If you follow a lot of influencer-type celebs on Instagram, you may have noticed that a lot of people have been posting snaps in Saudi Arabia recently.
The long list of celebs includes actors Armie Hammer, Ryan Phillippe, Wilmer Valderrama and Ed Westwick, as well as models like Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn and celeb-offspring-cum-influencer-cum-Kardashian-adjacent Sofia Richie.
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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. #mdlbeast
— ❤❤Sweet Edwestwick? (@CooTeeTiiTaaa) December 19, 2019
Trans model Teddy Quinlivan was the first to slam the trip, posting a series of Instagram stories calling attendees “sell outs”.
Quinlivan wrote: “The Saudi Arabian government is paying influencers to positively promote travel and events in Saudi Arabia. To save face after the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.
If you’re an influencer and you’re promoting tourism to a place to [sic] openly kills journalists and LGBTQ people, as well as a list of other horrible and archaic laws and policies: You’re a f**king sell out.”
Replying to Teddy’s story, fellow model and actress Emily Ratajkowski replied that she’d turned the trip down and was “waiting for someone to call it out”.
Speaking to fashion Instagram page Diet Prada after it posted about it, Emily went on to add: “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there.” She later posted this statement to her own social media channels, adding that while she has “always wanted to visit Saudi Arabia”, she felt she “had to decline”.
— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) December 21, 2019
Diet Prada has reported that influencers are being paid six-figure sums to promote Saudi Arabia by attending events and geotagging photos.
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What’s worse than an all white @revolve influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, a country said to be causing “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, according to the United Nations. According to anonymous sources, six-figure sums were offered for attendance and geo-tagged posts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Following the government’s pre-meditated murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018 , the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in May 2018, the outing of a gay Saudi journalist and his partner who began receiving death threats from their families (homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death), and countless other human rights abuses, a bevy of supermodels, influencers, celebrities, and musicians convened in Riyadh for the inaugural @mdlbeast . According to @hypebeast , the electronic music festival is “one of the most significant musical events the region has ever seen”. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Saudi Arabia has been spending billions to change its image in the west, but this is sure to be the most expensive campaign yet. In a series of Instagram stories posted by transgender model @teddy_quinlivan , it was revealed that fellow model @emrata had turned down the trip, evidently aware of the country’s human rights crisis. “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there”, said Ratajkowski in a statement to Diet Prada. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Unfortunately, not all shared the same sentiments. There are simply too many attendees to name. Dieters, feel free to tag any attendees you know of… just in case they haven’t been reading the news. • #propoganda #jamalkashoggi #humanrights #humanrightsabuse #lgbtq #lgbtqrights #freespeech #journalism #independent #womensrights #mdlbeast #edm #electronicmusic #supermodel #influencer #content #riyadh #emrata #emilyratajkowski #teddyquinlivan #model #celebrity #dj #electronicmusic #musicfestival #wtf #smh #government #corruption #dietprada