Some of the world's biggest influencers, actors and models have found themselves in the midst of a major scandal after promoting Saudi Arabian music festival, MDL Beast. Over the weekend, dozens of social media stars, including Sofia Richie, Elsa Hosk, and Irina Shayk, as well as actors, including Ed Westwick and Armi Hammer, are facing criticism for accepting a paid trip to the event.
Watch Below: Bradley Cooper And Irina Shayk Photobomb Boxing Workout
However, it wasn't the expense-free holiday that sparked backlash, but rather the promotion of Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination despite its human rights record, including the recent death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the country's stance on women's rights and the LGBTQI community.
Instagram account @dietprada was one of the first to call out the festival and its attendees for supporting the promotion of the country's public image.
"What’s worse than an all white @revolve influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, a country said to be causing 'the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,' according to the United Nations," the account wrote alongside several images of famous faces posing in the desert and at event venue.
The account added, "Following the government’s pre-meditated murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018, the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in May 2018, the outing of a gay Saudi journalist and his partner who began receiving death threats from their families (homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death), and countless other human rights abuses, a bevy of supermodels, influencers, celebrities, and musicians convened in Riyadh for the inaugural @mdlbeast. According to @hypebeast, the electronic music festival is 'one of the most significant musical events the region has ever seen'."
Model Emily Ratajkowski responded to Diet Prada's post, revealing she had turned down the opportunity.
The model said, “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there."
Martha Hunt also publicly declined the trip, noting on Instagram Stories: "I stand in solidarity with the repressed people of Saudi Arabia and refuse to be used as a campaign to cover up those suffering from injustice. I encourage other influencers to make informed monetized decisions based on social conscience and integrity."
Meanwhile, actor Armie Hammer is one of the only influencers to publicly respond to the backlash.
"What I just witnessed was truly special. I saw Saudi men and women ecstatic about an event that they never thought they would ever see in their lifetimes...it felt like a cultural shift," he wrote to Instagram. "A change. Like Woodstock in the 1960's. Social evolution is slow and takes time but what I was able to be a part of felt like one giant seed of growth. The people there throwing themselves into the experience will lead a cultural revolution that we all need to get behind and support. #mdlbeast."