Some people may believe Uzbekistan's first daughter Gulnara Karimova lives in an ivory tower, far above the howls of her detractors.
She would argue that is anything but the case.
At a weekend press conference in Tashkent
, flanked by a mosaic of plaques advertising her innumerable charitable causes, Googoosha sought to engage her critics, wag a finger at the press, and praise, in the face of great adversity, her unshakable self-esteem.
"You can say that I've pressured someone," said the 40-year-old pop singer, fashion icon, millionaire, and entrepreneur, who is frequently tapped as the likely successor to her tyrannical father, Islam Karimov.
"You can say that I've said or done something wrong, or wrote something badly. You can say whatever you want. But my face and my image -- the things that I carry with me -- that's given to me by God. I'm grateful to God that he gave me my height, my face, my features."
The slings and arrows of the yellow press may pierce her heart, said Karimova, dressed in a demure white blouse and silver-spangled leggings, "but those people can never take away what's been put on my face by God."
The press conference was attended by a smattering of journalists, including correspondents from unspecified-but-touted "foreign" outlets. Among those notably absent was the opposition news site uznews.net, which has frequently probed her controversial Fund Forum
charity organization, notorious for its recent boondoggle, the "1,000 Weddings and 1,000 Circumcisions" project
. "Clearly [Uznews] wasn't ready for such an open dialogue," one loyal organizer sniffed.
Karimova expressed her own frustration with what she saw as the unprofessionalism of the Uzbek media, including RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, which she lambasted for erroneously reporting that she demonstrated the finer points of karate during a recent guest appearance at a media camp for aspiring journalists.
"I want to be happy for you," she said. "But I have just one question. We were talking about yoga exercises. Where did the karate come from? Be human, guys, and look in your soul for an answer: Did anyone see any karate going on there?"
Dropping karate, Karimova moved on to her budding music career as an opportunity to address critics further afield, like Britain's "Independent" newspaper and its August 17 article headlined, "Dad's accused of boiling people alive -- but Googoosha just wants to be a star
A lesser recording artist would shudder and begin counting the lost sales. Karimova -- whose new album, reportedly released in June
but on sale nowhere -- appeared to take it in stride. "When such things appear, I think it speaks to the fact that many people are in fact listening to my album. It speaks to the scope of my popularity. It's not only my inspirational supporters who are among my listeners. It's also those who are learning to sing by modeling themselves to me."
"I never considered myself a singer," Karimova added, a setup line if ever there was one. "The album came out completely unexpectedly."
Her failed fashion launch at last autumn's New York Fashion Week -- scuppered by protests
against her father's use of forced child labor in the country's massive cotton industry -- provoked another jab at the press.
"No one bothers to recall that there were American students who came out on my side," she said. "There were 20 of them, all American-born Uzbeks, and they were wearing T-shirts with the slogan 'We support Gulya,' and they collected signatures in support of my show."
Karimova paused before expressing her gratitude for such under-reported shows of global support. "Believe me," she concluded. "We simply didn't manage to, but we would have been happy to send them a box of fruit."
-- Daisy Sindelar