You can’t throw a Tom Brady-approved Ugg without hitting a celebrity endorsement deal. Some stars benefit from them while others receive a lot of backlash. But hey, press is press; whether the chatter be good or bad, at least people are discussing their latest business venture! While sometimes the paycheck is never revealed, it feels safe to assume these celebs are securing the bag and taking home a huge sum of money to advertise these products.
Take the KarJenner crew for example. It’s no secret that the members of the family have all benefited from a series of endorsement deals. Whether it be their makeup lines or their perfumes, the reality TV megastars know how to convince their followers to buy their products. And, of course, they’ve found themselves caught up in a controversy over a brand deal — and the Kardashian-Jenners aren’t the only ones. Here are some celebrity product deals that raised a few eyebrows and had everyone talking… for not always the right reasons.
Lil Nas X created some devilishly scandalous shoes
Lil Nas X’s 2021 music video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” caught the attention of many after his satanic imagery “generated intense backlash … particularly from parents and religious people,” as noted by USA Today. However, the rapper didn’t stop there. After the release of the song, he announced he’d partnered with MSCHF to release his own limited-edition modified Nikes called “Satan Shoes.” MSCHF told NBC News that the shoes “contain a drop of human blood in the sole.”
The Grammy winner released 666 pairs that retailed at $1,018. The sneakers sold out in less than a minute, despite the mixed reaction they received when announced, according to NBC News. With that being said, it seems those who ordered a pair of Lil Nas’s “Satan Shoes” may have to stay patient. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nike got a temporary restraining order against MSCHF and has blocked the company from shipping the sneakers.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted, Nike’s lawyers said they have “submitted evidence that even sophisticated sneakerheads were confused” by the controversial shoes and more evidence that “some consumers are saying they will never buy Nike shoes ever again.” Customers may never get the shoes they ordered and Lil Nas X’s deal with MSCHF may have been a misstep according to some, but his single “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” skyrocketed to the top of the charts around the time of the controversy.
Madonna and Pepsi didn't stand a prayer's chance
Madonna has never been one to shy away from any controversy, and her collaboration with Pepsi sure did pop and fizz like a carbonated beverage. According to Business Insider, in 1989, the “Like a Virgin” hitmaker, who is also referred to as the “Queen of Pop,” signed a contract to star in a series of Pepsi commercials and a concert tour… and it did not go off without a hitch.
As Business Insider recalled, the company paid Madonna $5 million to use her latest single “Like a Prayer” in an ad, which reportedly premiered to almost 250 million people during a broadcast of The Cosby Show. The commercial itself was harmless and saw the singer dancing in the street and singing with a church choir. However, it was the song’s official music video that didn’t go down well with every viewer. The clip — which features burning crosses, a sexual assault, and Madonna kissing a saint — generated a lot of buzz.
Religious groups spoke out against the music video and the use of the song in the TV spot, and as The New York Times reported at the time, Pepsi ended up giving the ad the chop. This obviously didn’t hold Madonna’s career back. As ET Canada recounted, when she won the Viewer’s Choice Award at the 1989 VMAs, Madge said, “I would really like to thank Pepsi for causing so much controversy.”
The response to Kim Kardashian's diet lollipop ad wasn't so sweet
It was only a matter of time until we got to a member of the Kardashian family.
Kim Kardashian has endorsed many products over the years. But one of the most questionable choices she’s made? That might be the time she told her millions of Instagram followers to suck on a lollipop from company Flat Tummy Co to help them lose weight. As noted by BBC, the product claims to help suppress your appetite to help you slim down. On May 16, 2018, Kim uploaded a snapshot to Instagram of her eating the product and it definitely didn’t go unnoticed.
Many people were outraged by Kardashian’s decision to endorse the product. One of them being British actor Jameela Jamil, who immediately called out Kardashian on Twitter. She called the reality star a “toxic influence on young girls,” adding, “I admire their mother’s branding capabilities, she is an exploitative but innovative genius, however, this family makes me feel actual despair over what women are reduced to,” in a now-deleted tweet (via Evokie).
Despite Jamil’s passionate tweet, Kim seems to have remained unbothered by her words and has kept the photo on her feed all these years later.
