Photo Credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage
Jennifer Lopez should have done some Googling before she took a gig in Turkmenistan. On Saturday, Lopez became one of the first major stars to perform in the Central Asian nation, which has legalized discrimination against minorities, forbidden its citizens from using YouTube or Twitter, and condones many grievous human rights violations. Unfortunately, J-Lo didn't take that into consideration when she accepted a $1.4 million paycheck to play for dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Watch the video below.
During the brief concert, Lopez played a few of her hits, then sang "Happy Birthday" to Turkmenistan's president.
"It was our pleasure, and we wish you the very happiest birthday," she said before leaving the stage.
Lopez's decision to perform sparked an immediate controversy, as well as criticism from the Human Rights Foundation. In a statement to E! News, the former American Idol judge claimed she was unaware that the event was associated with Berdymukhamedov when she signed on.
"The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended," said Lopez's rep.
And what about that "Happy Birthday" thing? Lopez's rep said that the singer was graciously complying with a "last minute request."
Though Lopez has apologized, she hasn't offered to donate her fee to charity, as others in her situation have done. And yes, there have been plenty of others in her situation. Apparently, it's hard to resist a six-figure paycheck for a 20-minute concert, even if you're honoring someone who has rigged elections and tortured innocent people. Below, 5 other singers who have made questionable concert decisions -- and weren't always sorry.
The performance: Beyonce flew into St. Barts in 2010 to do a show for Mutassim Gaddafi, son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. She was reportedly paid $1-2 million for a five-song set.
The aftermath: The singer claimed that when she learned who sponsored the event, she donated the money to Haiti relief. "Once it became known that the third party promoter was linked to the Qaddafi family, the decision was made to put that payment to a good cause," she said in a 2011 statement.
Other celebrities paid to attend the event: Jay-Z, Jon Bon Jovi, Lindsay Lohan.
The performance: Two years before Beyonce did it, Carey performed for Muatassim Gaddafi. She reportedly received $1 million for a New Year's concert.
The aftermath: Carey didn't donate her money to charity, but she did issue an apology. "I was naïve and unaware of who I was booked to perform for. I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess," Carey said in 2011. "Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable."
The performance: The noted human rights activist received $2 million for a "secret" 2009 concert in Uzbekistan, for the daughter of dictator Islam Karimov.
The aftermath: Sting refused to apologize, saying that he doesn't believe in "cultural boycotts." "I am well aware of the Uzbek president's appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that," the singer told The Guardian.
The performance: Radio personality Rush Limbaugh is no dictator, but he's an opponent of gay marriage with a history of making homophobic comments. That's why Elton's fans were shocked when the singer played Limbaugh's 2010 wedding.
The aftermath: John's life partner David Furnish told the press that Elton accepted the $1 milllion offer because "life is about building bridges, not walls." Elton did not apologize, and has remained friends with Limbaugh.
The performance: The singer performed at a 2011 birthday party for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
The aftermath: Seal insisted that Kadyrov's human rights abuses had nothing to do with his show. "By going there, I played MUSIC for the Chechenyan people," he tweeted. "I'm a MUSICIAN and would appreciate if you leave me out of your politics."
Other celebrities paid to attend the event: Hilary Swank (who apologized and fired her management team); Jean Claude Van Damme (who did not).
Other celebrities who have played for dictators, then apologized and donated the fees to human rights charities, include 50 Cent, Nelly Furtado and Usher. Here's hoping Lopez follows suit, and stops playing in countries where citizens aren't even allowed to use Facebook.