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  • Writer's pictureJP EMERSON

Overhaulin's Adrienne "AJ" Janic: From Successful Model To Modern Mogul

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
It took less time than your average commercial break to understand the depth of conviction Janic brings to everything she does. "I faced some pretty harsh rejections when I was first starting out. If I can help someone learn from my experiences I'm going to do everything I can to do that".

As a young California girl,  Adrienne Janic, also known as “AJ”, was well versed in the saying that the road to success is always under construction. While the talented actress and co-host of television’s wildly popular Overhaulin’ show may be a household name today, her journey had plenty of detours.

“I grew up in a hard working middle class neighborhood outside Los Angeles in a city named Whittier, known for several historical landmarks, the Quakers and Richard Nixon” says Janic. “My parents were both immigrants with mom being from Mexico and my dad from Serbia.” 

As one can imagine, finding your way in a new country, overcoming language barriers and beginning a life together had its challenges. “Dad was eager to become a citizen, learn the language and serve his country by joining the United States Army.

Mom had limited job opportunities at the time as is often the case, but it was their work ethic and belief that if you want something in this world you have to work hard to get it” that resonated with AJ.  

Model Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
“I got great grades throughout school. I was in student government, a cheerleader and graduated at the top of my class in high school with honors” Adrienne explains, "but I just thought there was something bigger for me out there at the time."

A trait that not only carried Janic’s father to a career as an aerospace engineer, but her mother also, as a registered nurse. “I had a great childhood, I really did” she says with purpose, “but I always felt like there was a bigger world out there for me and I needed to experience it.”

A wide eyed AJ was about to alter her flight path.

“I got great grades throughout school. I was in student government, a cheerleader and graduated at the top of my class in high school with honors” adds Janic. “I really had the perfect resume to go to college but it just didn’t feel right."

"I thought, growing up around airplanes and cool fighter jets dad would work on, I would join the Air force. I even met with recruiters until one day in the supermarket I was spotted by a modeling scout. “

Remember those detours we mentioned earlier?

“At the time my parents weren’t thrilled with my decision not to go to college but I think once they saw how hard I was working, particularly as a young woman just out of high school in the modeling industry, they became more supportive."

"Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy” admits Janic.  “It certainly wasn’t the glitz and the glam people envision it being, but I learned quickly to live on just a few dollars a day, rationing food and handling some pretty harsh rejections."

Model Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
AJ admits that there were many difficult times early on "but I wouldn't trade the experiences for anything. I learned a lot about myself and more importantly, what I was capable of achieving."

"There were times when I was working and traveling the world when the money was great and we were having a lot of fun too!” For AJ however, instilled from an early age that hard work brings great rewards, it was time to spread her wings and fly again.

Like many who have had the courage to blaze their own path, Janic has no regrets. “I learned a lot about myself and honestly, the world” says Adrienne. “Modeling afforded me the opportunity to see things people only read about in books, to try things most have never heard of and to meet people from all cultures.” 

Then, in a more serious tone, AJ shares perhaps her most important lesson. “I also learned that the only person I need to be is myself and the only person I need to be better than is the person I was yesterday.” 

You don’t learn that from a book.

Pineapple and Pranks

“I was sitting in my car after a particularly harsh audition when I decided I needed a change” recalls AJ. “I always wanted to entertain and where better to do it than Hollywood?”

“I auditioned for a lot of commercials at first” AJ tells us, “with considerable success.” I also managed to book roles in a few movies and sitcoms” but it was an opportunity that, if not for being herself, may well have never happened.

“I remember the audition like it was yesterday. I was completely unprepared, showed up in jeans and an orange T- shirt only to find out that I was expected to sing and dance. Here were all these talented girls warming up and practicing and I seriously thought about just leaving.”

Fanta  Soda  Pineapple Fanta Girls  Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
It is long believed that luck favors the prepared. Janic quickly dispels that belief with a laugh, explaining how truly unprepared she was for her audition before ultimately securing an iconic role as one of the original Fanta girls. Perhaps for AJ, good fortune truly did, favor the brave however.

Fortunately for Janic, one of her own lessons would serve her well. “I did my old high school cheer dance in my best Britney Spears voice laughing through the entire audition. I never expected to get a callback, but I did.” 

