Is Beyoncé a Junk Food Hypocrite?

Despite the fact PepsiCo is paying her to hawk its sugary sodas on her worldwide tour this summer, Beyoncé has declared her backstage green room a “no junk food zone.”

Her rider—the list of products and services she requests from each performance venue on tour—allegedly contains items like hand-carved ice balls to suck on after the show, a fresh coat of paint, new toilet seats, $1,000 titanium drinking straws, and a number of other über specific luxuries, according to the Daily Star. And right at the top of her list? Absolutely no junk food. Instead, according to the Star, “snacks must include glass platters of almonds and oatcakes, and there’s a strict green-only policy when it comes to salad bar nibbles.”



We assume that means Bey and her crew aren’t sipping on Pepsi before and after the show, despite the fact the drink-maker signed the Queen of Pop last year to a $50 million contract to use her likeness on its cans, have her sing at the Super Bowl halftime show, fund many of her upcoming “creative endeavors,” and, yes, sponsor her “Mrs. Carter Show” world tour. If Beyoncé doesn’t regularly drink Pepsi for inspiration, as the current television spots imply, the entire endorsement can be risky for both her and Pepsi, says Margaret C. Campbell, professor of marketing at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.

“This risk is high when an endorser is personally opposed to a product that she endorses,” Campbell tells TakePart. “However, it may be that Beyoncé thinks soft drinks are fine, despite the strong evidence that soft drinks are negative contributors to the American diet.”

But given a few of the other items on Beyoncé’s rider—namely, that ridiculously expensive titanium straw with which to drink her precisely 21-degree alkaline water—it seems unlikely the singer is OK with slurping fizzy corn syrup out of a can.

Of course, Beyoncé isn’t the first celebrity to endorse junk food. Far from it. There was Michael Jackson selling Pepsi. Soccer star David Beckham endorsing Burger King. Kim Kardashian promoting Carl’s Jr., and Kobe Bryant hawking gut-busting McDonald’s.

The difference is those stars hadn’t also partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama to curb childhood obesity—which is at an all-time high. Beyoncé lends her celebrity to the Let’s Move! campaign, a nationwide program encouraging children to eat healthy and exercise. When it was announced last year that Beyoncé would be schilling for Pepsi too, food and nutrition policy expert Marion Nestlé, of New York University, called the deal a “slap in the face” to the Let’s Move! campaign. And The New York Times’ Mark Bittman also took Beyoncé to task when the deal was announced.

“Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in,” he wrote. “From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was ‘excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,’ she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis.”

Is Beyoncé a hypocrite for banning fast food on tour while still endorsing Pepsi?

Related stories on TakePart:

• Nickelodeon Under Fire for Junk Food Ads

• Could Soda Finally Be Fizzing Out?

• What’s on the Menu for Michelle Obama’s Second Term?

Steve’s story about healthy fast food was anthologized in Best Food Writing 2011. His food and general interest stories regularly appear in Edible Boston, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other places. Email Steve | @thebostonwriter