Are we really going to help the children of our nation lead healthy lives, or not? If we are, we'll have to stop pretending it's a good idea to give the new face of Pepsi, aka Beyoncé, the honor of singing our national anthem at President Obama's second inauguration. It's not. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong.
Let's take a step back and give this gorgeous, talented megastar the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she doesn't realize the extent of the obesity epidemic: that one in three kids in America are overweight or obese. But surely she has an inner circle of managers, agents, attorneys, PR people, stylists, make-up artists, and others who might have clued her in to the irony of pimping soda at a time of worldwide concern?
The White House knows. Michelle Obama has been one of the leading voices on this crisis. In fact, she enlisted her friend Beyoncé to film the "Move Your Body" dance number for the same reason Pepsi recruited her -- she's a huge influence on her young fans, including millions in the African American and Hispanic communities where children suffer disproportionately from diabetes and obesity.
Too bad there wasn't a conversation between the First Lady and Beyoncé during what must have been many months of negotiations between Pepsi and Beyoncé's "team." Then came the big fifty million dollar sponsorship announcement, the widely released photo of Beyoncé in short shorts (really short) pushing a shopping cart filled with sugary soda. One can of soda consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by SIXTY percent. Apparently, Beyoncé wants us to buy them by the cartful.
Sadly, celebrities don't always make the right decision when it comes to big ad dollars. Pepsi's PR folks, on the other hand, are looking like geniuses right about now. When the White House handed Beyoncé the plum task of singing the Star Spangled Banner, it chose to shine its enormous spotlight, with the whole world watching, on Pepsi, eh, I mean, Beyoncé. That's another 100 million dollars or so of free branding publicity for a product we're starting to realize is as unhealthful as cigarettes.
Maybe Beyoncé is second guessing this decision right about now. Perhaps while lulling her new baby to sleep she watched her friend Oprah's Master Class special this past week. In it, Maya Angelou entreated us all, "sista, you know what's right. Right may not be expedient, it may not be profitable, it's not always easy, but it will satisfy your soul. Live your life in a way you will not regret."
Angelou urged us to "pick up the battle and make it a better world." Oprah herself concluded we all must "just do right. That might mean being honest even when it's hard. Making sacrifices in the name of integrity."
Shilling soda to an already sick nation surely doesn't fit that prescription. We've got to stop acting as if it's okay to advertise junk to children who can't distinguish between commercials and content. We have to, at the very least, give all of our kids a chance at a healthy life.
So, enough is enough. Beyoncé's Pepsi deal was a serious lapse of judgment. And the White House tarnishes its own "brand" by unwittingly boosting the beverage industry. It's time to end the hypocrisy, admit the mistake, move Beyoncé from the line-up to the guest list, and replace her with someone who's not affiliated with any product that's sickening millions of America's kids. Sign the petition here.
This story appears in Issue 32 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, Jan. 18.
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