WildAid Gala Honors Lupita Nyong'o With Champion of the Year Award

Lupita Nyong'o attends the "Little Monsters" Premiere -Getty-H 2019
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Eli Roth, Maggie Q were among the stars who attended the event at the Beverly Wilshire on Saturday night aimed to raise awareness on wildlife in Africa and to advocate for effective conservation.

Though Eli Roth was one of the attendees advocating for wildlife awareness for WildAid's "Night in Africa" Gala at the Beverly Wilshire on Saturday night, he had exciting news to share about his next project. 

"I've been secretly making a documentary on shark finning,” Roth told The Hollywood Reporter. "WildAid has been a big part of it and they're incredibly supportive," he said.

The director said he'll be wrapping up the film soon and is planning for the movie to screen at film festivals by next year. Roth said he kept the project undercover so he could access locations that would otherwise be prohibited.

"We really wanted to do it like a Blackfish kind of movie, but for shark finning because 50 years ago, the world got together to save the whales and then we did it for dolphins," he told THR. "Now it's time to do it for sharks."

The focus of the gala Roth attended was to raise awareness on wildlife in Africa and to advocate for effective conservation. CEO Peter Knights took the stage and said WildAid is working to shift public perception and address the economic forces aiding the illegal wildlife trade.

The event honored Djimon Hounsou as a special guest and bestowed actress Lupita Nyong'o with WildAid's Champion of the Year Award. Hounsou said the cause is close to his heart.  

"Listen, if you lose these animals…we'd all be extinguished," Hounsou told THR. "We’re slowly destroying the environment. I want my son…I want [nature] to still be reserved for my son. It would be a really sad day if we only had one or two lions left."

Later, Hounsou took the stage to introduce Nyong'o. The Academy-Award winning actress is an ardent supporter of elephants and has worked on several projects — most recently Serengeti on Discovery channel — to raise awareness for wildlife. Though Nyong'o couldn’t make it to the gala, she sent a special video message telling audiences about her trip to Kenya with WildAid.

"The more modern and urban we get; the farther and less important nature seems," Nyong'o said. "But on my trip, I fundamentally understood just how much more we need nature, than nature needs us. [WildAid] is raising awareness on behalf of elephants, on behalf of wildlife, and on behalf of human beings."

Maggie Q was also at the event and said since she's been working with Wildlife for 10 years, the organization has become like family to her. The actress also said her next film, Fantasy Island with Michael Peña, will be releasing Feb. 14. 

"I’m excited!" Q said. "It's going to be a Valentine's Day movie. So, if you have a guy that you like and you’re scared and you want to hold on to him, I suggest [Fantasy Island]. I highly suggest it."

Other guests for the night's event included John Corbett, Bo Derek, Graham Phillips, AnnaLynne McCord and Mena Massoud. 

Approximately  $1.8 million was raised in total for WildAid. During a live auction attendees bid on luxury vacations, vodka and photographs, among other items. Afterward, Taylor Dayne took to the stage to perform.