Disney’s live-action remake of “The Lion King” debuts in theaters in just over a month and the movie was on the brain –and inspired the looks on the bodies – of the guests at the Wearable Art Gala on Saturday night in Santa Monica. Tina Knowles Lawson hosted the annual event, which raised over $2 million for arts education and the WACO theater center.
“My kids [Beyoncé and Solange] and I watched ‘The Lion King’ probably 30 times, so I was a big push for Beyoncé to do the voice of Nala,” Knowles Lawson told Variety, explaining how she helped convince the superstar to take the role. “Think about that for your kids when they get older.”
“I got to see part of the movie and I cried, I mean It’s going to be another 50-60 years of [audiences watching,]” she continued, before confirming that she’s also heard some of the “beautiful” original music Beyoncé is working on for the remake.
Beyoncé’s Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams also serving as co-chairs of the event. Williams played coy with reporters about what she knows about her “sister’s” role in the classic.
“If you ain’t hear it from Mrs. Carter, you’re not going to hear it from me,” Williams laughed, sharing that she’s a big fan the original movie after watching it countless times with her own younger sister. “As an adult, I can’t wait to get back into that feeling, because I know what it did for little children around the world. I love the music, I love the story, anything that Elton John touches.”
The third annual event, themed “A Journey to the Pride Lands” in celebration of “The Lion King”, featured a grand art gallery at the entrance to the venue before entering a cocktail lounge sponsored by Shea Moisture. Guests were then treated to a seated dinner, featuring a New Orleans-inspired menu. Knowles Lawson marveled at how much the event has grown in such a short time.
“We started at the African American museum only three years ago and I said maybe 10 years down [the road] we can be at the Barker Hangar because I love this venue,” she said. “And to think that we got here in three years, I’ve just been on my knees today thanking God, because it’s just a blessing and to have all these amazing people show up and support, it couldn’t be better.”
Guests at the event – including honoree Tyler Perry, Chris Tucker, Marsai Martin, Holly Robinson Peete, Steve Harvey and Chloe x Halle – were dressed to the nines in designer takes on the tribal theme. “The Lion King” director Jon Favreau also joined the celebration in support of his star and her charitable efforts. “Oh, you’re in for a treat! She’s wonderful,” Favreau told Variety about Knowles-Carter’s performance as Nala in another recent interview. “She’s been coming by looking at stuff. I’ve been hearing stuff, not just the stuff from that we recorded from the original film, but she’s been working on [new] music as well. And she is a staggering talent and I’m so fortunate to be collaborating with her.”
JD McCrary, who plays young Simba in the film, hasn’t heard any of Beyoncé’s new tracks yet, but shared his experience recording some of the film’s iconic songs.
“Hans Zimmer scored the original ‘Lion King’ music and he did the same thing for the newest versions and I’m singing with [“Us” star] Shahadi Wright Joseph in the movie, McCrary said, adding that it’s a “blessing” to be in the studio singing these songs.
Around 8:30pm, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and their daughter Blue Ivy Carter — who later placed a $11K bid on a diamond ring — snuck into the venue during a performance from the stage production of “The Lion King,” just before host Tiffany Haddish took the stage to open the show. On the carpet, Haddish joked to Variety that she’s basically “a third cousin” to the Knowles family at this point, “somebody that gets to come to a few events every now and then.”
“I have laughs in store; I have fun. We have fantastic art — good food. My uncle is catering this event. You know, we keep it all in the family. And he’s been catering the event I think for a while now. And also, I might mess up some names. I’m not gonna lie. I’m hoping I don’t, the goal is not to do that, but I’m going to just put it out there now and get it off my chest in case a do have, I’m sorry.”
A special look at the gala titled “OWN Presents: Inside WACO’s Wearable Art Gala” will air June 11 at 10pm ET/PT on OWN, presented by executive producer Steve Jones and Brand Maverick Entertainment.