Musicians Nelly Furtado, Usher, and Beyonce are under fire for performing at lavish parties thrown for the family of Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator currently dealing with a violent uprising after 40 years of terroristic, violent rule. Nelly Furtado was paid $1 million to perform for members of his family in 2007, while Mariah Carey was paid the same amount to perform at New Year's Eve party for Gadhafi's son in 2008. The amounts that Usher and Beyonce received for their 2009 performances remain undisclosed.
Nelly Furtado is doing damage control by donating the money she received to charity, and she and the other performers who have entertained members of the Gadhafi clan are learning that mixing politics with their work has a price. But will their performances affect their careers?
A look back at an event in 1985 could shed a little light on what kind of backlash they can expect. That year, one of the biggest bands in the world broke a UN cultural boycott to play a few gigs at Sun City in apartheid South Africa. They were blacklisted by the UN and attempted to right their wrong by donating some of the money they made to charity. So did they vanish off the face of the map? Well, maybe not everyone in the world knows the band Queen today, but the music legends still seem to have a pretty strong fan base.
Of course, Queen was just playing a gig for the big bucks that it would bring in, like Nelly Furtado, Usher and Beyonce, not trying to make a political statement. However, even celebrities who cause controversy with their political views rarely suffer career-ending blows.
Take Jane Fonda, for example. She stills gets called a Communist traitor by some Vietnam War vets for a 1972 photo featuring the actress sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, and was dubbed "Hanoi Jane" not only for the controversial photo but for statements that included calling American soldiers war criminals and liars when they spoke out about being tortured in POW camps. She's expressed regret over her actions multiple times over the years, but while some will never forgive them, they did not end her career.
The Dixie Chicks have also dealt with a public outcry over a political statement. In 2002, lead singer Natalie Maines stated that she was ashamed that the president of the United States was from Texas. This action led to a huge backlash: Clear Channel banned their songs, fans burned their albums, album sales plummeted, and they even received death threats. However, the band didn't suffer too much. In 2005, the Dixie Chicks released their first album since the controversy, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard charts.
Sean Penn is another celebrity who has spoken out against George W. Bush. He's made no qualms about voicing his political views, and while it's safe to say that his association with socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a very big critic of America, has lost the actor a few fans, his career doesn't seem anywhere close to being over. Chavez recently stated that he would not condemn Moammar Gadhafi, whom he considers a friend.
So when it comes to celebrities and politics, it seems that it is very hard to kill a career by mixing the two, no matter how outspoken a celebrity may be. Performing for Gadhafi may not affect the careers of Nelly Furtado, Usher, and Beyonce in the long term, but perhaps the musicians have learned to be a little more informed about who they perform for and sometimes they will have a price to pay when certain people sign their pay checks.
- Nelly Furtado
- Natalie Maines
- Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
- Jane Fonda
- hard to kill
- The Dixie Chicks
- Clear Channel