Without putting things in too crass a context, of all the music-related gala events, Rihanna’s Diamond Ball is probably the sexiest. Like no other artist except, of course, Beyonce, she brings together music, fashion, money, entrepreneurship, branding, sports — she even joked on the red carpet that she might get into furniture next — and over the past decade she’s been a pioneer in the artist as a brand. An invitation to her Ball is among the most coveted in several of the above named industries.
And while her fourth annual gala, held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York on Thursday night, was a bit lighter on jaw-dropping starpower than last year’s event — unlike 2017, neither Bey and Jay-Z, who were performing in New Orleans on their “OTR II” tour, nor Leonardo di Caprio were in the house — the 650-odd exceedingly well-dressed guests just had to make do with host Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, A$AP Rocky, Gucci Mane, late-night hosts Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah, Gayle King, athletes Odell Beckham Jr. and CC Sabathia, actor Brian Tyree Henry, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Normani, Meek Mill and Teyana Taylor, as well as an electrifying 45-minute performance from Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) that found Rihanna herself right in front of the stage, dancing and waving and singing along, her purse in one hand while she pointed at Glover with the other.
Most importantly, it raised nearly $6 million for Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation —which the singer founded in in 2012 and named after her grandparents — for global education projects and scholarships, emergency response programs and local grants. All of the auction items — which ranged from the first 2019 Audi electric car and diamond Chopard earrings to vacations and very high-end champagne and cognac — drew at least five-figure sums, most drew six, and the top-dollar item was a five-night stay at a “private paradise” in Costa Rica complete with a submarine ride, which brought in $260,000.
As “junior auctioneer” Seth Meyers said, “Who knew that when Rihanna sang ‘Bitch Better Have My Money,” that is was going to education?”
It’s a long night but a simple one in terms of format: there’s a cocktail reception, a dinner, a live auction and, finally, an abbreviated but satisfying musical set from an A-list artist (last year’s was Kendrick Lamar, in 2016 it was Lionel Richie). During the cocktail hour-plus, comics Meyers, Noah and Roy Wood Jr. stuck together, as did the Atlanta contingent of Gucci Mane, wife Keyshia Ka’Oir and Quality Control chiefs Coach K and Pierre “Pee” Thomas, while Paris and Nicky Hilton worked the room. Other music and music-related execs spotted in the crowd included Def Jam chief/Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg, Motown head Ethiopia Habtemariam, Alamo Records chief Todd Moscowitz (seated with the Atlanta contingent) and Endeavor’s Bozoma St. John.
Glover was seated with friends at a large table next to the stage, graciously greeting the few people who approached him. He disappeared during the auction and emerged onstage, shirtless, with his black-clad 10-piece band (including four backing singers). He danced and gyrated and popped faces as they raced through a set focused primarily on his newer material like “Feels Like Summer” and 2016’s “Awaken! My Love” album, capping off the set with a rousing take on “This Is America” and, finally, an extended vamp though his Grammy-winning hit “Redbone.” Glover appeared to be having the time of his life during the set, calling out and pointing at everyone from Rihanna to some friends from Atlanta.
DJ Mustard took the stage after Glover had finished and pumped up the crowd as people gradually dispersed into the steamy night.