Kanye West pocketed a reported $3 million for his performance at the wedding of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson over the weekend, a controversial payout considering international protests over Nazarbayev’s human rights record.
In recent years, the Human Rights Watch has criticized “deteriorating” freedoms in the nation, including “credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tightening controls over the media and continued violations of workers’ rights.” Nazarbayev himself has been described as an “ultimate oligarch,” and has been accused of transferring at least $1 billion of oil revenues to his private bank accounts in other countries.
Two years ago, Sting canceled a concert in Kazakhstan after learning of the government’s crackdown on striking oil workers, calling their treatment “unacceptable.”
Of course, in recent years, this type of controversy has become common: In 2011, documents obtained by WikiLeaks revealed that several high-profile stars accepted sizeable paychecks to perform for dubious leaders. Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Usher sang at New Year’s Eve parties thrown by the family of (now deceased) Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi — Carey released a statement saying she was “naïve and unaware” of who had booked her for the gig, while both Beyoncé and Usher announced they were donating their proceeds to various charities.
Ealier this year, Jennifer Lopez was criticized by the Human Rights Foundation for bringing in more than $9 million for entertaining “some of the world’s worst thugs and their cronies.” The HRF pointed to several private parties Lopez had performed at, including the June 2013 birthday party for Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who was accused of violating human rights, and the 2011 wedding of Uzbek oil tycoon Azam Aslanov, reportedly attended by Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.
In regards to the Turkmenistan concert, a spokesperson for Lopez said the singer was unaware of any human-rights violations, and if she was, “Jennifer would not have attended.” The rep did not say whether Lopez planned on returning the money she was paid for the performance.
Lopez herself addresses the matter in the upcoming October issue of Cosmopolitan, admitting that it was a mistake because she is seen as “a role model.”
“I am human, and of course, sometimes I make mistakes. But I promise when I fall, I get back up,” she told the magazine. “When I am wrong, I will learn the lesson and move on to face other challenges. For me, that’s what creating your life is. Doing your best work while being your best self.”
West has yet to comment on the matter, and MTV News’ emails to his reps were not responded to by press time.