After Georgia Love and Lee Elliott sparked controversy for promoting their recent trip to Saudi Arabia, Love has given an exclusive, tell-all interview with Stellar magazine to set the record straight.
Love and Elliott—who fell in love while on The Bachelorette Australia in 2016 and married in 2021—were slammed for promoting tourism on Instagram to the Middle Eastern country, which reportedly executed 81 people in mid-March.
For those unaware of the country’s current situation, Saudi Arabia’s government has been condemned on a global scale for its abuse of human rights on its people, which has seen women and the LGBTQIA+ community treated horrifically and any political resistance repressed.
As mentioned before, the country has been heavily criticised by human rights groups only one week ago for the death of 81 people in one day. This saw Amnesty International also condemn the kingdom, calling out it’s “deeply flawed justice system, which metes out death sentences following trials that are grossly and blatantly unfair”.
Along with all the horrific events taking place, followers of Love and Elliott were taken aback when the pair shared photos of their recent trip to the country, complete with clear tourism promotion. The post has since been deleted.
“After only opening to tourists in 2019, we can’t state how excited we are to be among the first Aussies to tour Saudi,” Love wrote in her Instagram caption.
“To us, it is important to see, experience and learn about all cultures around us and to see how much and how fast our world is changing.”
“We can’t wait to bring you along on this incredible experience with us,” the caption concluded, followed by a link to @VisitSaudi, a tourism-focused Instagram page that is run by the government’s Saudi Tourism Authority.
On Elliot’s page, he posted a separate series of images and videos of the married couple tasting various Arabic treats while visiting the town of Diriyah. Once commentary around their trip arose, Elliott also deleted his post.
As expected, both Love and Elliott’s post caused an uproar online with many calling them “immoral” and support of the kingdom’s tourism industry “tone-deaf”.
“It’s really disappointing that you bought into this paid partnership,” one comment read. “They are paying so many influencers to travel and promote the country.”
“Meanwhile, they committed mass execution last week have horrific human rights abuses, not to mention what they’re doing to Yemen. But you’re being used as a marketing tool to bandaid over their ‘global image issues’,” the comment continued.
“It’s disappointing that as a journalist you’ve not taken any due diligence to research where you are going, the ongoing atrocities committed. Or are you just willing to turn a blind eye to the significant human rights violations while you enjoy yourselves?”
To which Love replied, “Not a paid partnership”.
Despite this, some online have figured out that the pair seemingly travelled to Saudi Arabia as part of an influencer trip with Saudi Tourism, even sharing photos of the couple in the travelling group. However, the exact nature of their trip is yet to be confirmed.
As for any kind of statement on the situation, Elliott intitially shared some words on his Instagram Stories, which Love reshared to her own.
“We truly hear and understand what some of you are saying and where you’re coming from on our decision to come to Saudi Arabia but the world is changing for the better and Saudi along with it,” Elliott wrote.
“We thought long and hard about coming and did a lot of research before we did. Saudi has changed a lot in recent years. We strongly believe by Saudi opening up to the rest of the world and by tourists being here it has to be more accountable.”
He continued, “We do not in any way endorse behaviours of the past or human rights violations that have occurred in this country. We are also not being paid to be here. We are here for ourselves to experience and see a different country and culture as that for us is what travel is all about.”
The statement concluded, “We want to see and experience as much of the world as we can—this includes all cultures and religions, whether we follow them, agree with them or not.”
It’s not just their combined 334.3k Instagram followers who agree that their trip to Saudi Arabia is a point of concern. Elaine Peterson, Australian director of Human Rights Watch, pointed out that their involvement serves as a way of “whitewashing Saudi government abuses”.
“The Saudi government has a deliberate and sophisticated propaganda strategy that involves using celebrities to launder its reputation and deflect attention away from its awful human rights record,” Peterson said, as per Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s all part of an effort to convince international investors to invest in the country despite pervasive human rights violations,” she continued.
“When celebrities and social media influencers take Saudi government money while staying silent on the government’s atrocious rights record, they are boosting the kingdom’s strategy of whitewashing Saudi government abuses.”
Now, Love has given an exclusive interview with Stellar interview which has unquestionably missed the mark when it comes to taking ownership of her actions.
“People need to be kinder. And that includes me,” she told the publication.
“Everyone expects everyone to do everything right all the time. feel like anyone with any kind of profile is just sitting in wait until someone finds something that they’ve done wrong.
“The past two years have been so hard for so many people, and I think the one thing I’m disappointed with is that people seem to have lost their empathy and understanding of people being humans,” she continued.
The former reality-star is likely referencing an incident from September 2021, where she was criticised for posting a seemingly-racist Instagram story which the Asian community found incredibly insensitive. The story attracted backlash from many, including Masterchef judge Melissa Leong, who called the post “insidious and betraying.”
Following this, Love was removed from her TV reporter job with Channel Seven and began working in the behind-the-scenes newsroom.
After reading the pair’s statement and the exclusive interview which seemingly attempted to justify her recent, questionable choices, it’s left many with a bad taste in their mouths. Rather than accept responsibility for the wrongdoing, it seems as though Love is placing the blame back onto others, implying that public nastiness is really to blame here.
Rather than using this as an chance to place blame onto others, it would be nice to see someone with a large following take ownership for their mistakes. It feels like a missed opportunity, especially for someone who was previously seen as a role model for many.
Cancel culture is a very real and terrifying part of our society, particularly as so much of our lives play out in the online world, but it can’t be used as a scapegoat when clear wrongdoing has occurred.