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Cher rejects Russian oligarch’s invite: I won’t play Winter Olympics due to country’s anti-LGBT laws

By Sean Michaels, The Guardian
Tuesday, September 17, 2013 1:51 EDT
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Singer claims to have rejected invitation from oligarch friend to perform at ceremonies over concerns about recent legislation

Cher claims to have rejected an invitation to perform at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Although she was asked to participate in February’s official opening ceremonies, the singer said she “immediately” refused out of solidarity with Russia’s gay community.

Speaking with the Canadian magazine Maclean’s, Cher recounted receiving a call from a friend “who is a big [Russian oligarch]“. “[He] asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show,” she said. “I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.”

Cher is no stranger to Russia: she has performed there twice in the past year. And while she said she “can’t name names” when it comes to her friend the oligarch, both of her recent gigs were at the invitation of billionaire businessman/politician Suleyman Kerimov. Kerimov is the world’s 162nd-richest man, according to Forbes; he is also a huge Cher fan. He brought the Believe singer to Moscow for a private party in December 2012, and then to his home province of Dagestan this July for the opening of a new football stadium. “Russia is Great … COLD BUT GREAT!” Cher tweeted at the time of the December show. “Here is pic of me wearing my friend’s [giant, fur] hat!”

Cher is a longtime advocate of LGBT rights, spurred by events “in the early days” of Sonny and Cher, as well as her experiences as mother to a transgender child. “People hated Sonny and I … because we looked and acted so different,” she told Maclean’s. “Sonny was always getting into fights – people would called him ‘fag’ and he’d get his nose broken – only because we were dressing different … You can’t forget that.”

Artists such as the Bloodhound Gang, Madonna and Lady Gaga have spoken out against Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation, including a law that prohibits teaching minors about “non-traditional sexual relations”. The upcoming Sochi Games have become a focal point for the controversy, with activists calling for formal protests and boycotts, with some even proposing that Russia be stripped of its role as Olympic host.

Closer to the Truth, Cher’s 26th studio album, is out on 24 September.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

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