A party to honor John Legend will go on, despite the guest of honor’s decision to back out over where it’s being held.
The Beverly Hills Hotel — owned by the Sultan of Brunei — hasn’t seen a Hollywood party since early last year, when Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah enacted barbaric legislation that calls for gays and adulterers to be stoned.
L.A. Confidential magazine last month announced the soiree, to be held tonight in the hotel’s Pink Palace’s Crystal Ballroom, dedicating it to Legend, its December-January cover star. It’s being billed as the first major entertainment industry party before Sunday night’s Grammy Awards.
In a statement emailed to the media, Legend’s rep Amanda Silverman said her client will not go to the party because of the Brunei law: "John Legend will not be attending the L.A. Confidential party at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday, February 5th in light of the horrific anti-women and anti-LGBT policies approved by the hotel's owner, the Sultan of Brunei. These policies, which among other things could permit women and LGBT Bruneians to be stoned to death, are heinous and certainly don't represent John's values or the spirit of the event. John does not, in any way, wish to further enrich the Sultan while he continues to enforce these brutal laws."
"The simple truth is that profits from these hotels support a regime that could start stoning women and LGBT people as soon as this year," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "Moving this event would send a clear message to the Sultan of Brunei, and would show that the leadership of L.A. Confidential stands in support of the fundamental human rights of women and LGBT people."
No mention of the event can be found on L.A. Confidential’s website, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been canceled.
The Hollywood Reporter says L.A. Confidential is going ahead with the party as planned. The magazine’s spokeswoman, Alison Miller, gave the Reporter this statement: "Los Angeles Confidential will move forward with our annual Awards' Issue celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We respect Mr. Legend's decision not to attend the event, and believe that each individual, company and organization must make their own decision as to how they communicate their positions on political views, social and civil rights."
The CEO of L.A. Confidential's parent company Niche Media Holdings, Katherine Nicholls, defended the decision to hold the party at the Beverly Hills Hotel as a boost for a local business, saying in a statement to the Reporter that a boycott of companies and hotels that "do not share our beliefs would cause serious financial harm and damage to the Los Angeles community, and the American economy."
Nicholls went on to say, “Our company's primary mission is to enhance and celebrate our communities. The Beverly Hills Hotel employs over 650 residents and supports another 4,000 local vendors including sourcing food and provisions from L.A.-area farms. This significantly impacts our community in a positive manner.”
Sources told the Reporter that Legend's team requested that the party be moved, but that a new location could not be secured in time for the event on Thursday, one of the busiest nights in town leading up to Sunday's Grammy Awards.
Prior to Legend’s decision to back out, celebrities reported to be attending included Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen, and his partner on “Glory,” Common, as well as Ava DuVernay, Diplo, Bastille, Keke Palmer, Paul Oakenfold, Henry Sanders, Evan Ross, Ernie Hudson, Carmen Electra, and Ali Landry. No word yet on how many more invitees will follow Legend's lead and skip the event.
The HRC called on them to do so. “The fact is John Legend courageously stood in support of the fundamental human rights of women and LGBT people, and L.A. Confidential has sided with the Sultan of Brunei,” Cobb said in a statement today.“While L.A. Confidential chose convenience over courage, who will stand with them? And now that John Legend isn’t going, is the new honoree the Sultan of Brunei? We urge all potential guests to follow Mr. Legend’s leadership and avoid lining the Sultan’s pockets and sending profits back to his regime.”
This is not the first high-profile boycott of the sultan’s hotels. BET News reported that Babyface moved his wedding last year from the Bel-Air Hotel, which is also owned through Sultan Bolkiah's Dorchester Collection. There have also been numerous protests at the sultan's properties.