October 4, 2022
Christina Aguilera and Ricky Matin Perform at amfAR Cannes

It was after 1 a.m. in Antibes when Christina Aguilera performed at the 28th annual amfAR gala at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday morning. Inside a tent at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Rock, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, a lux crowd of European highrollers crowded the stage as Michelle Rodriguez took the mic to introduce the night’s headliner.

“Five-time Grammy Award winning … is going to bless you with her voice …”

“Six! Six!” the crowd of fans shouted back, correcting the “Fast & Furious” star on the number of Grammys Aguilera has actually won.

Yes, it was very late, but that didn’t stop Aguilera from putting on a powerhouse performance. Decked out in a fur jacket, despite the boiling temperature inside the tent, and surrounded by a flock of backup dancers, Aguilera rocked out like she was doing a stadium tour. The pop star’s five-song set opened with the 2002 dance anthem “Dirrty,” before she brought the house down the “Moulin Rouge!” anthem “Lady M” and then slowed things down with her signature ballad “Beautiful.” By the time she closed the night with her feminist rock song “Fighter,” the crowd at amfAR was rocking like they’d seen a Palm d’Or winner. To witness Aguilera so close — hitting high notes flawlessly — was almost a religious experience.

After COVID-19 delays and its own share of in-house scandals, the amfAR Cannes gala — decided to raising funds to end HIV and AIDs — was back in top form. The night didn’t feature a host, as last year’s Sharon Stone couldn’t wrangle top bids from Russian oligarchs at a pared down dinner due to the pandemic. But there was big spending at Cannes 2022 in a night that paid homage to the 90s, with an opening musical performance by Ricky Martin — who sweated through (blame the summer French heat) a rendition of his bangers “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “La Copa de la Vida,” as he flexed his sleeveless tattooed arms onstage.

To keep things more with the times, Charli XCX also sang — or seemed to be lip syncing — three songs, among them the dance hit “Boys.”

The list of A-list attendees who wined through the four-hour dinner included Robert DeNiro (one bidder splurged $540,000 for a package that included lunch with the Oscar-winning actor and an original painting by his father Robert De Niro Sr), who sat with Edgar Ramirez and Casey Affleck. Naomi Campbell took selfies with fans and chatted with “Pose” actor Indya Moore. Lakeith Stanfield wore a Dior baseball cap with his tux, as he smoked a cigarette at his table. Eva Longoria caught up with Martin, laughing at one his jokes between bids.

Both the champagne and the money flowed freely at amfAR, one of the final big events at the Cannes Film Festival. Being Cannes, the gala attracts an assortment of wealthy Europeans, not all of whom have direct ties to the film industry. Auctioneer Simon de Pury was able to wrangle $2.6 from two bidders who each will receive dinner and a private performance at one of Andrea Bocelli’s mansions. A Jeff Koons sculpture, which will be taken to the moon (with the winner receiving a replica and two NFTs of the work), brought in a whopping $2.3 million. A guitar signed by Baz Luhrmann and the cast of “Elvis” fetched almost $190,000. And 40 couture gowns — from designers such as Balenciaga, Givenchy, Gucci and Armani, curated by French editor Carine Roitfeld to the theme of “Let’s Get Married!” — sold for $860,000.

Throughout the years, amfAR Cannes has brought to the market some unexpected pieces of art. This year, the charity sold a stainless steel statue by Swiss artist Yves Scherer with Emma Watson’s head on a mermaid’s body. From press materials about the work, it doesn’t sound like the “Harry Potter” star sat for the piece. (Watson played Belle, not Ariel, in a live-action Disney movie). But nevertheless, the statue swam away for a bargain $215,000.

Ramin Setoodeh

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