Lee Daniels and Halsey Recount Experiences as Homeless Youth at Gala for My Friend’s Place

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for My Friend's Place
Lee Daniels and Jude Demorest

The annual gala helps support homeless youth in L.A. by providing housing and health services, as well as resources in the arts.

The Hollywood Palladium hosted a benefit for the L.A. homeless youth organization, My Friend’s Place, Saturday evening and honored the advocacy of director Lee Daniels, singer Halsey, dancers Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler, and fashion brand Mod Cloth.

The organization, which is in its 31st year, works to provide services and support for homeless youth in the Los Angeles area between the ages of 12 and 25. Their services range from helping clients acquire housing vouchers, providing food and clothes, and an array of resources in the arts.

During the auction portion of the night, singer Halsey engaged in an animated bidding war for a My Friend’s Place “mysterious bag,” before losing last minute to a surprise bid of $20,000.

Both Halsey and filmmaker Lee Daniels — who were both honored as My Friend’s Place “champions” — spoke about their own experiences as homeless youth.

In her acceptance speech as a My Friend’s Place “champion,” Halsey made an effort to shift the mood of the night from celebratory to reflective, voicing the seriousness of homelessness.

“The reality is that this epidemic is deadly. It’s more than young people needing validation and needing people to listen to them. It’s more than identity. It’s more than hope. This is life or death,” the singer told the audience, before reflecting her own experience with homelessness.

“When I was living in New York, I was a teenager. My friends were picking out decorations for their dorm and I was debating whether to let a stranger inside of me, so, I could pay for my next meal. It wasn’t because I did something bad. It wasn’t because something was wrong with me, and it wasn’t because my parents didn’t love me, because they did very much. But a series of unfortunate circumstances lead me to being in that position, and it can happen to absolutely anyone," she said.

The speech garnered the loudest applause of the night, although Halsey appeared reluctant to overshadow the evening’s cause — as she promised to treat the My Friend’s Place staff to a spa day. She did, however, return to the stage later in the evening to perform her Billboard Hot 100 number one single, “Without Me.”

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lee Daniels was honored for his work’s inclusion of storylines focusing on the struggles of homeless youth, like his current project Star and his Academy Award-winning film, Precious. In a video montage played before his speech, My Friend’s Place clients spoke about their ability to see themselves in Daniel’s characters.

During his acceptance speech as a My Friend’s Place “champion,” Daniels broke out into song and stomp as he spoke about how the Village People’s 1977 hit, “In Hollywood” inspired him to move to Los Angeles.

“I came to Hollywood with seven dollars. I was inspired by this song by the Village People. Does anyone know it? ‘Take a bus, a train or a plane to Hollywood, go there and then change your name… You're gonna be a star, a big star.’ So, I thought I could do it. And I was homeless. Through that you find truth. You find your truth. You find strength,” Daniels told the audience.