In the age of social media, plenty of celebrities make money by promoting products online. However, celebrity endorsements aren't a new thing — and neither are the scandals and controversies that come with them.
Here are 16 times celebrities landed themselves in hot water with controversial marketing campaigns:
1. Queer Eye costars Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski faced backlash for posting very coupley Instagram pictures with captions teasing they were "finally together as partners"...
...only to reveal it was promo for Yummers, the pet meal mix-ins company they launched together.
Some fans called them out for clickbait and accused them of queer baiting. In response to one since-deleted negative comment, Jonathan replied, "[We] wanted to create some fun, splashy buzz around it. I'm happily married and figured most people would get the joke."
Further addressing the backlash on Twitter, they said, "Seeing folx be mad about two queer people making a joke to launch a biz are the same critics who have nothing to say about queer issues impacting queer people." However, this sparked further backlash.
2. In 2017, Kendall Jenner faced criticism for starring in a Pepsi commercial in which she brought peace between protestors and the police by handing an officer a can of soda.
She continued, "I think any time someone does anything, they don't have bad intentions of doing it a certain way. Especially Kendall. She's so sensitive, she would never mean for anybody to perceive things in a negative way."
Several more months down the road, Kim told the Hollywood Reporter, "We're not perfect, but you see these things in the media, like Kendall and [her Pepsi ad that was accused of trivializing Black Lives Matter], where I see her at home crying, but in the media she looks another way because she's not addressing it. I'm just like, 'This is wrong. You need to speak up.' She was like, 'I don't ever want to show that footage of me crying.' She was trying to not make excuses or be dramatic, but that was what she was going through at the time."
Kendall finally addressed the backlash on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians that aired six months after the ad. She said, "After I saw the reaction and I read what people had to say about it, I most definitely saw what went wrong. I was so stuck, and I really didn't know what to do, and I completely shut down."
The episode also showed Kendall discussing how to handle the situation with her older sisters and expressing concern over what her dad Caitlyn might say about the controversy in public.
Kendall also said, "I would never purposely hurt someone, ever, and if I knew this would've been the outcome, I never would've done something like this. ... The fact that I would offend or hurt other people was definitely not the intent. And that's what got me the most, is that I would've ever made anyone else upset."
About a year later, Kim revealed that, while Kendall's publicist advised her to keep quiet about the controversy, she encouraged her to address it publicly on the show.
She told the Hollywood Reporter, "There's time and places when you need to set the record straight. Like, my sister Kendall, she was caught up in something that she didn't have a lot of control over, and she wanted to speak out so badly. She was advised not to, but I advised her to speak out on our show where you feel safe."
3. In 2021, Kendall Jenner again faced beverage promotion-related backlash over the marketing materials for her brand 818 Tequila. She was criticized for cultural appropriation because, in a video, she wore an outfit and hairstyle that are traditionally associated with Mexican culture.
She was also criticized for spreading stereotypes and misconceptions regarding Mexican culture.
At the time, Kendall disabled comments on her Instagram posts about the campaign, then deleted them from her account. Four months later, she addressed the backlash by announcing that she'd be "donating back to the community of Jalisco [the Mexican state where her distillery is based]."
On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, she said, "At our distillery, which I was just at the other day, we found a way to take the agave waste — the agave fibers and the water waste — and build the sustainable bricks that we are actually donating back to the community of Jalisco."
She explained that the bricks would be used in the construction of hospitals and houses.
4. In 2018, Lena Dunham's collaboration with Revolve resulted in a sweatshirt that read, "Being fat is not beautiful, it's an excuse." The brand was criticized over the body-shaming message.
A few days after the backlash first erupted on Twitter, Lena revealed that she helped come up with the slogan. On Instagram, she said, "Without consulting me or any of the women involved, Revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself)."
She continued, "As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. ... I am deeply disappointed in Revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm."
She also said, "I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that Revolve will join me with a contribution of their own."
However, Lena then faced criticism for choosing to create an "empowering" clothing line with a non-size-inclusive brand.
5. In 2018, Kim Kardashian faced backlash for promoting "appetite suppressant lollipops" in sponsored Instagram posts.
In the original caption, she called the product "literally unreal" and urged fans to be "quick" if they wanted to buy them. However, her commenters called out the irresponsible message.
Jameela Jamil also called her out on Twitter, writing, "You [sic] terrible and toxic influence on young girls. I admire their mother’s branding capabilities, she is an exploitative but innovative genius, however this family makes me feel actual despair over what women are reduced to."
6. In 2019, Kim Kardashian launched her shapewear brand under the name "Kimono," which was criticized for appropriating the name of a traditional Japanese clothing item.
