Saudi Arabia continues to buy celebrities, this time for the MDL Beast festival

December 27, 2019

Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia
Photographs through Daniele Venturelli / Getty

Jermaine Hoffman in Go Tech Daily of 23 Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia“. Another piece on the contoversial topic of celebrity endorsements [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/celebrity-endorsements-and-the-dubai-expo-on-the-one-hand-and-the-other/].

This past weekend, the MDL Beast music festival was held in the capital of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Sold as the “biggest music event in the region,” it attracted some of the world’s greatest celebrities, including Winnie Harlow and Armie Hammer. It also attracted global controversy. Here’s an overview of what happened at the three-day festival, who was involved, and why people were upset.

J Balvin, Steve Aokie and David Guetta were placed as some of the great artists of the festival. Among the crowd were celebrities, influential artists and models who were invited to participate and promote MDL Beast on their personal social media platforms. Hollywood actors like Ryan Phillippe, Wilmer Valderrama and Armie Hammer attended, as well as models like Alessandra Ambrosio, Halima Aden, Imaan Hammam and Joan Smalls and Bollywood superstar Sonam Kapoor. Aden and Ambrosio later shared that they had been paid for an event post.

The festival was heavily portrayed on social media as a proud moment for Saudi Arabia – a “cultural shift”, according to Instagram’s contribution by Armie Hammer. These Western influencers and celebrities, however, are criticized for promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination without mentioning human rights violations, and the festival itself gets resistance to whitening the image of Saudi Arabia.

[for some posts on Saudi Arabia see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/ ]

Phillip Picardi, the former editor of Teen Vogue and Out, spoke about the role of the festival in the country’s expanded tourism strategies. He wrote, “Extremely, deeply disappointed when I see people on my Instagram feed who have traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of their government image rehabilitation campaign.” Picardi later said, “Many headline reports are about displaying SA as changed and accepted, and trips seem to be coordinated with the government or tourist board. You really can’t “buy” this kind of news and what was your experience of who organized your trip and what can or cannot you say? “Among the people who commented on Armie Hammer’s social media posts were journalist Yashar Ali, who tweeted about the brutal assassination of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, in which the CIA closed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. that the “main movie / television star” was allegedly offered an eight-figure amount to refuse.

While celebrities continue to talk about those who have decided to attend and promote a musical event, others support the role of the festival in improving Saudi Arabia’s image. Musician and author Kristina Bazan (who has 2.2 million followers on Instagram) commented on the contribution of Diet Prada, arguing that they point only to negative aspects. It pointed out: “A month ago the visa law was changed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government is trying to bring new energy and dynamism: social media have social resonance. How can we evolve as a globalized world and change things by boycotting areas that require new minds and ideas?

Modeled with more than 24 million Instagram followers, Emily Ratajkowski, aware of the power and resonance of social media, declined her paid invitation because of the discomfort she felt about the human rights record in Saudi Arabia. Diet Prada shared the statement they received from Ratajkowski about why she decided not to attend. “It is very important for me to clearly express my support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to free press,” read the statement. “I hope that I will focus more on the injustices that are happening there.

Influencers, models, actors are given the will to promote the MDL beast in Saudi Arabia

One Response to “Saudi Arabia continues to buy celebrities, this time for the MDL Beast festival”


  1. […] Saudi Arabia took over the G20 presidency in December 2019. It has recently invested in expensive PR campaigns to improve its image, and hosted several high-profile sporting events which draw international visitors [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/04/dakar-rally-starts-on-5-january-in-jeddah-but-hrds-in-jail/%5D. But behind this carefully cultivated façade, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is as appalling as ever. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the extrajudicial execution of the journalist and peaceful critic Jamal Khashoggi. More than a year after his murder in October 2018, there has been no justice or accountability for his death. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/27/saudi-arabia-continues-to-buy-celebrities-this-time-for…%5D […]


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