Michelle Rodriguez on the Importance of AIDS Advocacy in 2019 Political Climate
The actress and longtime amfAR supporter tells The Hollywood Reporter why those who've suffered from HIV/AIDS need to be championed in Trump's America.
Actors, models, musicians and Manhattan's style set came out in droves on Wednesday night to kick off New York Fashion Week at the amfAR gala. Michelle Rodriguez, a longtime supporter of the organization that funds AIDS research, was one of the famous faces who attended the starry event held at Cipriani Wall Street.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet, an outspoken Rodriguez explained why advocacy for those who have suffered from HIV/AIDS — including members of the LGBTQ community — feels significant in today's political climate.
Rodriguez noted that, under President Donald Trump's administration, it seems as though LGBTQ citizens have been increasingly "[attacked] by their government, by their neighborhoods." She added, "God forbid they live in middle America. There are still people being beaten to death in middle America just for fucking being who they are. So, yeah, their lives and this cause feels really important right now."
Incidentally, Wednesday night's event took place just one day after Trump vowed to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 in his State of the Union address. His comments seemed suspect especially since, upon his takeover of the Oval Office, he failed to name a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy despite the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. — which prompted six members of the president's advisory council on HIV/AIDS to quit in protest.
Trump previously proposed cutting funding for PEPFAR, the multi-billion-dollar initiative that helps fight HIV/AIDS on a global scale (he eventually signed a bill in December that extended PEPFAR through 2023). Additionally, he has made several efforts to roll back LGBTQ protections, including his signed ban for transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.
Not surprisingly, Rodriguez isn’t putting her faith in Trump. Instead, she is hopeful that amfAR — the Foundation for AIDS Research — will continue to make strides in their decades-long battle to find a cure for the life-threatening virus.
"AmfAR is the only charity that I see that has a massive track record of putting their money where their mouth is," said the actress, who estimated that she's been to about 40 amfAR galas throughout her career. "There's the glitz and glamour and it costs a lot of money to pull this off. But what's really happening behind amfAR is a bunch of scientists working on epigenetics and looking at what the actual solutions are and developing drugs, drugs that have worked."
Added Rodriguez, "People that are alive today are capable of possibly being able to see with their own eyes what a cure to this thing looks like because of this organization."
Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $517 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to HIV/AIDS research teams worldwide.
Rodriguez presented her friend, frequent co-star and "crush" Milla Jovovich with amfAR's Courage Award on Wednesday night. The model and actress was honored for her humanitarian efforts toward the fight against AIDS, as were photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot and famed art auctioneer Simon de Pury.
At the event, de Pury led a live auction that included items such as exotic trips to Africa and Asia, an Andy Warhol original and a Playboy portrait of Kate Moss — photographed by Mert and Marcus — that sold for close to $100,000. By the end of the night, more than $1.7 million was raised for amfAR’s life-saving research programs.
To cap off the evening, The Chainsmokers took the stage for a five-song performance that included their hits "Closer" and "Paris." Country darling Kelsea Ballerini joined the band on stage to sing their recent collaboration and radio hit, "This Feeling." The lively mini-concert prompted much of the star-studded crowd — including Kim Kardashian West, Kourtney Kardashian, Heidi Klum, Alessandra Ambrosio, Winnie Harlow, Victoria Justice, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Karolina Kurkova, among others — to get on their feet.
"This is always such a beautiful night," honoree Jovovich told THR. "Award or not, I would have been here, though. What motivates me the most to keep coming back and supporting this cause are the people I know who've been affected by AIDS, friends who I've lost and friends who are still living with HIV. I will never stop fighting for them."