Daisaku Kadokawa, the mayor of Kyoto, wrote her an open letter asking her to reconsider the trademark. He also invited her to visit Kyoto "to experience the essence of Kimono Culture and understand our thoughts and our strong wish."
He wrote, "We are currently undertaking initiatives nationally to make 'Kimono Culture,' symbol of our culture and spirits, registered to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. We think that the names for 'Kimono' are the asset shared with all humanity who love Kimono and its culture; therefore, they should not be monopolized."
At first, Kim stood by the name, telling the New York Times that it was intended as "a nod to the beauty and detail that goes into a garment" and that she didn't plan "to design or release any garments that would in any way resemble or dishonor the traditional garment."
However, a few days later, she shared her decision to release the shapewear collection under a different name (Skims). On Instagram, she said, "I am always listening, learning, and growing — I so appreciate the passion and varied perspectives that people bring to me."
She also said, "Being an entrepreneur and my own boss has been one of the most rewarding challenges I’ve been blessed with in my life. What’s made it possible for me after all of these years has been the direct line of communication with my fans and the public."
7. However, Kim's first Skims-adjacent backlash was not her last. In 2020, she released a line of non-medical face masks, which sparked criticism that she was trying to profit from the pandemic.
She tweeted that the masks would be available "in 5 shades of Nudes" but was called out over the fact that, in the promo images, the Black model's mask was black rather than her tone of nude.
8. Then, in 2022, Kim announced her Skims "Fits Everybody" by sharing promotional images that featured herself alongside four former Victoria's Secret models.
9. In 2018, Blac Chyna was criticized for travelling to Lagos, Nigeria, to promote a $250 skin-lightening cream in collaboration with Whitenicious.
The model disabled the comments on her Instagram post about the venture, but people continued to call her out on Twitter.
10. In 2019, influencer Summer McKeen was called out for her Nudestix collaboration, which only featured a shade suitable for people with lighter complexions.
A spokesperson for Nudestix told BuzzFeed News, "It is really important to note that the Summer McKeen collaboration is only a selection of Summer’s favorite shades and textures that she loves wearing, personally. All of our products are available in various shades, individually, for our customers that span different ages, genders, and ethnicities, and that is something we are very proud of."
Summer took down the vlog in which she originally announced the collection. Then, she edited it and re-uploaded it, adding an explanation that she "had to deal with some issues."
Still, the collection was only available in one shade.
11. Kylie Jenner was criticized for promoting her Kylie Cosmetics lip glosses during the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On her Instagram story, she posted, "God protect the people of Ukraine. My thoughts and prayers are with you." However, two hours later, she added a second post promoting her brand, writing, "My new @KylieCosmetics lip shine lacquers are here!"
In the comments of a viral TikTok about her posts, she was called "insensitive and not genuine" and accused of not "read[ing] the room."
In the comments of her Instagram post announcing a "new platform," fans called her out for being "out of touch."
She was again criticized for promoting her clothing lines in a second post, which she captioned, "Thank you to everyone for their continued support during this uncertain time. To show our appreciation, we’re offering 20% off everything."
Addressing the backlash on her Instagram story, she said, "I know this is a weird time for everyone, and it feels strange to promote UJ, but I'm responsible for over 100 employees, so you better believe I'm gonna do everything in my power to keep all of my employees."
13. In 2019, Khloé Kardashian was criticized for promoting meal replacement shakes and claiming that they helped her achieve "undeniable" progress. Many commenters expressed that the message was irresponsible, damaging, and a promotion of disordered eating.
Jameela Jamil also called her out in the comments, branding the post "irresponsible" and pointing out that Khloé failed to mention if she had a "personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve [her] aesthetic."
Jameela said, "It's incredibly awful that this industry bullied you until you became this fixated on your appearance. That's the media's fault. But now please don’t put that back into the world, and hurt other girls, the way you have been hurt."
In 2020, Khloé again faced backlash for claiming that the meal replacement shakes she was promoting "WORK to help get your tummy back to flat" even though she "also [uses] a personal trainer and nutritionist."
14. In 2012, NBA player Charles Barkley accidentally called his Weight Watchers partnership a "scam" on live TV.
Thinking the cameras were off during an NBA live stream he was commentating, he said, "I thought this was the greatest scam going — getting paid for watching sports — this Weight Watchers thing is a bigger scam."
Rather than drop him, the company laughed it off in a statement, which read, "We love Charles for the same reason everyone loves Charles, he's unfiltered."
They continued, "We are thrilled that he is having great success and inspiring millions of men to join him. We agree that being a spokesman for Weight Watchers is a pretty great gig."
In his own statement, Charles said, "I meant what I said, the fact that I'm dropping pounds, getting healthier, and getting paid at the same time, is my definition of a great scam. The only problem is I'm going to have to use some of the money to buy a new wardrobe."