You have a computer (or you wouldn’t be reading the articles on PrimeRates.com). And if you have a computer and you have the least bit of curiosity about anything, you know how to research or look up something. Whether you use Bing or Wikipedia or Google (heck, Googling is now an accepted word in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), it’s relatively easy to look up anyone or anything or anywhere on the computer. So why is it that celebrities keep showing up in places they shouldn’t be, performing for or meeting people they probably shouldn’t know and ultimately usually earning a ton of money for it. And then are shocked when the story gets out in the press.
On June 29, Ms. Jennifer Lopez (also known as both Jenny from the block and the former American Idol judge) performed at a concert in Turkmenistan, a central Asian country. Her performance included singing Happy Birthday to Gurbanguly Beridmuhamedov, the President of Turkmenistan. She’s rumored to have received $1.5 million for her performance. But here’s her public relations problem.
The Turkmen leader is considered one of the world’s most notorious dictators. It has been reported that his government has imprisoned political opponents and hampered all freedoms of expression. The country is considered as having one of the world’s most repressive governments and has a very bad human rights record.
Of course, once word of the concert got out, the publicist of Jennifer Lopez went into immediate damage control saying “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended”. Her team says she was hired by a corporation to perform for the event and didn’t know he was in the audience (although, once she did, she serenaded him for his birthday).
Human rights activists suggest she return her fee or donate it to a charity as other stars have done when they found themselves in similar circumstances. According to her manager, there haven’t been any discussions about her returning her fee (although if this keeps popping up in the press with any regularity, she may be persuaded by the court of public opinion to return the fee).
For example, on New Year’s Eve several years ago, megastars like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Usher performed at a private concert on the island of St. Barts. In February 2011, it was reported that the concert actually was paid for and included family members of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Beyonce donated the money she received to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. I can’t find any confirmation abut whether Mariah Carey returned the money, although she released a statement saying she was “naïve and unaware of who I was booked to perform for” and announced she would donate proceeds from a new song to human rights organizations.
Carey (part of that same former American Idol judge club as JLo) also said “we need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows”. But that’s what happens when an entertainer becomes insulated by being surrounded with so many people designed to make the celebrity’s life easier or more manageable that the celeb is unaware of decisions being made on their behalf. And it’s only when one of these unfortunate incidents come to light, that we ever get an apology along the lines of “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. Someone should have told me”.
In 2011, Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank made an appearance (for a fee) in Chechnya that had major repercussions for her. In an interview conducted by her friend and fellow actress Mariska Hargitay, Swank said that a Turkish real estate company had invited her there to help promote peace “by celebrating the rebuilding of a war-torn city and meeting people who were rebuilding their lives” and that, based on that, she agreed to go.
While she was there, she was asked to wish the President of Chechnya a happy birthday and did that as well. Except that she didn’t know that the President of Chechnya was suspected of human rights violations. Bad press resulted and Swank fired her manager, while her public relations firm terminated their relationship with her. She also issued a statement apologizing for attending the event and said she’d donate her fee to charity. And in a rare example of a celebrity not blaming others for being in the dark about the specifics of the appearance, told Mariska Hargitay in their discussion “Shame on me for not having researched this trip more fully”.
If only more celebrities did their research before they committed to these high-paying personal appearances, maybe we’d see fewer of these after-the-fact apologies.