In July, we told you about the trend of celebrities foolish enough to perform for human rights violators. These celebrities (including Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey) were highly compensated for performing either in private concerts or at events for known dictators and leaders with suspected human rights violations. And all of them seemed sorry after the fact (although, as we noted, doing a little bit of research before you agree to perform and accept a hefty paycheck seems to be in order). One would hope that other celebrities would learn the lesson these celebrities have learned the hard way.
But here comes Kanye West, a celebrity with an enormous ego and a penchant for bad behavior, performing in early September at the wedding reception for the grandson of the dictator of Kazakhstan. West was paid a reported $3 million to sing at this event at which the dictator was the guest of honor. Kazakhstan has a dismal record on human rights and placed 133 (out of 178) countries in the corruption index measured by Transparency International (a global organization that monitors corruption both in countries and in businesses throughout the world). The State Department indicates the country has a dismal human rights record, including state-sanctioned torture and media censorship.
Kanye West has a history of saying or doing the wrong things and seldom appears to be apologetic for his actions. One of his first foot-in-mouth moments was when West – during a nationally televised telethon to help the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – stated that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. The show quickly cut him off but in 2010, former President George W. Bush said that West’s remarks were the worst moment of his presidency.
In what is perhaps Kanye West’s most infamous moment, he rushed the stage after Taylor Swift had started her acceptance speech for winning Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Apparently feeling Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video had been dissed by MTV, he then gave us his opinion – after assuring Ms. Swift that he was going to let her finish – that “Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time”. (Fortunately for Taylor Swift, when Beyonce won an award later that night, she called Taylor Swift on stage with her to let Swift have her moment in the sun).
And in case you haven’t been paying attention, Kanye West is now part of a couple with Kim Kardashian and father to a new child. We’ve talked about the Kardashian money-making industry on this site before and how Kim’s sister, Khloe Kardashian Odom, gets $13,000 a tweet. Kim Kardashian is reported to get $20,000 a tweet. So it’s not like Kim and Kanye – or their new child – are hurting for money.
That’s why it makes it so hard to understand why someone like Kanye West – who clearly doesn’t need the money (or any more bad press) – would perform for a dictator. As of this writing, Kanye West hasn’t apologized or said he’d give the money back. He may think he’s well within his rights to perform anywhere for anyone at any time and he’s right. But we think we’re well within our rights to let you know about celebrities making money doing bad things. And that’s what performing for dictators is: a bad thing.