For a select group of influencers, it appears that money and lavish trips are the priority, even if their participation supports a government that violates human rights.
The celebrities were invited by the Saudi government, which has been working overtime to fix its image following a series of crimes against women, journalists, and LGBTQ people — most infamously, arresting women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And on Sunday, model and activist Teddy Quinlivan called out the influencer trip, which coincides with MDL Beast Festival in the Middle East and is part of a larger effort to improve the global perception of the country.
“If you’ve been thinking you’re seeing a lot of ‘influencers’ in Saudi Arabia, you’re not wrong,” Quinlivan wrote on her Instagram stories. “The Saudi Arabian government is paying influencers to positively promote travel and events in Saudi Arabia,” she continued. “To save face after the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Quinlivan continued: “If you’re an influencer and you’re promoting tourism to a place [that] openly kills journalists and LGBT people as well has a list of horrible and archaic laws and policies: You’re a fucking sell out.”
Model Emily Ratajkowski replied to Quinlivan (which Quinlivan also shared on her own Instagram story), sharing that she turned down that trip. “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,” Ratajkowski told Diet Prada. “I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there.”
Quinlivan “responded to the haters,” who began to troll her after she spoke out via a gorgeous nude, topless photo on Instagram. “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,” she wrote. “They must’ve thought I’d find that insulting lol.”
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