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Celebrities and Bottled Water: Spoiled, Misinformed, or Just Plain Weird

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The explosive growth in bottled water use by Americans, and indeed, much of the rest of the world, is due to many factors, including both unfounded and legitimate concerns about tap water, disappearing water fountains from our public spaces, misleading and false advertising, and a desire to emulate our famous (and infamous) public figures. We used to drink 1 gallon of bottled water a year, on average. Now it is nearly 30 gallons a year per person. These issues are all addressed in the book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, along with the serious environmental and energy consequences of our bottled water use.

More and more, we are seeing celebrities drinking bottled water, carrying bottled water in public, or even hawking bottled water for a fee. It is hard to miss the huge advertising blitz with Jennifer Aniston for Smart Water, in a deal that is no doubt worth millions to her (I've heard one million, I've heard four million, I've heard stock options: does anyone actually know? A million dollars will drill more than 300 water wells in Africa).

Celebrities live in a different world, where they come to expect special treatment. Perhaps the weirdest expression of this is seen in the bottled water demands in contracts and riders that celebrities require when they perform, or speak, or otherwise appear in public. We've all heard about the recent demands of Sarah Palin for two bottles of "unopened still water" with "bendable straws" (on top of her demand for a specific kind of private jet on top of her $75,000 plus speaker fee). She's not the only politician to be picky about bottled water. As Vice President, Dick Cheney insisted on 4-6 bottles of water in his room, along with two bottles of "Sparkling water (Calistoga or Perrier)" if his wife accompanied him. Of course, Cheney also required that "All televisions [in his hotel rooms] tuned to FOX News..." lest he accidently see other sources of news and information. Senator John Kerry wanted his bottled water "uncarbonated. Poland Spring preferred. No Evian."

But there are lots more strange demands (thanks to the Smoking Gun for collecting and displaying a great collection of celebrity contracts and demands):

During his 2003 Poodle Hat Tour "Weird Al" Yankovic demanded bottled water in his dressing room but insisted that it NOT be Dasani water. In contrast, Kelly Clarkson insists that her water BE Dasani (though her band apparently wants Fiji Water).

AC/DC asked for both Evian and spring water (in addition to 3 oxygen tanks and 3 masks).

Mary J. Blige insists on Fiji water "absolutely, positively must be FIJI" at room temperature.

As part of the flight arrangements for Tiger Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren in 2004, the contract specified "Mr. Tiger Woods drinks liter bottles of Evian cold... Ms. Nordegren drinks Fiji room temperature..."

Christina Aguilera wants Arrowhead, along with L'Occitane vanilla-scented candles with matches, 4 black bath towels, and Veuve Clicquot champagne.

For a while, Madonna insisted on having bottles of special Kabbalah water at her photo shoots and appearances. She may still.

Other celebrity bottled water demands? Clay Aiken ("anything but Evian"); Brooks and Dunn ("spring water for the local crew; Evian or Napa... iced down for the artists"); Kris Allen (20 bottles of "SmartWater...No Dasani or Aquafina"); the Jonas Brothers ("6 bottles Vitaminwater (yellow, red, orange)"); Mariah Carey (mineral water so she and her dog can bathe in it. Oh, and she also wants bendy straws); Britney Spear's 2000 tour insisted on dozens of bottles of Evian, though in 2005 she went through a Kabbalah phase when Madonna switched from Evian to Kabbalah.

And there are even some efforts by a few celebrities to be, at least a little, environmentally sensitive: In 2008, Pearl Jam asked for bottled water, but "preferably ETHOS water, no Aquafina, Dasani, or Evian." Ethos Water is sold by Starbucks and some of the profits are given to help fund drinking water projects in developing countries. Sheryl Crow, who tries hard to be green, insisting on recyclable, biodegradable, and organic stuff, asks for backstage "watering stations," with water that "must be sourced from a local spring water vendor," though she also asks for Perrier water, owned by Nestle.

We want to know what celebrities are doing, who they are dating, and even what water they are drinking. And we want to imitate them: do what they do, eat what they eat, drink what they drink. If we're going to look up to them as role models at all, wouldn't it be nice if they were good ones?

Peter Gleick
Pacific Institute

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