.

“At the time, I was watching Love Island UK with Matt [Rife]. We were obsessed. And so, I read the State Farm spot, and I just thought it was so hilarious. I thought, this guy is kind of a cool Hitch,” he says, referring to Will Smith’s titular dating coach character from the 2005 film. “I thought, that’s the energy — like, Jake’s your boy… Like, everybody’s a homie and everybody’s on the same team.”

Miles’s audition tested well, so Jake — and his look — changed, too. Today, the character’s wardrobe is so vast that it’s stored in two warehouses in L.A.; his outfits include pieces from the likes of Prada, Versace, Bottega Veneta, Balmain, Supreme, Alo and Lululemon.

“Jake’s wardrobe is better than mine,” quips Miles. “I’ll tell you that.”

***

Miles is wrong that he doesn’t have much to offer. His real problem is that he can’t really compete with Jake; the character’s fame overshadows Miles’ own. At least for the moment.

The bar fills up. Clusters of people — mostly men — drink and gawk at the big-screen TVs that line the walls and are currently playing rugby and golf. For two and a half hours, a State Farm ad never runs. “Rugby and golf aren’t exactly our demographic,” Miles says.

Then, the inevitable happens. “JAKE FROM STATE FARM!” bellows a middle-aged white man holding a beer. His buddies know Jake, too, immediately. They cheer.

“Hey!” responds Jake, flashing a grin. He throws up a peace sign.

But all of that — those moments where Miles must snap in and out of character in real-time — is really just the job. Much of what could be said about the Jake-Kevin Miles dynamic could also be said about the Flo-Stephanie Courtney dynamic or the Lily-Milana Vayntrub dynamic. There is, however, a twist with Jake that has to do with the State Farm business model: Beyond ad viewers, Jake has a second audience that provides Miles with a mission.

State Farm agents are independent contractors who effectively own their own businesses. When Miles came onstage to give a speech at State Farm’s 100th anniversary convention in 2022, he received a standing ovation before he opened his mouth. Afterward, the company’s agents thanked him profusely. “The role shifted from just being an actor,” Miles says. “The agents talked about how much their businesses have grown since I’ve been there. There’s a bigger picture that feels way more important.”

Who precisely are they thanking, though? A person? A character? A concept? A marketing firm created the idea of Jake from State Farm. Jake Stone — the former State Farm employee who currently works at a bar, similar to the one we sit in now — was the first to play him. Then, nearly a decade later, Miles stepped in, ably, to reboot him. Jake’s influence is, by design, a team effort.

Fittingly, it is Miles who sums the dynamic — which is not unlike a locker room mentality, in a good way — up best. “I feel like I’m trying to do my part for the team,” he says.

***
After that one quick peace sign, Miles makes a beeline for the bar’s exit.

As we walk, briskly this time, Miles ruminates on working with people who’ve reached a truly stratospheric level of fame — Drake, in particular — and how everyone wants something from them, always. How tired they sometimes seem. Like they just want to be home. He wouldn’t put himself on that level, he clarifies, but he understands the feeling — probably because it’s a deep, hidden part of Jake.

“In some way, every interaction between people,” Miles says, with a good-natured shrug, “is a transaction.”

That type of fame isn’t what Miles wants. Not really. He’s close with his family, but he hasn’t gotten to see them as much as he’d like since he moved away from home in Chicago. He has a young nephew, and he’s worried that he’s not around enough, not a big enough part of his life, so he’s writing a children’s book for him; his sister, who is six years older, is writing one, too.

Professionally, Miles wants to level up his craft — to transcend commercial acting into TV, films and back on the stage, where he began in school. “I would love to be the first person who opens that full door of entertainment,” he says. “Acting is acting. You can learn no matter what. We shouldn’t have an elitist view of what things are — we should appreciate the work that actors and artists do in their fields. If an actor can mix [different skills]? That should be celebrated.”

But right now, for Miles, it’s just about celebrating the moment. Then moving on to the next.

Miles calls an Uber to drive him up to Radio City Music Hall to see Rife. As I turn away from him, I hear it again: “Jake! Jake from State Farm!”

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