Many Famous People Got Shit For Accepting A Paid Trip To Saudi Arabia
That picture of Ryan Phillippe above may look like the makings of a story titled Ryan Phillippe Is In Trouble With Middle Eastern People For Dressing Up Like This At Halloween. And that would probably be correct if this picture was taken in October. But it’s a recent picture.
Ryan, along with dozens of famous people and influencers, are catching shit online for a trip they accepted to attend Saudi Arabia’s MDL Beast music festival. The problem is that their attendance might be little more than a propaganda campaign sponsored by Saudi Arabian officials in an attempt to help people forget about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
If you follow any of the following famous people on Instagram, then you know that they spent the weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and were posting tons of pictures of themselves hanging out and having fun. Look how much fun Armie Hammer is having with his new friend, someone who definitely didn’t pay him to be there.
Here’s Sofia Richie, who is definitely not contractually obligated to be so excited about the MDL Beast music festival.
Ed Westwick was also present.
And look how much fun Alessandra Ambrosio is having as an #mdlbeastpartner?
And here’s Ryan looking like he’s playing the Obi-Wan Kenobi part of a douchebag frat house production of Star Wars Episode 1.
Celebrities getting paid for trips is nothing new. But The Daily Beast points out that the intentions of this trip are questionable to many. Last year, one of TIME’s Persons of the Year was murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Jamal was critical of the Saudi government. The general feeling was that he ordered to be killed by Lindsay Lohan’s reported “friend” Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi royal family denied ordering the hit on Jamal. Saudi Arabia also has a reputation for not being the most progressive when it comes to women and the LGBTQ community. In July, Nicki Minaj pulled out of a concert in Saudi Arabia, due to their treatment of the LGBTQ community.
Many think the MDL Beast music festival and subsequent sponsored trip to Saudi Arabia was a blatant attempt at whitewashing the issues, and that the famous people who attended were basically paid propaganda ambassadors.
Emily Ratajkowski spilled on Twitter that she was offered a free trip to promote the country in a positive light, but that she turned them down because she thought it was problematic.
— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) December 21, 2019
Many of the attendees haven’t said anything, but Ryan Phillippe spoke up on Instagram, first with a picture captioned: “Uproar.” Then with a series of pictures describing the trip as a “magical” way to bring “positive change.”
View this post on Instagram
i had a magical day with wonderful people. will prob add to this caption later when i gather my thoughts again. i love travel. i love different cultures. i love how we can find ways to connect through our human oneness, the pure desire for love and freedom. no matter where in the world. hoping those connections help to bring even more positive change and progress #OneHouse
Armie Hammer also tried to justify the trip by writing that this isn’t the Saudi Arabia you know from the news – this is the New Coke version of Saudi Arabia:
“What I just witnessed was truly special. I saw Saudi men and women ecstatic about an event that they never thought they would ever see in their lifetimes…it felt like a cultural shift. A change. Like Woodstock in the 1960’s. Social evolution is slow and takes time but what I was able to be a part of felt like one giant seed of growth. The people there throwing themselves into the experience will lead a cultural revolution that we all need to get behind and support.”
Page Six points out that plenty of people continued to drag him in the comments by accusing him of making up an excuse and arguing his way out of the bad press. He’s of course not the only one. Page Six says you don’t have to look very hard in the social media accounts belonging to Stella Maxwell, Irina Shayk, Scott Disick, Winnie Harlow, and others, to find people that have an issue with this trip.
It’s really up to each famous person to decide just how many human rights violations is too many to accept a paid trip. But at the very least, they should have asked who else was going, just for the sake of their publicists. Someone who is currently being investigated for assault, in a place that even Nicki Minaj won’t accept money from, put on by people associated with a dude Lindsay Lohan tried to back away from? Yeah, that’s a PR disaster waiting to happen.