The Office makes Torey Henderson laugh, but not because Dwight Schrute is a squirrely hoot. It’s because when she sees John Krasinski’s dimples and strong, cleft chin, she sees her 18-month-old daughter. When the single mom and corrections officer in Little Rock, Arkansas, began searching for a sperm donor two years ago, it wasn’t hard to find what she was looking for (someone strong in math and science). But seeing Krasinski’s photo attached to the donor profile was “a big part of what made me fall in love with that person’s DNA.”
Welcome to fertility in the TMZ era. Exactly three years ago, California Cryobank, one of the largest sperm banks in the country, launched its Donor Look-a-Likes program: Clients could search the anonymous donors based on the celebrities they resemble. From Adrien Grenier to Zac Efron, California Cryobank has DNA for every tabloid crush.
“The traditional way of picking a donor by height, weight, and education just isn’t enough anymore,” says Scott Brown, communications manager for California Cryobank. “We found a way to present donors as three-dimensional human beings without jeopardizing their anonymity.”
The week Donor Look-a-Likes launched, California Cryobank’s website traffic jumped 50 percent. But the big question was: Would it work? Three years (and fifty rom-coms) later, there are offspring to prove it.
Henderson, who requested that her name be withheld from this story, says her daughter has Krasinski’s “sweet, soft, kid-next-door features.” Brooke Smith, who also requested anonymity, chose a donor matched to actor Tobey Maguire. “And sure enough, our daughter has Tobey’s pouty mouth and smile.” Smith has even recommended the service to couples shopping for donors on Facebook. One responded, “I hope they don’t sell out of Ryan Gosling!”
Over the past five years, sperms banks have emerged as one of America’s biggest growth industries, to the tune of $320 million in annual revenue. But “the experience can be very cold at times,” says Henderson. So it only makes sense to pair it with celebrity, a booming industry based on popularity and physical appearance. “Having someone familiar to look at definitely helps humanize the process,” she adds.
We’ve finally found a practical, family-friendly use for our love of E!