Home Saudi Arabia Fans not ready to forgive celebrities for performing in Saudi Arabia?

Fans not ready to forgive celebrities for performing in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia appears very keen to change its image in the western world, MDL Beast Music festival was part of the "Image Change Strategy" and famous "Social Media Influencers" were brought in from across the world but followers of these media influencers reacted very badly. They blame media for accepting six figure contracts and ignoring Kingdom's human right violations in Yemen, crack down on dissent and arrests of women activists.

Saudi Arabia

Last weekend, Saudi Arabia hosted the region’s biggest electronic pop-music concert in Riyadh that concluded on Saturday. The music festival had the line-up including South Korean band K-pop, David Guetta, and Steve Aoki. The guest list included supermodels, Joan Smalls and Alessandro Ambrosio.

The social media influencers were slammed for performing at a star-studded music festival, raving for the kingdom yet overlooking the gross human rights violations in the country.

Scathing comments such as accepting the ‘blood money’ of the innocents to perform in Saudi Arabia hit the social media influencers, whose social media platform on Instagram and Snapchat were thronged with images and videos from the music festival. The captions of these social media posts were lyrical of ‘progressive’, revolutionary and ‘remarkable first’ initiative in Saudi Arabia.

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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

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The followers noted that all these posts were void of documenting the ruthless human rights violations by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Yemen that resulted in an extreme humanitarian crisis, the suppression of dissent in the country, the undue arrests of women rights activists and others.

The critics argued that these social media influencers signed off a paid partnership to promote the progressive image of ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. They commented that these influencers have been paid up to the six-figure amount for the contract.

Read more: Saudi Arabia turns to foreign social media influencers to improve its image

Other, disgruntled human rights activists like Rana Ahmed- a Saudi women rights activist, Karen Attiah- Washington Post columnist slammed the celebrities and influencers to support the counterfeit image of Saudi Arabia.

They asserted that while western actresses and social media influencers are allowed to follow non-traditional and western dress codes in the kingdom, Saudi girls are forced to wear abayas and niqab in the country, transgressing the strict code often gets them into trouble and results in negative sanctions for them.

The MDL Beast Music festival was organized by the Saudi Entertainment Authority to put the Saudi’s local Electronic Dance Music stars at the global music platforms, stated in the press release issued by the government of Saudi Arabia.

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deep cover

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The statement further added that the music festival is part of the grand Vision 2030 that aims to transform the Saudi society. The music festival is anticipated to be attended by 200,000 people that will relish the new avenues of entertainment in the kingdom.

The music festival provides the chance to locals to rejoice their homegrown music talent which ‘helps normalize their deep love of electronic and dance music’.

Saudi authorities marked the music festival the new era of music and entertainment in the industry and combined with other provisions like the relaxation on the dress code for the local, the promotion of tourism in the country, sporting events, permission for live concerts, the influx of foreign tourists heralds an age of transformation towards a moderate and progressive state from a radically Islamic state.

A couple of social media influencers such as model Theodora Quin Quinlivan, Emily Ratajkowski who possess more than 24 million followers on Instagram censured the fellow celebrities for promoting Saudi Arabia. They said they turned down paid offers to attend the concert for Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights conduct.

Read more: Saudi Music Festival Visas easier to get than Umrah & Hajj Visas

Hollywood actor, Ryan Phillip, Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor, American actor Armie Hammer posted a series of photos on their Instagram accounts. But vehemently defended their decision to attend the music festival in Saudi Arabia.

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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

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“What I just witnessed was truly special,” he wrote. “It felt like a cultural shift. A change. Like Woodstock in the 1960’s” wrote Armie Hammer.

” . . . Let’s appreciate that the whole world is” problematic right now and “any step forward is something that I want to celebrate,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I was treated with immense respect and love as a Hindu brown female actor,” shot back Sonam Kapoor to the criticism from the Diet Prada account.

“Find me a country without issues, I’ll wait,” Phillippe wrote. ” . . . Things are changing and progressing rapidly in KSA and the people are lovely. Pay attention and quit virtue signaling, princess,” said the actor while defending his decision.


Saudi Arabia had been in the crosshairs following the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. The incident happened amid the formative period of ‘Vision 2030‘ hence, to mitigate the disgrace following the incident and reinvigorate its image, Saudi entertainment authority initiated an expansive public relations campaign.

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