In fact Janic would land one of the decade’s most desirable pop culture spots as a Fanta soda girl , due largely as she would later be told, because she showed the ability to just be herself and have fun.“

“From that moment on I learned to never assume what other people want.” As it turns out, she was exactly what other people wanted, and soon her road to success would again be overhauled.

“My Overhaulin’ experience began when the show was looking for actors to help prank the “mark” in order to get people’s car.  I had worked on the Jamie Kennedy Experiment hidden camera show so It was kind of natural to me. 

I really didn’t know a lot about cars at the time” admits AJ who gleefully tells us that up until that point, claimed her 1990 Toyota Corolla SR5 sport as the coolest car on the road.

Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
"I've learned so much from everyone" says Adrienne. "These are the best in the business and they are so willing to take the time to show me not just what they are doing, but to teach me how to do it too. I'm just so grateful."

Eventually, Adrienne would become an integral part of the show, but not without once again drawing from a lifelong work ethic. “When I first joined, I pretty much had to learn everything including the tools, many of which actually scared me."

"It was pretty overwhelming at first but I learned that the most important rule about tearing down a car is to label everything!”

“Organization is key” says AJ emphatically. “You can’t just take apart a car and leave it in pieces, you have to have an organized process or it’s just going to be like that forever. We’ve seen it many times."

"I never imagined that one day I would be helping build some of the coolest cars anywhere but here I am! I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by the best teachers in the world, who took the time to teach me, and it all began with classic car building 101. Label everything!”

Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend
Far beyond the show, AJ says "these cars represent so much more to the owners than just four wheels. We have the privilege of restoring hope and faith in someones life and that's so important."

AJ is quick to admit that she still has much to learn “but I’ve already grown so much more than I ever imagined”, beginning with her taste in cars…  

Although the days of that anemic Toyota are far behind her, Janic proudly shares a personal connection with her YearOne built ’68 Firebird.

“My dad had a ‘68 GTO back in the day and one of the things I like about my Firebird is it reminds me of my dad’s car. I would love to add  a black on black 70 ‘GTO Judge one day and take my dad for a spin in it!”

Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend 68 Firebird
AJ's prized '68 Firebird is nothing short of spectacular. "I love that car" she says with emphasis. "It's just a visceral driving experience unlike today's cars."

To that end, AJ is a heavy lean to the classics. “They just don’t build them like that anymore” she says confidently. “To me they are so simple in a less is more kind of way. Don’t get me wrong the newer cars, in particular the ones we are tackling on the latest season of Overhaulin’, are so far advanced compared to the classics it’s amazing!"

And what about that “classic” SR5 that Janic once prowled the streets of Hollywood blasting 90’s hairband rock in?  “That thing is long gone” says a sheepish AJ. Replaced with a sleek and sultry Audi R8 super car commensurate with the woman who learned early, the value of hard work.

Audi R8 Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend 68 Firebird
A self proclaimed "certified dork", Adrienne is quite the opposite. Heartfelt and modest, AJ carries the lessons instilled by her parents that working hard, remaining positive and paying it forward will lead to success.

As much as Adrienne captures her share of the spotlight, it is perhaps her role as mother that takes center stage.  “When I became a mom I began to see the world through a different lens” she explains. “Having a child makes me continuously want to do better and be better. I want to be able to provide experiences and places like I had, except this time we can do it together."

Clearly a role perfectly suited for Janic. 

For now, AJ says that she’s excited to be back on Overhaulin’ helping others realize their dreams. “I get to work with amazing people who are also my friends, how can you beat that?”

Adrienne Janic  AJ Janic  JP Emerson  Overhaulin Motortrend Chris Jacobs  Chip Foose
"We're really like a family" says AJ of Chip, Chris and the entire crew of Overhaulin'. "I really do have the best of both worlds."

No matter what lies on the road ahead, Janic remains true to herself and those closest to her. For the young girl from Whittier who paved her own way, to the respected host she is today, Adrienne "AJ" Janic continues earning her success.

And defying gravity. 

Copyright © 2020 JP Emerson All Rights Reserved.


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