On Tuesday night, amfAR staged one of its galas in New York City. It was the organization’s fifth major event this year, following similarly extravagant fundraisers in Cannes, São Paulo, Hong Kong and New York, again, in February. Milan is coming up in September. If you miss one amfAR gala, that’s OK. There’s always another one just around the corner.
In fact, you may only need to attend one of its boozy auction-cum-concert powwows to get a handle on them. De rigueur is the appearance of at least one diva, two if you can help it: Shirley Bassey belted out some hits in New York just before fashion week; Cher was honored and Kylie Minogue performed in Brazil, and on Tuesday night Miley Cyrus received an award and Mary J. Blige, who has through no fault of her own become the de facto performer at do-gooder galas everywhere, serenaded the audience at Spring Studios with “Family Affair.” Again. (She was also due to perform on Wednesday night, though granted for a less charitable cause, a fine jewelry launch.)
AmfAR — which it should be noted, raised $1.5 million for AIDS research on Tuesday — grades on a scale when choosing the award recipients at its black-tie benefits. For instance, Harry Belafonte was the subject of a tribute in New York earlier this year, a choice that raised no eyebrows given the actor’s longtime civil rights activism.
But what have Cyrus and Andy Cohen, the man often credited with ushering in the era of Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” done for the cause?
Cohen, as it turns out, has been involved with amfAR for some 10 years, according to the organization, chairing multiple of its benefits and serving once as the host of this same event in Los Angeles a few years ago. “If people need him to show up, he shows up,” said Sandra Bernhard, and if there’s one thing you can say for Cohen, it is certainly that. Many of his creations — LuAnn de Lesseps, Nene Leakes and several cast members of the show “Million Dollar Listing” were on hand to witness his moment in the spotlight.
Cyrus, on the other hand, has become — in recent years — a very prominent supporter of a spectrum of causes and personalities in the gay and lesbian community. And, let’s not forget, she even turned up for the season finale of the show “Rupaul’s Drag Race.”
“That alone qualifies you for an award here,” said the comedian Billy Eichner.
The singer would make headlines the following day as one of several pop stars in the new video, “B—- I’m Madonna.” “I just did it literally somewhere at one of my shows behind the scenes,” she said. But on Tuesday, she was entirely in good Samaritan mode.
Trailed by her parents, Billy Ray and Tish, Cyrus was in the arms of Tyler Ford, a transgender teenager she met through Ariana Grande, and she talked up the advocacy social media campaign Ford launched earlier in the day for her own foundation, Happy Hippy.
It was not lost on her that at 22, her efforts for this and other charitable causes are in their infancy. “I don’t feel deserving,” she said of the award she was about to receive. “That’s my whole speech. I think it’s about setting a standard for myself. I think it takes a lot to get it, but I will hopefully feel worth it one day.”
One tangible contribution the singer made to amfAR were three framed Vanity Fair covers of Caitlyn Jenner that she bedazzled herself to be auctioned. They reached a high bid of $65,000 until Cyrus offered, presumably in jest, to show off one of her breasts. The bid then went up $4,000.