Grace Jones, Jason Derulo and Ellie Goulding will perform at Thursday’s amfAR Cannes gala. They join Sting and Shaggy as part of the black-tie evening’s star attractions.
The non-profit organization has raised more than $210 million from the party to support AIDS research, but despite its charitable contributions, amfAR has been battling a wave of negative publicity. Much of that stems from the event’s long-association with disgraced indie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting dozens of women. In the past, Weinstein helped wrangle top talent to perform at the event and persuaded deep-pocketed supporters to bid on auction items.
AmfAR, with its mission to end AIDS, isn’t just a noble cause. It’s also the glitziest event at the Cannes Film Festival, serving as sort of a bejeweled cap to the two-week festival. The outdoor, all-night dinner and party in a tent at the Hotel du Cap in nearby Cap d’Antibes fetches bigger stars than many festival gatherings. Leonardo DiCaprio usually shows up, and recent editions offered sightings of Sharon Stone, David Beckham, Orlando Bloom and Paris Hilton. Music icons including Diana Ross and Nicki Minaj have performed on the stage, as the group auctions off extravagant art and trips for millions of euros.
But there are questions about how the show will go on in Weinstein’s absence, particularly after reports broke that Weinstein had used $600,000 raised by amfAR’s Cannes gala to pay back investors in “Finding Neverland,” a stage musical that he produced. Shoe designer Kenneth Cole resigned as board chairman in February after allegations broke that he had approved the deal with Weinstein.
AmfAR supporters say that their commitment to the organization hasn’t weakened despite the tarnish left by Weinstein and the financial scandal involving the Cannes fundraiser.
“It’s more important than any one person,” said Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard, the French liquor giant that recently signed on as amfAR’s global wine and spirits partner. “It would be a pity to turn our back on such a great cause. It’s important to support amfAR in getting the funding it needs to keep doing research.”
This year, in the absence of Weinstein, amfAR enlisted 25 women to co-chair the event. But some of those listed on the invitation aren’t coming to France — a group of no-shows that includes Katy Perry and Sienna Miller. Some organizers believe that they’ve actually had more luck in attracting talent without Weinstein at the helm, because the indie mogul was such a divisive figure. Despite the specter of Weinstein, the artists and singers hitting the gala released statements talking up the importance of amfAR and its work.
“I was very honored and concerned when Elizabeth Taylor asked me to be part of one of the first amfAR Gala, especially since I lost some many close friends because of AIDS, and since then I have supported their work and will continue until there is a cure,” said Jones in a statement.
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