TV

Jussie Smollett Makes History As Pepsi’s First Out Celebrity Spokesperson

The soft drink gives us a meta moment on "Empire"

Pepsi has been quenching the world’s thirst for well over a century with its combination of sugary carbonation and Satan’s nectar, and has lured in celebrity endorsements for decades.

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Joan Crawford got the ball rolling when she married PepsiCo president Alfred Steele in 1955, and upon his death in 1959 she remained an advertising executive and board of directors member until 1973.

By all accounts, she was the life of the annual company picnic. Don’t f*ck with her, fellas!

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Pepsi’s public profile exploded in 1984 with the endorsement of Michael Jackson, who along with his brothers (The Jackson 5) advertised Pepsi for “the new generation,” filming some commercials that were very successful (here he is with a very young Alfonso Ribiero).

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And one commercial that caused worldwide headlines.

That wasn’t the only infamous Pepsi endorsement moment. In 1989 they thought they hit the jackpot with Madonna, filming a commercial featuring her new single “Like A Prayer” and agreeing to sponsor the accompanying tour.

The commercial was pulled and Pepsi canceled their advertising campaign when the actual video for “Like A Prayer” was released, and outraged Catholic groups threatened a boycott over the “blasphemous” imagery.

Madonna had the last laugh, as she usually does, when Pepsi agreed to let her keep the $5 million she had been advanced.

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But most Pepsi celebrity endorsements have been happier, and featured some of the biggest pop stars in the world, including Britney Spears, who always looked thrilled.

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The Spice Girls.

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And Beyonce, who has had a long and successful relationship with the company.

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Now Pepsi has taken it to the next level, and they’ve done it in the most meta way possible.

On Wednesday’s mid-season finale of Empire, the character of Jamal Lyons (played by Jussie Smollett) starred in a Pepsi commercial, directed by show creator Lee Daniels.

So we have a gay actor starring in a Pepsi commercial as the gay character he plays, which is some kind of double whammy of gay mass marketing.

It’s unclear if we’ll be seeing Jussie (or Jamal) continue with the Pepsi endorsements, but this is a welcome step forward.

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.
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