Nicki Minaj In Angola
In 2015, HRF denounced American hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj's scheduled performance in Angola’s capital at a holiday party for Unitel, a communications company controlled by the family of dictator José Eduardo dos Santos. HRF wrote to Minaj, informing the artist and her management about the human rights crisis in Angola, which has been ruled by dos Santos since 1979. Minaj performed anyway, but the dictatorship felt the heat of international media scrutiny everywhere from The New York Times to Billboard, and ended up releasing several political prisoners into house arrest.
A selection of articles featuring HRF on the Nicki Minaj controversy is available here:
"Nicki Minaj Human Rights Controversy: Rapper Urged To Cancel Appearance In Angola"
International Business Times
Kanye West in Kazakhstan
In 2013 HRF condemned American entertainer Kanye West for performing at the wedding of Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson for a reported fee of $3 million. HRF’s criticism appeared in hundreds of media outlets, become a trending topic on Twitter, and is estimated to have reached millions of individuals around the world everywhere from Rolling Stone to the Howard Stern Show. Through this campaign, HRF was able to educate a mainstream audience on human rights abuse and the lack of democracy in Kazakhstan.
A selection of articles featuring HRF on the Kanye West controversy is available here:
"Human Rights Foundation Chastises Rapper Kanye West for Kazakhstan Wedding Performance"
The Washington Post
"Kanye West Under Fire from Human Rights Foundation After Performing for ‘Ruthless’ Dictator’s Family in Kazakhstan"
Jennifer Lopez In Turkmenistan
In 2013 HRF denounced pop star Jennifer Lopez for performing at a birthday concert for the dictator of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 2006. The concert was arranged and sponsored by a branch of the Chinese dictatorship through the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. Lopez reportedly earned $1.5 million for the performance, which was caught on video and staged at a vast $2 billion resort. HRF’s campaign brought the topic of human rights abuses in Turkmenistan to the forefront of popular culture. This campaign was referenced and quoted by major news outlets in more than 30 countries.
A selection of articles featuring HRF on the Jennifer Lopez controversy is available here:
"Jennifer Lopez Sings For Brutal Dictator, Says She Wouldn’t Have Performed If She Knew He Was A Brutal Dictator"
"Jennifer Lopez Earned Millions 'Serenading Crooks and Dictators,' Human Rights Group Alleges"
US News and World Report
"Happy Birthday, Mister...Dictator? Jennifer Lopez's $10M Payday 'For Serenading at Least Four Ruthless Despots and Crooks'"
"How Jennifer Lopez Was Paid $10m to Perform For Some of 'the World's Worst Thugs and Their Cronies'"
"Human Rights Foundation: Jennifer Lopez Made Millions 'Serenading Crooks And Dictators'"
The Huffington Post
"Jennifer Lopez Accepted $10M to Perform For 'Thugs and Cronies,' Human Rights Group Claims"
New York Post
Hilary Swank In Chechnya
In 2011 HRF condemned actress Hilary Swank’s paid appearance at the birthday party of Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya infamous for torture, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses. Kadyrov celebrated his 35th birthday in Grozny, to which he invited several high profile celebrities, including actors Kevin Costner, Eva Mendes, violinist Vanessa-Mae, and Colombian singer Shakira.
Before the event, HRF sent a letter to the invited celebrities describing the president’s abysmal human rights record and asking them to reconsider their participation in light of his abuses of power. Shakira chose not to perform at the party. HRF confirmed that Costner and Mendes declined the invitation, and Vanessa-Mae did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails. However, Swank attended and was captured on video publicly wishing the president a happy birthday. She reportedly earned $500,000 for her participation. The event turned into a scandal for her, wherein she eventually apologized on the Jay Leno Show and promised to donate the money to a Chechen charity.
A selection of commentary is available here:
"Hilary Swank, Jean-Claude Van Damme Slammed for Attending Birthday of Chechen Leader"
The Hollywood Reporter
"Swank to Give her Chechen Fee to Charity; The Million Dollar Baby Actress Now Says She Regrets Attending a Warlord's Birthday Party"
"Chechen Separatist Leader Urges Actress To Prove Charitable Donation"
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Erykah Badu In Swaziland
In 2014 HRF denounced American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu for performing at the birthday celebration of Swaziland’s King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in Africa. Badu partied with the king and presented him with lavish gifts while several political prisoners languished in prison not far from the royal palace. HRF’s criticism of Badu’s actions led to an international media blitz that brought global attention to the often-overlooked human rights abuses in Swaziland. The campaign was quoted and referenced by more than 20 international media outlets and led to Badu canceling a scheduled performance in another dictatorship, The Gambia.
Read a selection of commentary on the scandal:
“Human rights groups demand answers after Erykah Badu performs for Swaziland dictator”
The Washington Times
Mariah Carey In Angola
In 2013 HRF denounced pop star Mariah Carey for performing a concert at a gala attended by the dictator of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. The concert was organized by the Angolan Red Cross and sponsored by Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by dos Santos’ billionaire daughter Isabel. Carey reportedly received $1 million to perform at the event, which raised a mere $65,000 for the Red Cross. HRF’s condemnation of Carey’s performance brought the crimes of the Angolan regime to the attention of the international media, which has often glossed over human rights abuses by dos Santos in the past. HRF’s campaign was quoted and referenced by more than 30 major news outlets around the world everywhere from Good Morning America to Billboard, reaching millions of people.
A selection of articles featuring HRF on the Mariah Carey controversy is available here:
"Mariah Carey Slammed by Human Rights Group Over Concert in Angola, Singer Reportedly Paid $1 Million"
"All I Want for Christmas, Mariah, Is You to Stop Performing for Dictators, Says Human Rights Group"