What do you do when you’re a hard-working #influencing celebrity in need of an effective side-hustle? It’s a tale as old as Hollywood itself. You need something to do to while away the hours in-between movies or albums, and cocaine just isn’t as cool as it used to be. Maybe you need a secure financial investment after COVID-19 screwed things up. Where to put your resources? Gwyneth’s cornered the market in vagina candles, and the world doesn’t need another hastily released make-up palate for Beauty YouTube to roast. Really, the perfect solution presents itself.
Seasons may change, but alcohol never goes out of style.
Celebrity-endorsed alcohols have been around for quite some time. Francis Ford Coppola’s wines helped him to scrape back his fortune after bankruptcy, and Dan Aykroyd is probably better known to younger folks for his Crystal Head vodka than his movies. Yet it certainly feels like there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of famous people, from megastars to the minor leagues, shilling the newest addition to the drunken market. Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries and Dancing With the Stars alum Julianne Hough teamed up to form Fresh Vine, a wine brand that sells itself as a ‘guilt-free experience’ thanks to its low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free and vegan-friendly drinks. Befitting of the man who wrote ‘Gin and Juice’, Snoop Dogg sells Indoggo Gin and offers handy recipe guides on his website. Nick Jonas sells tequila, Kylie Minogue offers Rosé wines, and Travis Scott is the man behind various kinds of agave spiked seltzer, for boozing on the go. Even Bob Dylan got in on the fun with a whiskey named, wait for it, Heaven’s Door.
Other brand deals require certain aesthetic expectations. A clothing line requires the celebrity to look stylish 24/7 and prioritize their own work over more popular and lucrative companies. Skincare has become a big deal for many female celebrities, with Jennifer Lopez launching her own line. It’s hard, however, to sell the notion of relatability and customer satisfaction with a moisturizer when we all know that women like Lopez, Victoria Beckham, and Kylie Jenner don’t look that good because of a mere cream. Restaurants are costly investments more likely to flop than succeed. Lifestyle brands are equally tricky, with only Gwyneth Paltrow cracking the code and even then that’s mostly due to pseudoscience rich-people crap. But booze? It requires way less of the celebrity. Sure, it doesn’t hurt when George Clooney looks good selling Casamigos but who’s going to turn down a drink because the guy shilling it doesn’t look their best?
Booze can be a quiet investment, one where a celebrity’s name or face isn’t required. Most product placements, ad campaigns, and business investments like this require a celebrity to be front and center. That can help with marketing and the like when all your glossy magazine advertising includes a familiar face nursing a glass of their branded tequila. Yet it’s not always necessary. It’s a noted contrast from something like a fashion deal that is rooted in appearance or doing old-school whiskey ads in Japan, Lost in Translation style. You probably didn’t know that Mulholland Distilling whiskey is the work of Walton Goggins. Born and Bred American Craft Vodka comes to us courtesy of Channing Tatum.
Of course, for those celebrities who do want the world to know about their work, booze can be a great status symbol. There’s a reason that every Rockstar and rapper seems to have their own whiskey, vodka, cognac, or assorted liquor line. It looks great in music videos, it plays up a certain kind of fun-loving image, and it’s malleable to a star’s personality. Do you want to be monied and classy or a down-in-the-dirt party dude? Alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, after all.
There are cultural issues at play here too. All of the most prominent celebrity tequila brands are run by white people, from George Clooney to Justin Timberlake to Kendall Jenner. When Jenner announced her latest project, 818 Tequila, Mexican and Latinx commenters took her to task for her appropriation. As one comment noted — take from the Diet Prada Instagram account — ‘Tequila production is traditionally a family business in Mexico. I think it’s disgusting that another rich white celeb is appropriating Mexican culture with the audacity to think you’re making it better than Mexicans.’ Jenner is definitely not spending her days checking on the quality of the ingredients, the welfare of the workers, or the cultural importance placed on the drink, but she will probably make a solid buck from it based solely on name recognition and the Jenner/Kardashian family ability of ceaseless self-promotion. (Also, drinking tequila with ice, Kendall? Oh honey…)
Beyond the novelty of owning a vodka ‘made’ by Kate Hudson, there isn’t much impetus for thirsty drinkers to care about the celebrity, but that’s not exactly the point. The name is the hook and there goes the line. It worked well enough for celebrity side-hustle expert Ryan Reynolds with Aviation Gin, and it ensured that the brand netted him a pretty penny when it came time to sell. Most of these celebrities aren’t in it for the craft. It’s the booze version of making an ‘innovative’ Silicon Valley start-up so you can be bought out before you need to worry about long-term survivability. Everyone is aiming for that billion-dollar payday that George Clooney got for his tequila. As goals go, it’s not a bad one, especially if you’re a performer who has seen their salaries tighten at a time when tours are canceled, cinematic releases and the promised residuals are down the drain, and the days of eight-figure paydays are long gone. Don’t cry for them, of course, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of a business venture that’s viable, historically sound, and just freaking cool.
But that’s nothing compared to what’s going to happen when the celebrity weed brands are let loose on the market. Seth Rogen is going to be an exceedingly wealthy man.
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