Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is a fun flick, unless you happen to be trapped inside an oppressive dictatorship ruled by the constant threat of violence. Which brings us to Turkmenistan, where Jennifer Lopez just played a private, incredibly well-paid gig for Turkmenistan dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
Berdimuhamedow, whose regime started in 2006, has been flagged as one of the most oppressive dictators by Human Rights Watch. Internet connectivity and social media are mostly banned in the country.
The gig featured a full slate of singing, dancing, and JLo classics, capped off by a Marilyn Monroe-esque, “Happy Birthday Mr. President” rendition (with JLo in traditional Turkmeni garb). The Guardian reported that Lopez was paid roughly $1.4 million for the performance, held at the exclusive Avaza resort on the Caspian Sea.
That last tribute to Mr. Berdimuhamedow was apparently requested by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a free-spending event sponsor. Lopez ‘graciously obliged’ according to her press representative.
In response to growing controversy over the performance, Lopez and her publicity team professed unawareness of a long list of human rights abuses.