Models and actors were allegedly offered six-figure amounts for publishing with an event tag.
A large electronic music festival, MDL Beast, took place in Saudi Arabia from December 19 to 21, where David Guetta, Tiësto and Steve Aoki also performed. The event was attended by celebrities who called the evening “magical”, and in social networks, they were accused of “rehabilitating the image” of a country where human rights are often violated.
The photos from the festival were posted on Instagram by actors Armie Hammer and Ed Westwick, models Irina Shayk, Joan Smalls, Halima Aden, and Alessandra Ambrosio. The fact that posts were paid by sponsors was revealed only by Ambrosio and Aiden. Celebrities praised the festival, and Hammer emphasized that he felt a “cultural shift.”
First, the posts of influencers noticed the Diet Prada Instagram account, where they criticize the fashion industry. The profile said that this trip is part of a large-scale campaign to change the image of Saudi Arabia, where the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” occurs.
Diet Prada, citing anonymous sources, said celebrities with millions of followers on Instagram were offered six-figure amounts for posting from a festival with the right tag. There is no official confirmation of this yet.
Model Emily Ratajkowski refused to go to the festival and commented on her decision for Diet Prada: “It is important to make clear my support for women’s rights, the LGBT community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press.” She was publicly supported by transgender model Teddy Quinlivan. After the announcement, her account was attacked by bots from Saudi Arabia.
Social networks also criticized celebrities for “venality.” Users recalled that in 2018, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who criticized his country’s authorities, was killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Turkey. The UN recognized the organizer of the assassination of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.
Twitter also noted that there is a death penalty for LGBT people in the state through stoning; earlier there women were tortured and sent to prison, who spoke out for their right to drive a car, and dropped bombs on the civilian population of Yemen.
In August 2017, women were allowed to drive a car without the permission of a man, but they were still forbidden to leave prison, get married or hide in a shelter from domestic violence without the consent of a male guardian. Women also do not have the right to transfer citizenship to children or consent to their marriage. Given all this, according to some users, putting Saudi Arabia in a positive light for money is “embarrassing”.
This is not the first time that celebrities and influencers have been criticized for advertising Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination. In September, tourist visas began to be issued in the country, allowed unmarried foreign couples to rent one hotel room and allowed foreign women to live in hotels alone. After that, influencers published paid posts with pictures from Saudi Arabia and positive comments about the tourist experience in the state.