Stars from film, television and fashion kicked off New York Fashion Week Wednesday night at the 18th annual black-tie soiree for amfAR — one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to support AIDS research, HIV prevention and treatment education.
The glitzy fundraising party at Cipriani Wall Street consisted of a steak dinner, a performance by singer Charli XCX and Icona Pop, a live auction and a tribute to Harvey Weinstein for his efforts to end the AIDS epidemic. The Academy Award-winning film producer has been supporting amfAR since 1992, and has helped raised millions for the foundation.
“It’s an incredible honor to receive an award from amfAR, because it’s such an important cause that I believe in,” Weinstein, 63, told Variety on the red carpet. “I’ve received awards before, but this one is special because my mom is here tonight. She’s turning 90 next week. But honestly, I don’t deserve it. They’ve asked me a hundred times to do this and I wiggled my way out of it. But it’s a huge honor. I’m glad to be here and flattered.”
Weinstein’s friends and colleagues, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel and Diane Kruger, showed up to the glamorous party to toast the prolific filmmaker. Jay Z also made a brief appearance before the show to congratulate Weinstein, and Robert De Niro teased him from the stage while presenting him with amfAR’s Award of Courage.
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“Harvey Weinstein’s approach to life runs the full gamut from intense, to very intense, to f–k you, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” De Niro told the crowd. “Harvey’s famous and infamous for his passion that he puts into his films, and it’s our good fortune that he puts that same passion and creativity into his philanthropy. For the last 25 years, especially for amfAR, Harvey has been very generous in spreading ulcers and nervous conditions throughout the industry. Harvey was the driving force behind the Cinema Against AIDS galas, which has evolved to become amfAR’s signature benefit gala and has raised a total of $170 million.” De Niro ended his speech by saying, “Harvey couldn’t bully anyone into presenting him with this award, and I am humbled and proud that he chose to bully me.”
Weinstein received a standing ovation while he made his way to the stage. He began by speaking about his work producing concerts when he was 20 years old, after dropping out of the University at Buffalo. His passion for creating live music shows led him to meet Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor — the founders of amfAR — in 1992. Committed to helping the foundation, he recalled author Kurt Vonnegut’s quote, “Good can triumph over evil if the angels are as organized as the Mafia,” in explaining how he helped navigate amfAR to success. “We do things in orthodox ways,” Weinstein said, “but we get the job done, especially the important ones.”
During the star-studded gala, a relaxed DiCaprio enjoyed sitting between Weinstein and Thurman. The three were in deep conversation and shared many laughs throughout the night. Across the room, model Karlie Kloss snapped a selfie with Lively, while Paris Hilton and her sister Nicky Hilton mingled with guests near the stage. Andy Cohen held court near the bar, while Jemima Kirke, Carol Alt and Coco Rocha socialized with friends. “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi took a moment to speak about why amfAR is important to her. She lost her makeup artist, Antonio Gonzalo, to AIDS in the late ’90s. He taught her to embrace the seven-inch-long scar on her arm, the result of a car crash when she was 14.
“He had such a great spirit. He was one of the first people who told me to be proud of my scar,” she told Variety. “I wanted him to cover it with makeup before I went on the runway or when I was doing a photo shoot. This was like, over 20 years ago, before retouching. He helped me not to be self-conscious about it, and now I love my scar because of him. It is so much a part of me. A lot of great people like him have been taken away from us by this illness. There’s still a lot to do, and I urge everyone to help. We can all make a difference.”
“We have come a long way in fighting against HIV/AIDS, but we still need to talk about it, because there are over 37 million people living with the disease,” said “Project Runway” host Heidi Klum, who’s been supporting amfAR for the past decade. “It’s so important to help people who have been affected. The good news is there’s hope, and we’re going in the right direction to eliminate the disease.”