How Stars’ Political Causes Can Go Wrong
LONDON — Are fools rushing in where even Henry Kissinger would fear to tread?
As if Fugees’ frontman Wyclef Jean’s decision to run for the Haitian presidency were not mind-boggling enough, Lindsay Lohan’s recent decision to weigh in on the stoning of an Iranian housewife was a staggering departure from her usual form.
But if celebrities seem to be stepping up a gear when it comes to picking a political cause, such involvement should come with a warning. As Naomi Campbell’s bruising experience at a war crimes trial in the Hague shows only too clearly, when showbiz waltzes into international politics, things can go terribly wrong.
Whether Campbell knew that the so-called “blood diamonds” handed to her after a fund-raiser in 1997 were from the Liberian warlord and alleged mass murderer Charles Taylor remains the subject of dispute — at least according to testimony from Mia Farrow.
But whatever the actual events of that fateful night in Pretoria — when the supermodel accepted what she described as a handful of “dirty little pebbles” from two men who knocked on her hotel door in the middle of the night — she could hardly have guessed they would land her a starring role in the Hague 13 years on.
The hot-headed diva and international party girl now finds herself at the sticky end of what should have been a straightforward celebrity appearance, and, indeed, claims to fear for her own safety.
How did it go so wrong?
“As that evening unfolded there must have been some warning signs,” said James Herring, founder of London-based celebrity PR agency Taylor Herring, whose clients have included Robbie Williams, Russell Brand and David Tennant.
“Between showing up for dinner and being gifted a bag of diamonds in the middle of the night, some alarms should have gone off somewhere about who she was with,” adds Herring, who said that when it comes to putting talent into new surroundings, “planning, scrutiny and vigorous preparation” are essential wherever the celebrity is involved.
“Who the star is fraternizing with, sitting with, being photographed with — that kind of analysis is very important. It can’t be left to chance.”
On Monday, actress and humanitarian campaigner Mia Farrow told the Human Rights trial at the Hague that Campbell knew very well that Taylor was behind the gift, flatly contradicting the model’s earlier testimony.
“As I recall it, Naomi was quite excited and said, in effect, ‘Oh my God, in the middle of night I was awakened by knocking at the door. It was men sent by Charles Taylor, and he sent me a huge diamond.’ “