Inside the amfAR Inspiration Gala, Where Miley Cyrus’s Artwork Raised $69,000
amfAR is known for throwing good parties. Every year, they throw bashes around the world, like in Cannes and Los Angeles, drawing the most famous faces in the world in for nights of fashion, fundraising, and booze. Last night’s fête, presented by Harry Winston and MAC Cosmetics at New York's Spring Studios, was no different. What was unique was the evening’s theme, street style, and its two honorees: Bravo exec Andy Cohen and Happy Hippie founder and superstar Miley Cyrus, who each earned the award for their contributions to amfAR’s AIDS research programs. “I’m very humbled and thrilled and honored,” Cohen (in Ralph Lauren) told us on the red carpet. “It means so much to me.”
The night began with a cocktail hour on the fifth floor of the TriBeCa space, with guests sipping Moët & Chandon champagne and Fiji water while overlooking sweeping views of the west side and the Hudson River. A bevy of Bravo stars turned out to toast to their dear leader, including New York Housewives LuAnn de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan, Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes, a few realtors from Million Dollar Listing, as well as some of Cohen’s closest pals, such as Billy Eichner, Brad Goreski, Sandra Bernhard, and Heidi Klum.
Guests then shuttled into the room next door for a streetwear-inspired men’s fashion show. This is where Cyrus made her elaborate entrance with parents Billy Ray and Tish by her side, as flashbulbs fired one after another to capture a glimpse of the star dressed in a red Moschino gown covered in oversize red sequin hearts. The lights soon dimmed and the fashion show began, featuring 62 menswear looks from designers such as Moschino, Dior Homme, Marc Jacobs, and Baja East.
But that was all warm-up. The main event was the gala dinner one floor up, which led to a massive elevator line to get people upstairs post-fashion show. (Walk? Not this crowd.) Over tomato tartar salads, Anderson Cooper and amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole "officially" welcomed everyone to the event. “This evening will support a shared dream,” said Cole, “the dream of putting an end to the biggest public health catastrophe of our time.”
Andy Cohen received his award first, which was presented by Sandra Bernhard. “Andy wasn’t really prepared for his philanthropic work, until he experienced the deep, emotional turmoil of those Housewives,” she joked. “Like a shaman, a new age healer, a magical guru, he brought enlightenment … His philanthropic work has touched so many people. No one is more willing to make it happen for a good cause.” Andy was full of smiles as he accepted. “When they find a cure in the next five years, I expect a kickass party,” he said. “And we’re all going to be there.”
The donation part of the evening came next: Laverne Cox asked guests to text in their donations, and Paddle8 co-founder Alexander Gilkes led the live auction. The highlight was the final lot: Miley Cyrus had donated her artwork, a three-part pop art interpretation of Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, signed by Caitlyn herself, the first time Caitlyn has ever signed in her new name. Bidding rose to $65,000, but Cyrus wasn’t satisfied. “If it’s going for that much, at least get it up to 69,” she pleaded. The bidder obliged, and the triptych sold for $69,000.
It was then time for Cyrus to take center stage. She accepted her Inspiration Award to a standing ovation, and then delivered a 10-minute speech that touched on gratitude and celebrating the future of doing good deeds for other people. “By receiving this award tonight, I promise to continue fight along with such an industrious army to find a cure for this epidemic,” she said. “This illness has brought us all together tonight, and I feel so grateful to be in a room with so many people that care. Unfortunately, it’s so rare in this world today.”
She then went on to tearfully thank her mother and father, who were seated at a table just in front of the stage: “I just want to tell my parents that I hope this makes them proud, and somehow makes up for all the s— that I do all the time. You are two of the most selfless people and you have taught me and all my siblings how important it is to be there for those who need us and how important it is to care about other people and their lives. So, thank you for making me like that. People say that you don’t choose your family, but I choose mine every time. And even if you weren’t my mom and dad, I hope that we’d still be in the room together looking for a cure.”
The crowd gave Cyrus another standing ovation, then stayed on their feet for a performance by Mary J. Blige. In a bodycon LBD, the soulful singer belted out three of her biggest hits—“Family Affair,” “Just Fine,” and “Real Love”—as Cohen, Alexander Wang, and Victoria Justice grooved to the tunes.
It was well past 11 p.m. when the party finally started to wind down. No one stayed for dessert—as beautifully prepared as the chocolate mousse and lemon pound cake options were—most dashed off to the after-party at the Top of the Standard. But not without the best news of the night: The event raised $1.5 million for amfAR’s AIDS research initiatives.
—With additional reporting by Jonathan Borge