The Elton John AIDS Foundation raised more than $9 million at its annual Academy Awards viewing party on Sunday night. The star-studded evening featured a performance by Rina Sawayama and Sir Elton John, a dance party into the night and a live auction for original Keith Haring artwork and the host’s iconic crystalized Dodgers robe.
The evening hosted stars including Donatella Versace, Michael Imperioli, Melanie Lynskey, Tiffany Haddish, Kesha, Troye Sivan, Emma Watson, Heidi Klum, Maggie Rogers and Brooke Shields. Smokey Robinson and Nile Rogers sat next to each other for dinner, while special guests Eric McCormack and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez encouraged the audience to donate via text during commercial breaks.
Before the festivities began, John emphasized the importance of fighting the AIDS crisis, which his foundation has been doing for more than 30 years.
“We cannot take our foot off the accelerator,” John told reporters. “We’ve come so far and AIDS has been sidelined by COVID and things like that… We want to end this pandemic by  so that people can get back to happy healthy lives.”
Co-host and husband of John, filmmaker David Furnish also spoke to Variety about the importance of supporting LGBTQ rights amid the wave of anti-trans and anti-drag legislation currently being ratified across the country.
“We have to give people the freedom to be who they are… regardless of their gender or their sexuality,” Furnish said. “It’s just disappointing, after all the progress that’s been made, we still have these dissenting voices in parts of our country, but I focus on the good stuff… I don’t think they really reflect the groundswell of support and progress that we’ve seen over the past few years. It’s just politicians trying to score points.”
“Abbott Elementary” star Lisa Ann Walter, dressed in a Marilyn-esque silver sequin gown paired with a white fur stole, echoed Furnish’s comments.
“Hollywood, of any industry, is on the forefront of being very vocal about LGBTQ needs about what they are facing,” Walter told Variety. “Now it seems to be rolling back in another direction in this country, which is thoroughly frightening and incredibly unacceptable — and verging on fascism. People may not be as political as I am, but what Hollywood can do is put their money behind people who will not legislatively take away the constitutional rights of a huge portion of our population.”
Hollywood put its money toward the fight against AIDS throughout the evening, including the auction, when one of John’s Rolex watches sold for $110,000 and tickets to the Vanity Fair afterparty that evening reached similar heights.
John, who was back hosting after missing last year’s party, joined Sawayama on stage to sing her song “Chosen Family,” an anthem for the LGBTQ community that the two released as a duet in 2021.
“We try to accept everybody in the AIDS foundation,” John told the crowd. “Nobody gets left behind because everybody is important, everyone is special. No matter what sexuality you are, whether you’re straight, whether you’re gay, whether you’re trans, whatever. This song encapsulates all of that.”