Breast Cancer Research Foundation Celebrates 25 Years, Raises $6 Million

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From left: Jenny B. Fine, Elizabeth Hurley and Sonia Kashuk

Elizabeth Hurley hosted the annual Hot Pink Party, which featured a generous live auction and a performance from David Foster and others.

Celebrating a landmark 25 years of progress in cancer research, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s annual Hot Pink Party on Wednesday night brought out top names in media, fashion, music and Hollywood to raise a total of $6 million to fund continued efforts around the globe. The event was held at the historic Park Avenue Armory in New York City and hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, longtime global ambassador for the Estée Lauder Companies' breast cancer campaigns.

“It’s just become an incredibly important part of my life, and I think each year as we’ve been able to support more research scientists, as we see more and more good results coming in from those scientists, it just really revs you up and makes you realize that yes, there is a cure somewhere down the line, and we’re going to be a part of finding that cure,” Hurley told The Hollywood Reporter on the gala event’s pink carpet. “An event like tonight raises a lot of money, and it also unites people who’ve long supported this cause, and it reminds them why they’re here.”

Hurley added that in the last year — a year that saw BCRF fund a total $63 million in grants to 300 researchers worldwide — she’s certain that most of the night’s 1,000 well-heeled guests had been touched by breast cancer in one way or another. The 53-year-old multihyphenate revealed that several people in her social circle (“a handful of people who are very close” to her) have been diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone: “It’s something which actually increases your enthusiasm and your commitment as the years go by. It certainly doesn’t wane.”

Since the BCRF was founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder of Estée Lauder Companies, the U.S. has seen a 40 percent decline in breast cancer-related deaths. It’s an impressive figure that was praised several times throughout the evening, including by current BCRF president Myra Biblowit while introducing a stalwart supporter of the nonprofit, Roslyn Goldstein, who founded the Hot Pink Party’s annual Roslyn and Leslie Goldstein Unsung Hero Award. This year, the honor went to beauty entrepreneur and breast cancer survivor Sonia Kashuk and was presented by Women’s Wear Daily executive editor of beauty Jenny B. Fine.

“When you have a breast cancer diagnosis, you join a community of women, which is unfortunate on the one hand, but then on the other, it gives you the opportunity to show how you can help other people,” Fine said on the pink carpet. She cited Kashuk as an industry friend turned personal friend, and a spirit guide through her own breast cancer diagnosis last year: “It’s impossible to go through something like this alone, and so to have a roadmap of what help looks like is a pretty special thing — and to be able to recognize Sonia for that, just personally, is very humbling and incredibly gratifying.”

Standing with Fine on the carpet, Kashuk added that she “never in a million years” imagined being honored for her advocacy efforts as a breast cancer survivor, but that it just makes her “want to work that much harder and to give more hope and insight and support and love.”

“I get so much more from giving out, helping others,” she said. “I would rather give than to receive, and it meant the world for me to kind of be a guiding light to Jenny and to many other women.”

Upon taking the podium later in the evening as the annual fête’s honoree, Kashuk reflected on the meaning of the word “hero.” “Hero is a very powerful word,” she said. “If only we were all superheroes with cure-finding powers. But for now, here is to being a community of heroes who try.”

Other highlights included a video call-in from longtime BCRF supporter, co-chair and Hot Pink Party performer Elton John (“I’m sending lots of love tonight, I’m wearing my pink glasses, and I pledge $50,000”); a presentation on the advancements in metastasis treatment and prevention from BCRF’s scientific director Dr. Larry Norton; a plated dinner soundtracked live by the CoverGirls Violin Show; a live auction of a Bahamas getaway (sold for $50,000) and a stay at the Lauder family’s Palm Beach estate (sold for $70,000); and finally a closing performance from 16-time Grammy winner David Foster.

“You’re used to Elton John up here — Elton John rocks the joint,” Foster said at the top of his set, feigning nerves about filling John’s shoes. “For any of you who may know my music, I basically make music that babies are made to. It’s kind of a slow thing, so I don’t know how it’s going to work tonight.” But Foster needn’t have worried: His set boasted show-stopping guest vocalists, including American Idol alum Pia Toscano, America’s Got Talent alum Fernando Varela and The Greatest Showman standout Loren Allred.

Foster also had a few surprises up his sleeve, bringing out fiancée Katharine McPhee to sing “She Used to Be Mine” from Waitress, in which she currently is starring on London's West End. He also tapped a noticeably surprised Maxwell in the audience to sing a little something, who settled on a brief but rousing improvised number calling breast cancer survivors to their feet, before he rounded it out with Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour.” Josh Groban also called in by Skype to join Varela on a rendition of his “You Raise Me Up.”

Other noteworthy guests included the evening’s honorary co-chairs Leonard and Judy Lauder and Anthony and Debra von Mandl, plus Candace Bushnell; Arielle and Brandon Charnas; Grace Elizabeth; Nina Garcia; Jenna Leigh Green; Dee and Tommy Hilfiger; Jill and Harry Kargman; Kinga Lampert; Aerin Lauder; Dylan Lauren; Monique Lhuillier; Carolyn Murphy; Emma Myles; Deborah Norville; Amy Robach and Andrew Shue; Paul Shaffer; Anne Thompson; Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch; Ingrid Vandebosch and Jeff Gordon; Vera Wang; and Gucci Westman.

“You definitely feel that energy in the room,” Hurley told THR, referencing a number of “repeat attendees.” But if she has any say what’s next for BCRF, it’s that she hopes in the next 25 years, there won’t be need for such a foundation to exist — “because they’ve found a cure.”