Hollywood and the Biden administration have enjoyed a close relationship since President Joe Biden's inauguration, with numerous A-list celebrities appearing at White House events. However, as President Biden hosted his third state dinner on Thursday, the question arose as to whether the controversial nature of the guest of honor, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would impact the celebrity attendance.
Prominent Hollywood stars, known for leaning left politically, have been critical of Modi due to what the State Department has described as "significant human rights issues" in India and his past association with President Donald Trump.
Notably, the guest list for the state dinner featured fewer celebrities than expected, with director M. Night Shyamalan, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and fashion designer Ralph Lauren among the most notable attendees.
Celebrity Connections to Biden
Night Shyamalan had previously collaborated with the Biden campaign in 2020, working on a filmmaking contest to encourage voter participation. Billie Jean King, a long-time supporter of President Biden, co-hosted an event with the first lady to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
Ralph Lauren has designed outfits for the Biden family on several important occasions. Other attendees with connections to the entertainment industry included self-help guru Jay Shetty, Apple CEO Tim Cook, actor Maulik Pancholy, singer Vidya Iyer, fashion designer Reem Acra, Christian Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, and violinist Joshua Bell, who performed during the dinner.
While it is still being determined if larger-name stars were invited but declined due to controversy or scheduling conflicts, the event's timing at the end of June, when many people take vacations, may have affected attendance.
The previous two state dinners during the Biden administration also had limited celebrity participation. Modi's presence at the state dinner brought attention to the complex nature of the U.S.-India relationship. President Biden aims to strengthen ties with India to counter China's growing influence but faces the challenge of prioritizing human rights in his foreign policy.
The State Department has raised concerns about human rights issues, religious intolerance, and media restrictions in India. However, the Biden administration recognizes the importance of the U.S.-India relationship and seeks to engage with Modi to encourage positive change.
The state dinner served as a symbolic gesture to convey the significance of the U.S.-India partnership. White House spokesman John Kirby emphasized that President Biden regularly raises concerns when dealing with foreign leaders and that India has shown a growing willingness to align with the United States on shared values.
As the evening unfolded, it became evident that while the controversy surrounding the guest of honor may have influenced celebrity attendance, the event remained a testament to the Biden administration's commitment to fostering international relationships and navigating the delicate balance between political alliances and human rights concerns.