Jennifer Lopez, Turkmenistan and a history of celebrity guilt-by-association
Pop diva Jennifer Lopez performs at Avaza, near the city of Turkmenbashi (Father of all Turkmen), named after former president Saparmurat Niyazova on June 29, 2013.
Jennifer Lopez performed a concert in Turkmenistan on Saturday night that ended with the pop star singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to the country's leader, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Issue number one: (aside from the difficulty of pronouncing his name) Berdymukhamedov has been accused of committing widespread human rights abuses, including detaining and torturing political critics, stifling free speech, and barring citizens from leaving the country.
Issue number two: Lopez was likely paid extravagantly for the performance, though the exact figure has not been released.
The singer, who is famous for not touring, seems to have made quite a bit of cash from private concerts. Here's the Guardian with the details:
Lopez is one of the highest-profile western pop stars to play private concerts around the former Soviet Union in exchange for huge fees. She is believed to be the first major star to visit and perform in Turkmenistan, a nation whose people live in poverty and are allowed little contact with the outside world... Lopez has also performed at the wedding of an Uzbek businessman in Ukraine, reportedly for $1m (£660,000), as well as for the Azeri oligarch Telman Ismailov, reportedly for $1.4m.
Lopez's publicist released a statement on Sunday saying the singer would not have performed in Turkmenistan had she been aware of the president's human rights record.
And yet, Lopez is not alone when it comes to enjoying the lavish company of controversial figures.
Actor Kevin Costner and model Carmen Electra reportedly attended a $1.5 million birthday party in 2004 for a son of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was ousted by a revolt in 2011.
British model Naomi Campell received so-called "blood diamonds" from Charles Taylor, the ex-Liberian president who was sentenced to 50-years in prison by The Hague for war-crimes.
"Margaritaville" singer Jimmy Buffett performed at a 6-day $2 million Roman Empire-themed party thrown by former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski for his wife's 40th birthday. Kozlowski was convicted of improperly spending millions of dollars of company money, including $1 million on his wife's fete which featured an ice sculpture that urinated vodka.
In a year of popular uprisings against entrenched dictators across the Arab world, Kim Kardashian traveled to Bahrain and had a lovely ol' time. She encouraged her fans to visit the nation, which had just violently cracked down on civil dissent, and tweeted to her followers: "I just got to Bahrain! OMG can I move here please? Prettiest place on earth!"
And Sting -- Sting!!! -- was reportedly paid between $1.5 million and $3 million dollars for, according to the Guardian, singing at an “alleged arts festival” in Uzbekistan. The organizer was Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of that country’s president, Islam Karimov, a condemned human rights abuser himself.