By Kenzie Bryant. Photos: Getty Images, Courtesy of Instagram.
Madonna posted two Instagrams on Wednesday: one of herself at the 1999 Grammy Awards carrying a can of Coca-Cola (captioned with a No. 1 medal in case there was any ambiguity left to decipher) and another of a clip from the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that was pulled on Wednesday after landing with a thud and allegations of appropriating imagery from recent protest movements to sell soda.
“Side Note: My Pepsi commercial was pulled 30 years ago because I was kissing a black saint!,” the pop star wrote, adding an “ironic” hashtag. Madonna was, of course referring to the $5 million Pepsi endorsement deal that she signed in 1989, but that went up among a controversy of its own. Her first Pepsi ad, too, was pulled the day after it was released. MTV had simultaneously debuted her “Like a Prayer” music video, a melange of provocative religious images including burning crosses and intimate moments with a figure inspired by Saint Martin de Porres, played by actor Leon Robinson.
While the Instagram comments set reveled in the shade thrown on Wednesday, there were of course some key differences in the two cases. Mainly: while Madonna has often actively courted controversy throughout her career, Jenner has a track record of avoiding it. And whereas Madonna shouldered the blame in 1989, Pepsi took the extraordinary step of issuing an apology to Jenner on Wednesday.
Time will tell if the world is still talking about Jenner’s ad in 28 years. Jenner seems be hoping that we won’t. TMZ’s paparazzi were waiting for her in the Paris airport on Wednesday; she hid her face and ignored questions. Madonna, who undeniably had more agency in creating the work that torpedoed her Pepsi endorsement, leaned in to the firestorm at the time. “Art should be controversial, and that's all there is to it,” she said. Almost three decades later, she had the last laugh.
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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