In high-end glossy magazines’ neverending quest to spotlight beautiful people and luxurious endeavors, occasionally they will focus on those whose wealth and beauty is perhaps ill-begotten—and in doing so, they will conveniently omit the unprettiest facts in an effort to project a certain proper well-heeled image. There was, perhaps most notoriously, Vogue’s 2012 profile of Asma al-Assad, which pedestalized the Syrian first lady as a beautiful, benevolent glamour-puss without noting that her husband, Bashar al-Assad, was by then regularly slaughtering his own people.
This month, we’ve got Vanity Fair’s “The Art of Zen Parfumerie: Meet the Harmonist,” which profiles multimillionaire Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and her new Los Angeles “fragrance house” without mentioning that her father, former Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, regularly practiced murder, forced labor, and torture (including rape) upon the people of Uzbekistan for daring to do such offensive things as practice critical journalism or protest his regime.
Is a woman responsible for the actions of her corrupt father? is the question of the epoch, no doubt, and for what it’s worth Karimova-Tillyaeva is involved in charitable activities (more perhaps than her despised elder sister Gulnara, currently imprisoned for corruption allegations, and to whom Lola has said she no longer talks). The onus, perhaps, is on Vanity Fair for providing an outlet for Karimova-Tillyaeva’s efforts without context, but that context is doubly absurd when the florid language of the magazine profile—PR, in essence—is applied to a scent company created using “feng shui”:
Karimova-Tillyaeva is a diplomat and philanthropist, as well as the daughter of former Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov. “As a teen, I played with my mother’s fragrances, and I would blend,” she explains. “My first project was for me—my perfume. Making this fragrance gave me the freedom to express myself.” Later, she made the scent for her friends—500 bottles in the shape of a tulip, housing notes of white flowers and vanilla musk, with ylang-ylang at the heart. “Through smell, I see life,” she says. “Smell gives me depth of feelings.” And with that notion, The Harmonist was born.
Please, Vanity Fair, tell us more:
After finding your base element, you can continue to add on to bring about the desired change. Meaning, if you are a creative person, but you cannot seem to yield income from your talents, perhaps another element is blocked, and this should be the fragrance element to blend in order to discover what you might be missing.
For contrast, here is what the Guardian had to say about Islam Karimova, who ruled Uzbekistan from 1989 until his death last September:
Karimov is accused of butchering hundreds of his own citizens at a massacre in the city of Andijan in 2005, though has nevertheless been courted by western leaders due to his country’s proximity to Afghanistan. Rights activists have accused him of boiling opponents alive, and torture is widespread in the country’s jails. In June, he said in a televised interview that those Uzbeks who went to Russia to seek work were “lazy”, and said he felt “disgusted that people go there for a slice of bread”.
The comments were particularly grotesque given that his own daughters lead charmed lives featuring luxury cars, mansions across Europe and glamorous parties, while millions of Uzbeks work in appalling conditions on construction sites and performing other manual labour jobs in Russia, in order to alleviate the financial situation for their impoverished families back in Uzbekistan, one of the poorest countries in the region. Karimov has also been accused of forcing Uzbeks, including children, to spend their summer months picking cotton for little or no remuneration.
Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva made what appeared to be thinly veiled criticisms of this practice in her interview. “I am against any exploitation, especially the exploitation of children,” she said. “It is hard for me to assess this situation but it is regrettable if such a situation exists.”
While this perfume profile is perhaps no “Rose in the Desert,” it’s certainly quite the 2017 concern, no, to consider a daughter’s business interests during (or in this case, after) her tyrannical father’s efforts to lead a nation. Luckily, there’s a scent for that.