‘Shameless’ influencers paid to help rehabilitate Saudi image

shameless influencers
Image: hoskelsa/Instagram

Big-name DJs, actors, and models all accepted payment to attend an electronic music festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over the weekend. The ‘shameless’ influencers seemed oblivious to the plight of LGBTIQ people, women, religious minorities and others under the oppressive regime of the Al Saud family.

David Guetta and Steve Aoki

The DJ line-up at MDL Beast included David Guetta and Steve Aoki. Actors Armie Hammer and Ed Westwick attended along with models Joan Smalls and Alessandro Ambrosio.

Glamour UK, a Conde Naste publication, also ran a sponsored campaign from MDL Beast.

Model Emily Ratajkowski rejected Saudi money out of concern for human rights

However, some influencers such as American model Emily Ratajkowski turned down the paid invitation. Emily has over 24 million Instagram followers. Transgender model Theodore Quinlivan posted that Emily refused the gig because of her discomfort with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, particularly for LGBTIQ people.

Following her post, Teddy Quinlivan suffered attacks from Saudi trolls on social media.

“I’ve been called a slut and a whore more times in the last 24 hours by Saudi Arabian trolls and bots than I have in my entire life. They must’ve thought I’d find that insulting lol.”

Diet Prada reprimands ‘shameless’ influencers

The Instagram account Diet Prada also called out the influencers for accepting the Saudi money.

“What’s worse than an all-white influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia.”

Diet Prada said anonymous sources claim the Saudis paid six-figure amounts for attendance and geo-tagged posts. It said that despite the millions already spent by the regime to rehabilitate its image, this is the most expensive campaign yet.

Detained Saudi journalists

Diet Prada made specific of the two Saudi journalists recently released from detention in Australia after fleeing the country. Sultan and Nassar fled in fear of their lives after death threats following their outing by Saudi police.

The account also invited followers to name and shame any other ‘shameless’ influencers who took the Saudi dime to attend the festival.


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Armie Hammer at MDL Beast


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Actor Armie Hammer posted two images from the festival.

That inspired journalist Yashar Ali to ask, “Did you find Jamal Khashoggi’s body while you were there?”

The question referenced the Saudi journalist dismembered in a gruesome murder inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

After Jamal Khashoggi’s death, the Saudis attempted several explanations before admitting that close associates of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman committed the crime.

However, Saudi Arabia claims the men were meant to ‘confront’ the journalist, not murder him.

Here are some more paid posts from the festival.


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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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