July 17, 2011

What goes wrong when celebs endorse food.

When someone who should know better calls Paul Newman 'the salad guy', maybe it's time to think again

People are conditioned to believe that if a celebrity endorses something, it must be important to them or, they're getting paid loads of money. I understand celebrity chefs endorsing food. That makes sense. And it makes sense to me that a model would put their face on a wrinkle cream or an athlete would promote an energy drink. It even makes sense that Jennifer Aniston would endorse a ubiquitous and universally appealing beverage. Water.

But endorsing is one thing. Having a food item named after you is a different matter. That says: this is me. It's like having personalised fragrance in that it's interactive. You can buy Mariah Carey's perfume, spritz yourself and presume that you're going to smell just like her. Likewise, if you buy Sylvester Stallone's high-protein pudding, you're a tiny bit closer to being like Rocky.

Scores of celebrities have climbed on board. Hulk Hogan has the Hulkster Cheeseburger - a microwaveable cheeseburger and bun all in one. This saves time from having to assemble it separately, I guess. More time to wrestle! Paradoxically, supermodel Heidi Klum has her face on her own line of candy. Heidi Klum's fat-free fruit flirtations. Good luck with those.

Last week, I was in Holland & Barrett buying dried apricots when I spotted the Elizabeth Hurley fruit and oat bars. I knew she'd become a part-time organic farmer, but I'd never seen the bars. There she is on the wrapper wearing a black mini dress, pink wellies with a pineapple on her head. On closer inspection I realised that no, it wasn't a pineapple but a bunch of bananas. Much more appropriate. She's even got her big black sunglasses on. Just in case paparazzi are lurking in the snacks aisle.

Sorry, the GUILT FREE snacks aisle. At under 100 calories they are "perfect for the moments you want something sweet". You know what else they're perfect for? Moments you want to ponder what's wrong with people.

Of course, there are celebrities who have an entire line of food with a genuine purpose and there seems to be more gravitas to it. Terence Stamp, for instance, has a delicious gluten-free line. And the most well known, naturally, is Paul Newman. I find it comforting to see his face peering out from the Fig Newmans cookies.

It does have drawbacks though. I was having a conversation recently with a young person who had never heard of Paul Newman. I was taken aback - even though she was 14, that seemed old enough to have seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "Oh, wait," she paused. "You mean the salad dressing guy?" The salad dressing guy. Paul Newman! That was disturbing.

I asked a couple of my friends - if they were to have their own food item what it would be. My friend Carla said she'd have her name on a cherry pie that had no calories. No calories at all? She should meet Elizabeth Hurley and the two of them could come up with a taste-free food line. Another friend said her signature food item would be chips that once eaten, made you look younger. I'm not sure what my item would be but it would definitely be something "on the side".

But best of all was my friend, Helena, who said her food item would be called Tru Jerks. "It's jerky made from the hides of men who have let me down or tortured me in my life."