A lawsuit involving a lipstick endorsed by Rihanna may have inadvertently created the impression that Rihanna was somehow involved with a fan contracting herpes.
A woman who attended one of the R&B singer’s Diamonds World Tour concerts filed a lawsuit last week claiming a rep for MAC Cosmetics applied RiRi Woo lipstick on her upper lip, resulting in a herpes outbreak. “My whole lip was irritated and hugely swollen,” said Starkeema Greenidge, alleging that instead of using sanitary sample packs the makeup rep re-used a tube of lipstick that had touched the lips of someone with herpes.
It is doubtful Rihanna had anything to do with the hygienic practices, or lack of such, used to sample the lipstick. Still, the deluge of print and broadcast media stories about the case will forever link the “Tainted Love” singer and herpes in people’s minds.
Though some celebrity product endorsement deals are a win-win — former boxer George Foreman is as famous for his grill as his right hook — their association with flawed or controversial products can also drag celebrities down.
When Kourtney, Kim and Khloe Kardashian endorsed a prepaid debit card targeted at teenagers, some financial experts cried foul. The cutely named “Kardashian Kard,” imprinted with a photo of the three pretty sisters, had hefty fees — including $59.95 to set up the account and $9.95 to replace a lost card. Riffing on the reality TV show about the famous K-family, the attorney general for Connecticut said, “In reality, no family can ‘keep up with the Kardashians’ using this card.” Not only did the sisters end up with egg on their face, they were sued by the credit card company for reneging on the endorsement deal. (The charges were later dropped.)
Kim Kardashian also lost street cred on commercials she made for Skechers Shape-ups. The claim that walking in the shoes could tone one’s butt was never scientifically proven, and mislead buyers were awarded $40 million in a class action law suit last month. You could say Kim put her foot in her mouth on that one.
The long-reigning Queen of Chat, Oprah Winfrey, found herself facing an unfamiliar prospect — failure — when she helped launch a new cable TV network two years ago in a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Oprah’s production company HARPO (Oprah spelled backwards). OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network used the star’s name and reputation as a hook to gain viewers, believing her royal stature would somehow make the new cable network a success.
Instead, the uninspiring hodgepodge of programs caused the channel to get off to a slow start, jeopardizing Oprah’s reputation as the Queen Midas of the media. “It really was, this time last year, the worst period in my professional life,” Winfrey told a crowd of Harvard grads and their families last week. “I was stressed, I was frustrated, and I was, quite frankly, I was actually embarrassed.” She proudly added that OWN’s future now looks more promising.
Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest practically begged Beyoncé to stop shilling for sugar-sweetened soda pop. “Your image is one of success, health, talent, fitness, and glamour. But by lending your name and image to PepsiCo, you are associating those positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans,” the advocacy group wrote in an open letter to the “Single Ladies” singer. Mrs. Carter did commercials for the beverage company and sang in the “Pepsi Halftime Show” at this year’s Super Bowl in February. Whether her fans thought she was a hypocrite for hawking sugary drinks is hard to say, but health nuts are probably not too happy about her singing the praises of soda.
Despite the risks of pitching products and services that could result in embarrassment or even lawsuits, celebrities are not likely to turn down lucrative endorsement deals anytime soon. David Beckham, for instance, signed a nine-figure lifetime deal with Adidas back in 2003, and Halle Berry is believed to make a pretty penny from her contracts with Revlon and Versace. The “Monster’s Ball” star can only hope Revlon doesn’t start unhygienically sampling its lipstick at her movie premieres.
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