The amfAR Inspiration Gala felt like a sleepy charity event in downtown New York until honoree Miley Cyrus took the stage. Wearing a red dress emblazoned in hearts and matching gloves, she stuck out her hands in an Evita pose, pointing to the tele-prompters to her left and right. “These are feeding everyone their words,” she announced on Tuesday night at Spring Studios. “They are weird and make you kind of look like you’re spacing out, which I already look like I’m doing. I’m going to hold my paper, which I trust.”
Cyrus’s 10-minute breathless, tearful speech was exactly what the crowd of HIV/AIDS activists and supporters wanted to hear — and ended with a rapturous standing ovation. Cyrus not only name dropped amfAR grande dame Elizabeth Taylor (“my hero”), Audrey Hepburn (“another hero of mine”) and John Lennon (quoting his lyrics), but offered a thank you to her parents — Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, who were both in attendance — for teaching her compassion for others.
“My mom and dad, mostly my dad, I think this is the first time we hung out of the house in 15 years,” Cyrus said, telling them how much she loved them. “I’m going to f—ing cry like a loser. I just want to tell my parents I hope this makes them proud and somehow makes up for all the s–t I do all the time.”
She spoke about the day when she — and her children and children’s children — would be living in a AIDS-free world. “There have been too many families, friends, partners and animals that have lost somebody that they cherish to this illness,” Cyrus said, before asking the crowd to join her in a collective “I love you” to all the people who have died from the disease.
A few minutes before she took the stage, Cyrus had donated her one-of-kind “Caitlyn Collection” artwork for auction: three bedazzled covers of Caityln Jenner’s Vanity Fair issue, which Cyrus had signed. As the bidding stalled, Cyrus took the mic and offered to flash her left breast (she said it was bigger than the right one) and clean the winner’s house naked if the items sold for $69,000, which it eventually did.
The other award recipient of the night, Andy Cohen, gave a more muted speech by comparison. The Bravo host remember how he moved to New York in 1990 as a 22-year-old gay man. “I was really terrified I was going to get sick and die,” Cohen said. “Gay men were dying in droves.” He said that the late actress Natasha Richardson encouraged him to get involved with amfAR in 2005. “I was thinking about the meeting today, and how far away a cure seemed 10 years ago. It’s in our future.”
Anderson Cooper served as the emcee, and other guests included Laverne Cox, Heidi Klum, Kenneth Cole, Tyson Beckford and Mary J. Blige, who ended the evening with a performance of a trio of songs. The crowd — which forked over $1,500 a ticket — was treated to a fashion show of male models (sporting such looks as a parka over a speedo) before dinner was served.