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Jason Derulo capped nine months of planning on Thursday night when he threw his Just for You Foundation’s inaugural fundraiser, the Heart of Haiti Gala.
Established to provide those around the world with access to education, shelter, sustenance, and healthcare, Just for You Foundation feted the resilience of the Haitian people, who lost an estimated quarter-million people in a January 2010 earthquake, among history’s deadliest, on Thursday. Both the singer-songwriter’s parents hail from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
“It’s a place that just receives bad luck, after bad luck, after back luck, after bad luck,” Derulo told The Hollywood Reporter as 200-plus guests in gowns and suits convened in the backyard of a Beverly Hills mansion for the event. “Haiti used to be a destination, and now it’s a place that we only hear about on the news when something bad happens.”
Derulo led the crowd in grace before they enjoyed a Guy Fieri-curated dinner. Then came a live auction and performances from Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard, Shaggy and the host. By the time Derulo began his set, the evening had already raised $500,000. Two bidders pledged $29,000 apiece to join Derulo and Sean Penn on upcoming trips to the Caribbean nation.
Penn himself is an advocate for Haiti: Following the earthquake, the two-time Oscar winner founded J/P HRO to galvanize Haiti’s rebuilding efforts. A Heart of Haiti Gala partner, J/P HRO received part of the proceeds, and Penn gave a speech.
“Throughout history, there are things that we expect governments to do that, frankly, governments can’t do,” he said. “But now there are things governments won’t do, that our government won’t do. We are not living in compassionate governance anymore. We hope to be again, but we are not. Politics of that be they what they may to each of you. But that is a fact. So now it is up to us to be human. And it is Haiti that is our next door neighbor that we want to be human to.”
Additional attendees included CAA managing partner Rob Light and Haitian actors Garcelle Beauvais (Flight) and Jamie Hector (Bosch). “We will have hope, we will have integrity throughout the worst experience you can possibly imagine,” Beauvais told THR.
Shaggy, who is from Jamaica, said it is important not to keep Haiti on “the backburner,” because “that’s when corruption feeds.”
Derulo presented Grammy-nominated songwriter Melky Jean with the Mama Luca Beacon of Hope Award, named after his late grandmother. Jean also has roots in Haiti, where her brother, Wyclef Jean, was born. For 12 years she has been leading humanitarian efforts there focused on woman and children via her Carma Foundation.
“There was a legend about a white man from Hollywood,” she said while accepting her prize. Spotting Penn, she continued, “I’ve never met you, but what you are doing for my country is amazing,” prompting him to climb onstage for a hug and kiss.
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