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Celebrities lose endorsement deals for all sorts of reasons.

In 2002, Britney Spears was dropped from Pepsi after being caught ordering a Coke, and was snapped by the paparazzi while drinking Dr. Pepper. Sharon Stone was dropped from all Chinese Christian Dior advertisements in 2008 for suggesting the country’s earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 70-thousand people was the result of “bad karma” from Beijing’s policies in Tibet. And Priceline dropped William Shatner for being too good at his job. In his final commercial for the company, the Priceline Negotiator was killed off in a fiery bus explosion.

The latest celebrity to receive the axe from a major company? Rihanna. As the Daily Mail reports, the singer was dropped from Nivea Cosmetics for being “too Hot”.

The star appeared in a series of adverts for the firm, which was a sponsor of her world tour last year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company.

And now cosmetic tycoon Stefan Heidenreich – the new head of Nivea’s parent firm, Beiersdorf – has told German media that the singer should have been considered a ‘no go’ for the brand’s family image.

The 49-year-old said: ‘The advert starring Rihanna was a no go. I do not understand how Nivea can be brought into association with Rihanna.’

In one ad, a family is seen moisturising with Nivea while Rihanna’s sultry hit California King Bed plays in the background.

The original video of the song shows the star wearing stockings and lingerie writhing with a man on a bed. Heidenreich added: ‘Nivea is a company which stands for trust, family and reliability.’

Rihanna is off the hook (to employ a phrase from the 90’s) and everybody knows it. Not that she was exactly demure before, but after the whole Chris Brown debacle, she left the scene for a few months and came back more controversial than ever. She’s crass, sings about sex incessantly and was even photographed smoking a blunt. She parties hard, snaps back at critics and sends cryptic tweets obviously geared toward her ex-boyfriend (Chris Brown). Basically, she’s just your average 24-year-old…with a massive amount of money.

This isn’t new though. Rihanna hasn’t changed since she began endorsing Nivea. When she got the deal, the company said it wanted her to promote the brand to a younger generation. Nivea was an official sponsor of Rihanna’s North American and European “Loud Tour” and had a presence at each tour date. As Daily Mail pointed out:

When Nivea signed up the star last year they said they were ‘very excited’ to have her on board.

Nivea board member Markus Pinger said in a press release at the time: ‘Over the past 100 years, Nivea has been an iconic skin-care brand across the world.

‘Rihanna is a music icon and her digital footprint will help us bring our anniversary celebration to consumers wherever they are.’

So, why did Nivea flip the script and decide to demonize her and using a bizarre “we stand for family” defense to do it?

It’s not clear but somehow, no matter how much changes (and stays exactly the same), we’ve refused to define family as anything outside of husband, wife, and biological baby. In fact, Rihanna would fit just fine into a “family” image if we stopped using the word “family” to discredit others’ existence. Does Rihanna not fit into the “family” image because she’s not a wife and mother? Can’t she be a sister or a daughter or a cousin who lives with us? She’s 24 for goodness sakes and the company is selling lotion not wedding rings, bassinets and Sesame Street toys. Single chicks are still someone’s family member and single chicks get ashy legs too.

Rihanna could certainly afford to tone it down on the sexual front, but is this really about her not representing the “family”? Considering Nivea’s history, it’s difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is the same company that had to apologize after running a highly-controversial ad suggesting that black man needed to “re-civilize” themselves.

Considering that, I feel this decision goes beyond Rihanna’s fondness for raunch or her lack of a husband and child. Black celebrities know they walk a fine line when it comes to endorsements. Remember when Pepsi pulled Ludacris’s commercial because Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly called for a company-wide boycott? O’Reilly characterized Ludacris’ lyrics as “immoral” and a bad influence on youth. (Because Pepsi is for kids?) Pepsi responded by dropping the rapper and picking up Ozzy Osbourne of all people. In Rihanna’s case, sex sells, but sex with a black girl is still taboo with “ordinary” people. Though one big wig may encourage you to go topless and seductive to promote the company, another may throw you off a moving train for the same promotion. It’s not as though this company is against “Hot”. This same company uses people like Khloe Kardashian to promote anti-cellulite creams. Why? Because cellulite is not Hot. So, what’s really going on here?

Let me be clear, I am not calling this man (or Nivea in general) racist. He reserves the right to drop her and maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with his preconceived notions on race and sexuality. I am saying that we can’t rule that out — especially considering that citing Rihanna’s sex appeal as evidence that she doesn’t fit a “trustworthy and reliable” image is utterly ridiculous.
For her part, Rihanna tweeted a picture of the new CEO who dissed her and captioned: “No caption necessary”

What do you think?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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