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Fergie has a fan in amfAR, which honored the singer for the second time in a year with its Piaget Award of Inspiration on Wednesday at the New York Public Library, a follow-up to the same honor she received at the Paris version of the Inspiration Gala last summer.
The feeling was mutual.
“I’ve been working with HIV/AIDS for a long time — ever since I was in a group called Wild Orchid,” the singer said. “Not to age myself, but I’ve been involved in the cause for almost 20 years.”
Attendees were heartened by the news revealed Wednesday that a second person may have been cured of the disease.
“We believe that we will make AIDS history. We have come far, but we are still amfAR from where we need to be,” said pun-loving amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole, to a few audible groans.
The evening included a three-song set by the Scissor Sisters that had much of the black-tie dinner crowd on its feet and mouthing the refrain of closer “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin.” Those on the dance floor included New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Debbie Harry, Francisco Costa, Thom Browne, Brian Atwood, Italo Zucchelli, Cheyenne Jackson, Sean Patterson, Piaget’s Larry Boland, Lorenzo Martone and amfAR founding chairman Mathilde Krim, Ph.D.
Costa, who presented the award to Fergie, reminisced about their friendship, which has included attending the Met Ball, dancing in the rain and singing “Evita” tunes at the Standard Hotel together.
“Fergie is what inspires,” he noted of the night’s theme.
Kicking off the proceedings was an elaborate runway show down the entire length of the library that opened with the Philadelphia Eagles’ cheerleaders, a ploy that might have missed the crowd’s target demographic, but was certainly entertaining. Sponsored by Hugo Boss, the Olympics-themed show featured a parade of top male models as well as — cue applause — four-time Olympic gold medalist diver Greg Louganis. A majority of the models sported skimpy swimsuits, an amusing scene given the scholarly surroundings.
“I’m wearing a Tom Ford jockstrap,” joked Marc Jacobs-clad host Rose McGowan of the athletic theme. Jacobs served as honorary chairman of the night and was close to tears as Marc Jacobs International president Robert Duffy was also honored with a Piaget Award of Inspiration.
“In the tough business that I’m in, you never forget the people who are kind to you,” said actress Hilary Swank, while presenting the award to Duffy. Swank had ditched an edited speech on her teleprompter to read a more personal version on her smartphone.
“It was important that they were my words,” she said afterward.
Later, after Fergie captivated the crowd with her own acceptance speech, which included an impromptu snippet of “We Are the Champions,” Duffy looked at Swank and said: “My speech sucked.”
The gala raised close to $1 million, including an auction where one bidder paid $13,000 for a Kohler toilet after some convincing from Simon Doonan (onstage to assist the official auctioneer).
“It’s a couture toilet,” Doonan pointed out.