How, you might ask, can you get Justin Timberlake, John Mayer and Jessica Alba to show up at one of your events? Have Alicia Keys work the phones.
The singer and actress, who co-stars in The Secret Life of Bees, hosted her fifth annual Black Ball Thursday, which benefits the AIDS organization Keep a Child Alive. And, as it turns out, she can be quite persuasive.
“I bat my eyes and I wink,” she said. “And we have great conversation, and they show up. It’s a very important event.”
Keys said she was optimistic about the country’s direction. “It’s a difficult time for all of us, but due to our recent election, it’s a hopeful time.”
Keys also sent her best wishes to singer Jennifer Hudson, who had been scheduled to perform at the event. Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew were killed last month.
“I have reached out to her,” Keys said. “We’re gathering around her and sending her love.” <!–more–>
Queen Latifah, Keys’ Bees co-star, was honored for her humanitarian work, as was Simon Fuller, the brains behind the Idol Gives Back juggernaut. Iman co-hosted the cocktail party, followed by a live auction, dinner and musical performances at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
Mayer, who wasn’t performing but was “hanging out,” raved about host Keys.
“She’s a rare human being. I’m proud to consider her a friend. I’m kind of a creep,” he joked. “It’s about supporting a friend, and it’s about myself feeling strong enough about it to help.”
A Gucci-clad Alba agreed. “What she’s done with this organization, the money and awareness she’s raised, is incredible. Becoming a mom makes everything more relevant. You feel the impact of every decision that’s made.”
Tyra Banks, in Michael Kors, was personally invited by Keys: She “called and asked me if I’d come and sit at her table. And I’m there.”
Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi (in Naeem Khan), who has helped Keys raise money for Keep a Child Alive, said it can be tough asking for charity dollars. “It really is. I’m sending e-mails and calling. You felt almost bad because it was when the world was crumbling.”