Verizon Wireless has just pulled a sponsorship deal for Gwen Stefani’s new tour rumoured to be worth $3million. The reason? Her supporting act, Akon, was caught on film “dry humping” a 14 year old in dubious circumstances in a club in Trinidad. Now whether you like her music or not we have to bear in mind support acts are usually chosen by the record label or the tour promoter, not the lead artist. Stefani’s spokespeople have issued a statement saying they are “just in the beginning stages of evaluating”. Unfortunately the statement went on to say of Akon that:
“Children of all ages have been attending [his concerts]. We have had no complaints – nothing but satisfied people.” From The Guardian
Stefani’s own website makes no mention of the controversy so the status of the spokespeople (whether from the record company or her own entourage) is currently unclear.
The story starts with Akon’s appearance at Zen, a Trini Club, on April 12th. The club was meant to be over-18s only but Deena Alleyne, the 14 year old daughter of a Pastor, managed to get in. However her age isn’t really the issue (although Akon’s fans seem to ignore this). Akon offered a prize of a trip to Africa for the winner of a competition on stage for the best “wine” (a colloquialism for a style of dance related to soca currently popular in T&T). Seven women competed in rounds and in the end of the 14 year old competed in three rounds before being subjected to, in the words of the Trinidad News:
“Later on, Akon would have his way with the petite young lady: turning, twisting and even flipping her body, while mimicking sexual positions and acts all over the stage for three consecutive rounds.
His DJ, Virgin Islands native Benny D, even joined in during the second round and together they sandwiched the young lady on the floor of the stage. In the end, Akon declared himself the winner, even though the crowd adjudged that his female volunteer had won the contest.” From Trinidad News
However (whilst winning a competition wouldn’t make the humilation right) the competition itself was a scam:
“The competition was then filmed by Akon’s crew and later revealed to be a mere sham for the entertainment of the audience present, and an even greater potential global audience, as he promised to upload the footage onto the popular Internet video website www.youtube.com” From Trinidad News
Ms Alleyne’s father has condemned the artist, saying his daughter was a victim and had been taken advantage of.
“She likes dancing and won a competition,” Alleyne said, adding that she became a victim in a situation where she had no control….She had won the first stage of a competition which carried prizes, including a “free trip” to Africa. There was however no free trip to Africa as at the end of the competition, Akon said he was Africa. From Trinidad News
The video of what Akon did is available online. But of even more interest is the response from the fans who have labelled Ms Alleyne. One website writes the experience us clearly saying that Ms Alleyne 1. wanted it, 2. deserved it and 3. was there to be used:
“Rapper Akon gave a young female fan a special treat during a Trinidad show at Club Zen. Unimaginative simulated sex. The rapper, best known for his song “Smack That”, dry humped the girl every which way on stage….Having been used and discarded like Kleenex at a Babes of Star Trek convention, the unidentified female curled up into the fetal position.” From here
Whilst elsewhere she has been vilified:
“she has a tramp stamp”
“she is a trick”
Makes you wonder – notice how the man here is not to blame (Verizon Wireless have been accussed of overreacting too) either for his actions with a 14 year old girl or for loosing the tour a sponsorship package. But Deena Alleyne is apparently culpable for being a teenager with a desire to dance and, no doubt, Stefani will be blamed if Akon is pulled from the tour.