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The amfAR gala, the social and celebrity highlight of every Cannes Film Festival, returned in all its pre-COVID glory Thursday night. With all pandemic restrictions lifted in France ahead of this year’s festival, the charity event from the foundation for AIDS Research could again pull out all the stops in a glitzy and star-studded evening.
Among those walking the red carpet this year were actresses Eva Longoria, Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Williams, Vanessa Hudgens, Kate Hudson and Michelle Yeoh; actors Tom Hanks, Casey Affleck and LaKeith Stanfield; supermodels Naomi Campbell and Candice Swanepoel; soccer star Kylian Mbappé; fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger; and Elvis director (and amfAR Chair) Baz Luhrmann with his Oscar-winning producer wife Catherine Martin.
The event was again held at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc hotel in Antibes, a 20-minute ride from the Cannes Film Festival activities. amfAR’s goal was to raise millions toward AIDS research.
“I feel very humbled to be here tonight. I think the world is falling apart and for people to give money tonight for a great cause is a good thing,” says Camille Razat from Netflix’s Emily In Paris.
After strolling down the red carpet, guests descended to a long entryway behind the hotel, sipping champagne and mingling for the first half of the evening. They then moved to a covered tent for the dinner portion of the night and the celebrity auction.
The first musical act of the evening was Ricky Martin. The “Livin’ La Vida Loca” singer urged the audience to open their wallets to give.
The first item put up for auction was a series of photographs, including photos of Andy Warhol and amfAR’s patron and longtime host Elizabeth Taylor, that was sold for over $250,000. (Since Taylor’s death in 2011, Sharon Stone has taken the rein of emceeing the gala’s dinners.)
Renowned auctioneer Simon de Pury manned the hammer on the evening, driving up bids for such items as a luxury trip to the Galápagos Islands, which went for $909,000.
Actor Robert De Niro was presented with an honorary award and auctioned off a photo painted by his father that sold for $534,900.
Celebrity stylist Law Roach commented on how grateful he was to be in the room, raising money to fight AIDS: “we need the world to be rid of this disease, and I will continue to use my platform to speak on this issue that affects so many.”
Cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX was the lead sponsor of the amfAR gala, the first time a crypto organization has been a backer in the event’s 30-plus-year history. The organization accepted crypto payments for entrance to the gala. FTX has widened its reach in recent months with celebrity partnerships and advertising at high-profile events, including a recent Super Bowl ad featuring Larry David. Last month, the group teamed up with supermodel Gisele Bundchen, head of its environmental and social Initiatives, to debut its first-ever luxury fashion print campaign.
“AIDS affects a lot of people so when we make charitable donations, we’re really looking to make an impact on the largest areas of those impacted globally,” said Lauren Remington Platt, head of global fashion and luxury partnerships for FTX. “The philanthropy aspect was in line with our values and from a luxury and fashion standpoint you have at the epicenter all of this converging into this one space and we’re working to expose crypto to a wider demographic to bring light to these topics.”
Platt and FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried auctioned off a custom FTX diamond necklace in support of AIDS research, which sold for $133,000. Made of 18-karat white gold with palladium alloy and 12 karats of diamonds, the necklace included the iconic FTX logo.
Carine Roitfeld, the former French Vogue editor who has her own publication CR Fashion Book, curated the evening’s fashion show, which had a “Let’s Get Married!” theme Roitfeld said was inspired by amfAR’s Founding International Chairman Elizabeth Taylor who, famously, was married eight times.
“This comes at a time when I feel celebrating love and family is more important than ever,” Roitfeld said.
The collection of 30 fashion items included a Alexander McQueen bridal tuxedo in all-over lace; a Balmain’s light gray satin men’s suit; an off-white’s taffeta moiré with voluminous sleeves; a Givenchy’s long-sleeve cyclist neck ribbed sweater with 4G on the upper back in wool; a cotton tank top and an embellished long white silk skirt; a Prada white cady dress with side slits embellished with crystal and jais embroidery; and a Valentino all-over embroidered V-neck slip short Canapone dress with floral crystal and micro materials shiny embroidery. The collection of items sold for $855,000.
Luhrmann took the stage to auction off an Elvis guitar. The Australian director wowed Cannes Wednesday night with the world premiere of his rock-and-roll biopic Elvis, which stars Austin Butler as the King of Rock and Roll and Tom Hanks as his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The guitar sold for $187,000 and Luhrmann offered to direct a film via Zoom with the highest bidder.
The evening closed on a high with a performance by Christina Aguilera singing “Beautiful and stronger,” bringing the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation.
Since 1985, amfAR have invested close to $617 million in Aids research, giving out more than 3,500 grants to research teams around the world.
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