Welcome to Outrage Watch, HitFix's semi-regular rundown of entertainment-related kerfuffles. Not anxious enough already? Get your fix of righteous indignation below, and stay posted for outrage updates throughout the week.
Nicki Minaj is no stranger to controversy, and this week the Grammy-winning superstar is fanning the flames once again thanks to a lucrative trip to the Angolan capital of Luanda. Ignoring pleas from human rights organizations not to perform at a Christmas festival sponsored by the country's dictator-controlled telecommunications company Unitel, the rapper not only went forward with the show but extensively documented the trip via her official Instagram account:
Oh no big deal…she's just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that's what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!! S/O to any woman on a paper chase. Get your own!!!! Success is yours for the taking!!!!! #Angola thank u to the women who brought me out here as well. ??
Angola is run by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who seized power in 1979 and has since been accused of rigging elections, violently suppressing political dissenters and hoarding riches accrued from his oil empire while allowing his citizens to languish in abject poverty (half the population lives on less than $2 a day). In a piece for Slate, Human Rights Foundation founder Thor Halvorssen and International Council member George Ayittey note that dos Santos's security officers “carried out and covered up a massacre of hundreds of civilians,” before slamming Minaj for flaunting their concerns:
“Beyond her outspoken views on racial injustice in America, Minaj”s commitments to various social justice and education charities inside the United States make her Angola trip especially confounding,” they wrote. “Her rank hypocrisy when it comes to caring about justice in one place but not in Angola eliminates any shred of credibility Minaj may have to opine on matters of race or rights in the future.”
Halvorssen and Ayittey aren't the only ones speaking out. Citing Minaj's “strong will” and well-documented money obsession, Jezebel's Kara Brown makes the argument that the singer went through with the concert, in part, to spite her critics: “She went ahead with the performance defiantly just to prove that she could, despite the moral reasoning against it being clear,” writes Brown. “She got her money and made her own self-centered point.”
Over at the National Review, meanwhile, contributor John Fund cited the case of Angolan rapper Lusty Beinao to point up Minaj's hypocrisy:
“…by now, she must know that Lusty Beinao – a fellow rapper from Angola – sits in a fetid jail cell, condemned by dictator José Eduardo dos Santos. His crime? Along with 17 others, he was charged with 'rebellion' for discussing a book on nonviolent resistance in the vein of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”
Fund also noted that the Santos-run Unitel charges “extortionate prices” for cell phone service thanks to its stranglehold on the country's telecommunications industry, and additionally took aim at Minaj's Instagram photo with Santos's daughter Isabel (above), who achieved her “8th richest woman in the world” status by virtue of her father's shady business practices.
Adding to the chorus was a Telegraph article damningly headlined “Nicki Minaj: A hypocrite who cares more about money than black lives,” in which Radhika Sanghani laments that Minaj has shown herself to be far less committed to social justice than she originally appeared:
“[The Angola concert] starts to unravel her positive work for racial equality, and forces her fans to consider whether she was being genuine with her #BlackLivesMatter support – or whether, as one critic put it, 'when those black lives happen to be in Angola, their lives matter less than a paycheck from a dictator.'”
Minaj isn't the first pop star to draw heat over performing for a despot; Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Nelly Furtado have been embroiled in similar controversies, though none were as brazen as Minaj in flaunting their critics' concerns.