Diane Warren, Aloe Blacc Highlight Denim Day Event

Paul Marciano GETTY - S 2016
Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for GUESS

The musicians joined Guess co-founder and chief creative officer Paul Marciano to raise awareness on sexual assault and rape on Tuesday evening.

"There was a time in music where songs could really have an impact, and this song is really doing that," said songwriter Diane Warren on Tuesday night of "Til It Happens to You" — the empowering sexual assault anthem she co-wrote with Lady Gaga. “It’s powerful, the power of music.”

The Guess-sponsored cocktail event, a partnership between the brand and Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization that aims to build healthy relationships and stop sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence, was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. for Denim Day, April 27, to encourage the public to wear jeans to raise awareness of sexual assault and rape.

The evening honored The Hunting Ground, a documentary about rape on college campuses, and its hit single, "Til It Happens to You," which Warren composed after watching scenes from the film. She was moved by the stories, gifting the song to the filmmakers and ultimately the cause, and would end up playing it to Gaga over the phone. "It touched her," said Warren. "And it really became a Lady Gaga song. She’s part of why this message is heard."

Gaga gave a memorable and emotional performance at the Oscars this year ("Til It Happens to You" was nominated for best original song), while being surrounded by survivors of sexual assault, including Kamilah Willingham, a Harvard Law School graduate featured in the film.

"What I loved about the performance was that it was strong, and we weren’t up there like a bunch of hurt victims," said Willingham. "It was really intense, and when I watched it later, I cried my eyes out. Just seeing Lady Gaga’s face, as she sang the song — I’ve never seen anything like that before."

"She was singing a high 'E' which is hard to get to," said Warren. "She hit that thing nine times. I haven’t seen a performance like that in my lifetime. The Oscar audience, they wouldn’t sit down, they were sobbing. I was sad we didn’t win. Everybody was shocked, including me, but I think the affect of the song is a bigger win. It doesn’t compare."

The night began with an a capella performance of the song by Acasola of California State University, Northridge, followed by moving speeches by Willingham, The Hunting Ground director Kirby Dick, producer Amy Ziering, Violence Intervention Program executive director Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger, Denim Day spokespersons and musicians Aloe Blacc and Maya Jupiter (who has written the song "Never Said Yes" about the movement), and the two hosts of the evening, executive director of Peace Over Violence and Denim Day founder Patti Giggans and Guess co-founder and chief creative officer Paul Marciano.

"This is not an easy subject," said Marciano, who has been applauded for making Guess the first and only international brand to speak out on the taboo subject of sexual assault and rape, when he took the stage. "We’re here to educate and advocate."

The Guess Foundation will donate 10 percent of proceeds from all denim and select accessories sales to Peace Over Violence starting on Monday, April 25, 2016 through Saturday, April 30, 2016.


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