Kendall Jenner's Pepsi commercial also caused a stir
Many years after Madonna’s Pepsi commercial, the popular brand waded back into controversial waters in 2017. This time around, the celebrity at the center of the drama was Kendall Jenner. In the advertisement, the model and reality star hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer during a protest, a gesture that prompted many to accuse the company and Jenner of undermining the Black Lives Matter movement.
The company pulled the ad immediately after it received a negative reaction. “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” Pepsi said in a statement to The New York Times. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”
In a 2017 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians (via AP), Jenner stated she’d “never purposely hurt someone ever” and “just felt so f***ing stupid” when the backlash hit. “I feel really bad that anyone was ever offended,” she said. “I feel really bad that this was taken such a wrong way and I genuinely feel like s***.”
Cheryl's L'Oreal ad generated a lot of complaints
British singer Cheryl rose to fame as one-fifth of the successful girl group Girls Aloud. With that being said, she has also been able to maintain that success as a solo artist too. With the fame and success came a lot of fans that admired the former X Factor judge, so it came to no surprise that L’Oreal wanted her to be the face of their brand in 2009. However, it appeared she was misleading her fan base.
According to the Daily Mail, Cheryl advertised the Elvive Full Restore 5 product, which is taken from their shampoo and conditioner range. In the commercial, she states, “My hair feels stronger, full of life, replenished with a healthy shine. It’s got its mojo back.” Seems innocuous enough, right? Eh, maybe not. As the Daily Mail noted, some viewers took issue with the spot because “she does not mention that she actually uses hair extensions, which cost up to £1,000, to give her hair more volume and bounce.”
L’Oreal received many complaints about the commercial as people felt it was all a scam. According to BBC, the complaints were eventually dismissed by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Charles Barkley called his Weight Watchers deal a 'scam'
Charles Barkley might be an NBA legend but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t put a foot wrong in the past. After he became the face of Weight Watchers, the basketball star stepped right in some hot water. While working as a commentator during an Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat game in 2012, Barkley got a little too candid talking about his involvement with the program when he thought the cameras weren’t still rolling. While he seemed to be happy with his results, he quipped that he couldn’t believe that sticking to a WW plan could bring in so much money. “I thought this was the greatest scam going, getting paid for watching sports,” he said. “This Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam.”
When Barkley hosted Saturday Night Live that same week, he didn’t shy away from making jokes about his endorsement deal. “Weight Watchers worked for me,” he said in the opening monologue. “I feel great, except for one thing: I am so hungry. I am starving. So please forgive me if I eat one of you tonight.”
The company didn’t fire him from his contract. Instead, they put out a statement praising the former basketball player. “We love Charles for the same reason everyone loves Charles, he’s unfiltered,” the company said (via OK!). “We agree that being a spokesman for Weight Watchers is a pretty great gig.”
Kylie Jenner's makeup line has its fair share of critics
There is no denying that Kylie Jenner is a powerful and smart business mogul. Her makeup company, Kylie Cosmetics, has helped turn the reality star into a wealthy woman and we can’t help but respect that. However, it seems customers haven’t always been getting what they paid for.
In July 2016, YouTuber Daina shared a video with her 500,000 plus subscribers that her lip kits from Jenner’s company had arrived half empty. She explained she didn’t notice at first because the outside of the tube “is stained with the lip color” to make the product look full. But when she rubbed the wand down the side of the tube of an unused item, she realized it didn’t contain much product inside at all.
As The Sun reported, Jenner’s company was slammed once again for its “cheap” products in 2020. Not only that, some of the reviews on the Better Business Bureau site claim the company’s customer service team isn’t totally responsive. Makeup guru Jeffree Star also had words to say about Kylie’s brand on his Snapchat account, stating that the quality of her product was terrible and “not acceptable.” He threw his items in the bin, describing them as “f**king garbage.” Ouch.
Lady Gaga's perfume contains questionable ingredients
Superstar singer Lady Gaga is no stranger to making headlines, and when she threw her hat into the fragrance ring with a perfume in 2012, gums sure did flap. According to Fashionista, insiders claimed Mother Monster wanted the perfume to “smell of blood and semen.”
After these reports surfaced, Gaga cleared the air on The Kyle and Jackie O Show (via Fashionista). “I wanted to extract the feeling and the scent of blood and semen from molecular structures, so that’s where that [report] came from,” she said. “[Blood and semen] is in the perfume but it doesn’t smell like that—you just get the after feeling of sex from the semen and the blood is primal.” As for whose blood was involved? “It was taken out of my own blood sample so it’s a sense of having me on your skin,” the future Oscar winner shared. Well, okay then!
