Celebrities make lots of money in lots of different ways, and sometimes that involves making appearances at private events. To say that many stars have a high price is an understatement, but for whatever reason there's a contingent of wealthy people who will actually pay it. Sometimes it's for a lucky young person's bar or bat mitzvah. Sometimes it's a corrupt political dictator—who earned their fortune by stealing most of their country's fortune—who just wants to have a good time. Either way, the celebrities get paid a crazy amount to perform. Here are the most bizarre and silly times it happened:
1. J. Lo
J. Lo took some heat in 2013 when it was discovered she was paid $1.5 million to perform at the birthday party for Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, president of Turkmenistan. This is the video from the performance, which you know is authentic because she takes the stage yelling "Turkmenistan!" Human Rights Watch says Turkmenistan and its president have a "disastrous human rights record" and that it's one of the world's most tightly repressed countries.
2. Nicki Minaj
Minaj, famous for her booty, made an appearance at a Bar Mitzvah in New York, which also became famous because of her Instagram post with several star-struck young men. Seriously, that kid on the right never washed his cheek after she touched it. He's hypnotized. It only cost the parents several hundred thousand dollars to get her to show up, which is the cost of an Ivy League education or a dope yacht, both of which he'll probably get later in life.
3. Snooki at Rutgers
Rutgers State University in New Jersey (not quite on the shore) paid Snooki $32,000 to make a speech to students. She wisely told them to "study hard, but party harder." It's unclear if they gave her an honorary degree in Orange, but what is clear is that Rutgers paid her slightly more money to appear than author Toni Morrison received the very same year. Yes, the Toni Morrison who won the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize in Literature, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
4. Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank was paid a few hundred thousand to appear at the birthday celebration for Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic. The video shows the dictator dancing (poorly), with Swank and Jean-Claude Van Damme watching in the crowd. Dictators throw some weird-ass parties. Anyway, Swank claimed to have no prior knowledge of this guy being a monster who squashes human rights, and also claimed to give the money to charity (after she got caught).
5. Mariah Carey
Before the Arab Spring and before Libya fell into chaos, it was run by Muammar Qaddafi. His son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, reportedly paid Carey $1 million to sing four songs at a year's New Year's party in St. Barts. Like all the other dictators in this article, the Qaddafi family and legacy were known for oppression and human rights abuses while reigning over Libya.
Bey decided to take up the Qaddafi clan on a pile of cash the year after Mariah Carey, for a New Year's celebration that also went down in St. Barts. She was paid a cool million to perform, and the above video shows some secret footage from the performance. She claimed to have donated the money one year before it became a public relations problem for her. She always knows how to turn lemons into lemonade.
In 2009, Sting performed at an event in Uzbekistan for Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of dictator Islam Karimov. The picture above is Sting with the dictator's daughter at an "arts festival." To his credit, Sting acknowledged that he was fully aware about the country's terrible human rights record, and that he doesn't think cultural boycotts are going to change the way a country works. So he kept the money. It's not surprising that he was unapologetic; he does what he wants, like naming himself after a present tense verb.
Drake performed at a Bat Mitzvah at The Rainbow Room, an event space at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. He was paid $250,000 for the appearance, and the best part is that he was her second choice. That's right, they couldn't afford the $1 million demanded by Kanye, so they had to settle for Drake.
If you want to have a lavish birthday party, all it takes is a few hundred thousand lying around for you take it to the next level. It also helps if you have rich parents, or if you run a nation that was once rich in gas or natural oil before you hoarded all the profits.