“Live for Now Moments Anthem” (2017), also known as #PepsiLivesMatter, is an ad for Pepsi, a US soft drink. It stars Kendall Jenner, a model best known for appearing on the reality TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” (2007- ). The ad came out on April 4th, marking the 49th anniversary of the death of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The ad has a civil rights theme.
The ad is two and a half minutes long. In the main part Jenner is modelling expensive clothes when she sees a street protest passing by. The protesters hold up signs saying things like “Love”, “Peace” and “Join the Conversation.” She takes off her blonde wig, handing it to a Black woman, smears off her purple lipstick with the back of her hand, and joins the protest. Somehow she has changed into blue jeans. When faced with the police, she steps forward and gives one of them a Pepsi. Everyone is happy!
Culturally sensitive: Noting the African American love of dance and the Asian American love of classical music, the ad shows Black people dancing and an Asian man playing a cello. It also shows a pretty woman in a hijab shooting video – without getting arrested!
Proud tradition: Kendall Jenner is part of a proud tradition in the US of White women who help people of colour, women like:
- LouAnne Johnson – played by Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds” (1995)
- Erin Gruwell – played by Hillary Swank in “Freedom Writers” (2007)
- Leigh Anne Tuohy – played by Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” (2009)
- Eugenia Phelan – played by Emma Stone in “The Help” (2011)
Timely: The ad is especially timely as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just put on hold police reforms in cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and Ferguson, cities troubled by police brutality and unconstitutional policing. The need for protest is not going away anytime soon.
Proper protest tactics: Thanks to the ad, we now know why Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL and other protests have been repeatedly met with heavy-handed, sometimes violent, policing: no White women and no Pepsi:
Even in the 1960s, civil rights protesters made the same mistake:
As Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, put it:
“If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
The ad was widely misunderstood and mocked. Some said the ad was tasteless, tone-deaf, full of racist tropes, or that Pepsi was trying to make money off the struggles of others. Some wondered if Pepsi has any Black people who sign off on its global advertising campaigns.
Pepsi pulled the ad within 24 hours with this apology, to the world and to Miss Jenner:
“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”
– Abagond, 2017.
- YouTube: Live for Now Moments Anthem – see the whole ad
- Pepsi Max: Love Hurts
- Jeff Sessions
- The police
- White Saviour
- Kumbayah anti-racism
- Kim Kardashian – Kendall Jenner’s half sister