Infamous crying 'Northwestern kid' gets another turn at stardom

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:John Phillips;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">John Phillips</a> is making his triumphant return to the spotlight. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
John Phillips is making his triumphant return to the spotlight. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

John Phillips gained notoriety when the camera panned to his crying face at least a dozen times during Northwestern’s loss against Gonzaga during March Madness in 2017. Memes were immediately created at the boy’s expense, and thus a new crying face in the era of viral content was established.

Now 14, John is ready to use his celebrity for charity, and that begins by lending his face to Pizza Hut’s latest campaign.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Phillips is the star of the pizza chain’s March Madness commercial, and the theme revolves around “the roller coaster of emotions synonymous with fans’ experiences,” per the news release.

Scheduled to debut Thursday — the first day of the NCAA tournament —the 15-second commercial is aptly titled the “What-Just-Happened Wail.”

Pizza Hut wanted to compensate John for his services. However, the high school freshman decided to funnel the money through a different channel: literacy and food programs.

“I am not interested in getting any more fame from this, believe me, but when the chance came to help others, that’s when I agreed to it and I’m honored to make a positive change out of this,’’ John said to The Tribune.

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Instead of pocketing the funds for himself, John is opting to donate the money to two charities Pizza Hut supports. Harvest programs, which is the corporation’s national food donation initiative and First Book, which provides access to books for impoverished children will be recipients of the “nice chunk of change” he would have directly received.

John’s famous parents completely support his decision to market his likability in the name of charity. Shortly after footage of him crying during that infamous match went viral, he was quickly identified as the son of Northwestern’s athletic director Jim Phillips. Jim’s wife Laura explained that the decision to accept Pizza Hut’s offer was solely left to their son.

“We were not interested in exploiting John’s notoriety for personal gain,’’ Laura told The Tribune

Another famous face of despair featured in the spot includes the “crying piccolo player” Roxanne Chalifoux, who experienced her own viral fame in 2015 after her tear-laced face was featured on the Jumbotron during Villanova’s tournament game against North Carolina State.

Despite consequences —good and bad— that have occurred since John achieved internet fame, one thing remains clear: he has grown accustomed to his reputation.

“At first, it was very confusing but as it progressed, I’ve grown more and more comfortable with it as part of my identity.”

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