Despite its questionable ingredients list, Fame was a huge success. “The reaction to FAME has been overwhelming,” Gaga tweeted at the time. “6 million bottles in 1 week makes it the 2nd fastest selling fragrance after Coco Chanel.”
Kim Kardashian's Skims brand started on a controversial note
Kim Kardashian makes our list once again. This time, it’s related to her successful clothing shapewear brand, Skims.
Kardashian first launched Skims in September of 2019, according to WWD. The brand has proven to be hugely popular since its debut, with Us Weekly noting that high-profile celebrities such as Ashley Graham, Sofia Richie, and younger sister Kylie Jenner have worn the attire.
However, the brand’s original name, Kimono, received a lot of backlash and Kardashian was heavily criticized for appropriating Japanese culture. In an Instagram post shared on Aug. 26, 2019, Kardashian revealed she would be changing the name to Skims after listening to everyone’s “feedback and opinions.” The decision to change the name was documented on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. In one scene, Kardashian shared she received a letter from the Mayor of Kyoto about the original name and the cultural significance of the kimono, and in another, she told Scott Disick it would lose the company a whopping $10 million to change the name last minute. Geez. Although, Kardashian made the right choice in the end.
Gwyneth Paltrow and her unique smelling candle
Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness and lifestyle brand and company, Goop, has a candle that smells like her vagina that retails at $75 online. Yep, you read that correctly.
According to the website, the scent of the product, simply named This Smells Like My Vagina, is “funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected,” adding “this candle is made with geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed to put us in mind of fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth.”
In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! In 2020, the product was shown to viewers at home. Paltrow explained that she and Douglas Little, the owner of Heretic Parfum, were smelling different fragrances, one of which Paltrow said smelt like her vagina as a joke. Paltrow thought it would be a “punk-rock feminist statement” to have a candle with that name. Little ended up making the candle and it ended up on Goop’s website without her knowing. Although it was clearly the right decision as they are proved to be popular and are completely sold out.
Khloé Kardashian will shill for a diet tea, no matter the blowback
Khloé Kardashian has promoted controversy products like detox teas and shakes several times on social media, but she doesn’t seem to be fazed by any of the backlash. In a since-deleted Instagram post that went up in 2019 (via Teen Vogue), Kardashian is seen showing off her stomach while posing next to the Flat Tummy Co’s products that she claimed helped her lose weight.
Actor Jameela Jamil called out the reality star’s post in a long Instagram comment (via Teen Vogue). “If you’re too irresponsible to: a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic, rather than this laxative product… and b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren’t healthy,” she wrote. “It’s incredibly awful that this industry bullied you until you became this fixated on your appearance,” Jamil continued, adding, “That’s the media’s fault. But now please don’t put that back into the world and hurt other girls, the way you have been hurt.”
Despite the controversy, Kardashian promoted the same company the following year. “Ok… I’ve posted with @flattummyco’s Shakes in the past and YES, I also use a personal trainer and nutritionist, but THESE SHAKES WORK to help get your tummy back to flat,” she tweeted. The post wasn’t received well, with Twitter users writing things like “dude these things don’t work and are toxic and not good for your system.”
Mary J. Blige's 'unfinished' Burger King ad was deemed offensive
In April 2012, Mary J. Blige was featured in an unfinished Burger King commercial that was created to promote their new chicken wraps. In the ad, Blige performs a song that detailed the ingredients of the item of the menu to the tune of “Don’t Mind.” Some critics accused the ad of playing into racist stereotypes, and as TMZ reported, Burger King pulled the spot entirely, citing licensing issues. In a statement obtained by the outlet, the “No More Drama” hitmaker said, “I agreed to be a part of a fun and creative campaign that was supposed to feature a dream sequence. Unfortunately, that’s not what was happening in that clip.”
Blige said the “unfinished spot like the one you saw go out” was not her style, and according to TMZ, Burger King said they “would like to apologize to Mary J. and all of her fans for airing an ad that was not final.”
The revered singer told Hot 97’s Angie Martinez (via The Hollywood Reporter) that she wanted to “crawl under the bed” in the wake of the backlash. “I would never just bust out singing about chicken and chicken wings,” she said. “It hurt my feelings and crushed me for two days.”
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