Top Oscar nominees will get pepper spray designed in Chicago in their ‘swag’ bags

CHICAGO — Among the "swag" bags given to the 28 top nominees in this year's Academy Awards will be something dreamed up by a Chicagoan: PepperFace, a pepper spray designed to spray out of the bottom, increasing the odds it will be used as intended when it really counts.

Whether it's along the 606 trail or at the scene of yet another carjacking in the city, the streets can be a dangerous place. Chicagoan Brian Pennington thinks his brainchild could be what saves the day.

"It's a cone-shaped spray. A half a spray will put you down for 30 to 40 minutes — long enough for you to get away," Pennington said. "Heck yeah, I would use it if I had to."

Pennington's product comes in a variety of styles, and it caught the eye of Hollywood in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement. Distinctive Assets, the company that provides gift bags to Oscar nominees, will feature PepperFace this year.

Martial art experts like Jordan Hestermann says as a last resort it could make all the difference.

"Crime is happening everywhere. There's definitely no safe place," Hestermann said. "This is really easy to carry and as a martial artist I can have it in my hand and make a fist around it."

Rape Victim's Advocates believe it should never have to come to using something like PepperFace. For his part, Pennington has partnered with the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence to raise awareness and help combat violence against women.