Originally created 06/30/00

Pupils promote products



SAVANNAH - Carson Products didn't have to go far when it went looking for faces for a national ad campaign.

An advertisement featuring the faces of 5-year-old Heard Elementary pupil Brianna Adams, 8-year-old Butler Elementary honor pupil Sherelle Jones, and Rik'ki Jackson, a 6-year-old Atlanta girl, premiered in the April 10 issue of Jet and will be seen in other magazines. The girls' images, with their white clothing and snowy-white teddy bears, pop off a bright-pink background.

A cropped photo, which shows the two local girls hugging their bears, also will grace the Beautiful Beginnings children's hair-care product shelf displays.

Ten-year-old twins Shakera and Shakema Wall, who will attend sixth grade at Southwest Middle School, and 9-year-old J.G. Smith and pupil Victoria Taylor, appear in another advertisement that will be launched in 2001.

In the picture that will be used in the campaign, the three girls are on their stomachs, leaning on their elbows, feet kicking the air behind them.

Victoria, in the middle, appears to be talking on the phone, while all three girls are looking at each other, laughing.

Although the "slumber party" scene isn't real, the laughs certainly were.

"We kept making faces and saying she was talking to a boy named Michael," Shakema said with a giggle. "We just made him up."

"We were laughing about the silly poses we made," Victoria added.

Savannah-based personal care product company Carson Products knew it didn't have to look far for talent when it developed the ideas behind its product line advertising campaigns.

"We wanted to have involvement in the local community,"said John Carthon, a marketing representative for Carson.

And there were plenty of photogenic girls in town.

"Savannah gives a great deal of support to Carson Products," Brand Manager LeRon McKendrick said.

She added that the company's community partnership with Butler Elementary's business education program was one resource it looked to when deciding on talent. It was through this partnership with Butler that third-grader Sherelle was chosen from a "casting call" for the ads. The 8-year-old remembers the experience as "really, really fun." The other girls were chosen from pictures their parents sent the company.

The news came as a real surprise for Bernice and Reginald Wall, parents of Shakera and Shakema, fifth-graders at Hodge Elementary.

"I went into a beauty supply store, and the lady working there asked me `Have you tried submitting their picture for advertising to Carson?'ƒ" Ms. Wall said. "She thought the twins were so pretty."

So she took the saleswoman's advice and did so. Then she forgot all about it. A year later, she got the call from the company with the news that the girls' photos were chosen.

For the twins, this meant they'd be taking their first plane trip, headed to the two-day photo session in Atlanta. They were well-fed during the shoot - given about anything they wanted to eat - and were pampered by the stylists, makeup artist and wardrobe staff on the set.

"It was really unbelievable to be on the set. People were there at your beck and call," said Parthenia "Candy" Wall, Brianna's mother. "They were so nice and cooperative with the kids, even when they got tired."

And they did get tired. The photo sessions ran from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for two consecutive days.

But Brianna has been enjoying her first experience with "celebrity-hood."

"She thinks Jet is her book," Ms. Wall said. "ƒ`Have you seen my book?' That's what she asks people."

And being noticed, even in Europe, was certainly a thrill for Sherelle.

"My brother called me from Germany," said Rhonda Jones, Sherelle's mother.

He had picked up a copy of Jet at the newsstand and found the ad with his niece's picture. The children will have more than just good memories and a brush with fame to remember this experience.

"They were compensated for talent usage and domestic and global usage," Mr. McKendrick said.

"It's not really less expensive than using professional models," Mr. Carthon said. "We'll pay the same amount."

The girls also were given a $1,000 educational trust fund, which they can use when they turn 18, Mr. Carthon said.

Not bad for a couple of days' work, at any age.