Jennifer Lopez reportedly sang Happy Birthday to Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in a lavish celebration at the Caspian Sea resort in the former Soviet state.
In a clinging outfit, Lopez sang and danced with scantily-dressed backup dancers in a rare performance for the Muslim country, watched by ministers, ambassadors and chief executives of state-owned companies.
Lopez later changed into a traditional Turkmen dress to sing "Happy birthday, Mr. President" to 56-year-old Berdymukhamedov along with celebrities from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and China.
Backlash against the singer's appearance in the country -- cited for human rights abuses and authoritarian rule -- began immediately after Lopez's crew began tweeting about the event.
"I wonder were all my Turkmenistan followers are!? Hit me up!" her choreographer J.R. Taylor wrote on Twitter account @Didntinviteme, though the tweet has since been deleted considering web and social media outlets are restricted or unavailable in most of the country.
But other tweets about the event remain online, including one from Lopez's backup dancers.
#Turkmenistan nights! LONG flight, tech rehearsal & now chilling outdoors by the pool with everyone doing what we do; LAUGH our faces off!— JLo Dancers (@JLoDancers) June 28, 2013
The non-profit Human Rights Foundation heavily criticized Lopez's appearance at the celebration.
“Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies, but her actions utterly destroy the carefully-crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International’s programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen in a statement.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Lopez's representative described the event in Turkmenistan as a "private corporate event" and not "government sponsored." The reported birthday song was explained as "a last minute 'birthday greeting' request."
"This was not a government sponsored event or political in nature. The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human right issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended."
The China National Petroleum Corporation CNPC, which in 2009 completed a pipeline to transport Turkmen natural gas to China, had organised Lopez's trip.