Just what is it with celebrities and thug dictators?
Despite pleas from human-rights activists, rapper Nicki Minaj went ahead and gave a concert last weekend in Angola sponsored by a company linked to the country’s brutal dictator, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Minaj joins an ever-growing list of entertainers who rush to perform for corrupt strongmen.
According to the Human Rights Foundation, dos Santos has been exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth “to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military and civil society.”
The group says the dictator has made it “his policy to harass, imprison or kill politicians, journalists and activists who protest his rule.” An estimated one in three Angolans lives in poverty; more than 70 percent earn less than $1 a day.
No wonder the foundation’s president, Thor Halvorssen, begged Minaj to can the event: “The payment you are receiving from your Angolan sponsors is the result of government corruption and human-rights violations,” he wrote.
Minaj couldn’t have cared less. Apparently, the lure of the cool $2 million she got for the show was too much to resist.
The irony here is rich: Minaj is quite familiar with poverty, having been poor herself before becoming famous. You’d think someone like that would be reluctant to reward thugs who have impoverished an entire nation.
But some celebs simply have their own bizarre ethics when it comes to dictators’ cash: Kanye West got $3 million to play for the grandchildren of thuggish Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Jennifer Lopez took $1 million to give a concert for Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Sting played for Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov. Mariah Carey got $1 million for four songs for Moammar Khadafy’s family in 2008. Usher and Beyoncé also performed for them.
Generally, we’d be the last to fault anyone for raking in whatever the market will bear. But entertaining thugs and taking their corrupt money?
C’mon: Even for self-centered celebs, that crosses a line.