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Held on Friday night during the 74th Cannes Film Festival, about five miles from the festival activities at the Villa Eilenroc in Antibes, this year’s gala was a more muted affair, with attendance down due to tCOVID-19 regulations and protocols, even as the perennial carpet was filled with celebrities.
But it was the event’s cause — AIDS research funding — that took center stage, with an emphasis this year on both the roughly 40 million people currently living with HIV and AIDS as well as amfAR research into how COVID-19 affects those affected with the virus.
Host Sharon Stone arrived in a lavender gown with her son. Stopping at the end of the gray carpet, not red, she greeted the international press on hand warmly: “Thank you for coming year after year to cover what we do here.” Borat Subsequent Moviefilm star Maria Bakalova arrived early in the evening wearing a fitted black gown with sequin pink straps. Emmy winner Darren Criss arrived in a black suit with wife Mia Swier, while The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel herself, Rachel Brosnahan, stunned in a peach-colored puffed at the bottom gown.
The evening started off with a cocktail hour. As celebrities and influential benefactors strolled down the carpet, guests mingled over champagne and canapés. Walking into the dinner, a discernable 1920s vibe developed against the backdrop of Art Deco interiors and music from exactly one century ago.
Long-time amfAR Global Campaign Chair and AIDS activist Stone set the mood early, challenging the audience by pointing out that many are still living with HIV and AIDS.
She asked for a glass of champagne to celebrate with the audience with a toast. “There’s this speech written for me but you know, I’m so grateful to be here with you,” she said, abandoning her notes. “For so long we didn’t know what would happen and now we have commercials on TV with AIDS medication. We can stop mother to child transmission because of you.”
Produced by Andy Boose/AAB Productions, the evening was set over an exclusive dinner and an auction conducted by famed auctioneer Simon de Pury and Sandra Nedvedskaia. Kicking off the first auction item, an Elizabeth Taylor diamond ring, Sharon started the bid at 15,000 euros, which ended up selling for 34,000 euros.
A fashion show curated by former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld carried the night along, with 32 men’s and women’s looks from the world’s top design houses. All models wore Christian Louboutin shoes, all of which were a part of the auction-able items.
Other items on auction included a knitted red men’s suit with a shawl collar and double-breasted jacket from Knitwear brand Alled Martinez. Balmain designed a long-sleeve embroidered gold sequin mid-length dress, while Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri offered an embroidered black tulle jumpsuit with red sequins from the pre-call 2021 collection. “Christian Dior — who dressed the greatest actresses in Hollywood — was himself very attached to this art form, which I simply couldn’t live without,” noted Chiuri.
The entire looks of 32 pieces sold for 225,000 euros.
Stone came back on stage to auction a private luncheon with her and Prince Albert II of Monaco at the Villa Eilenroc in September, along with Leonardo DiCaprio’s cuff links from his role in The Great Gatsby, which sold for 170,000 euros.
The night’s other top headliner was 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys, who got the audience hyped and off their feet as she sang and played the piano standing up with the villa lit up behind her.
Swiss jewelry house Chopard was the signature sponsor. Chairs for the evening include Angela Bassett, Len Blavatnik, Brosnahan, Milla Jovovich, Nicole Kidman, Regina King, Heidi Klum, Catherine O’Hara, Aldis Hodge, Freida Pinto, Carine Roitfeld, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Yeoh, Youn Yuh-Jung, Global Fundraising Chairman Milutin Gatsby, and amfAR Co-Chairs T. Ryan Greenawalt and Kevin McClatchy.
AmfAR was started in 1985 and since its inception, it has raised over $235 million for its life-saving AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education and advocacy. The foundation has also awarded more than 3,500 grants to research teams around the world. Cumulatively, amfAR has been able to make key research investments that has closed the gap for an HIV cure.
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