The stars came out at Cielo Latino last night. Luminaries of the Latin-American community gathered at the stunning Cipriani Wall Street ballroom to support the Latino Commission’s ongoing efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Stars and supporters were welcomed by gracious hosts, including Latino Commmission President Guillermo Chacon, and co-chairs Ruben Gutierrez and Lark-Marie Anton-Menchini. The theme of the evening was “Unmask AIDS,” inspired by the tradition and spirit of Carnival in the Latino Culture, and the ballroom was festooned with feathered masks and beads. The message was clear, both in the many touching speeches and in the welcoming statement from the benefit committee co-chairs in the evening’s program:
“We believe that the best way to eliminate stigma is to be open and honest with family and friends about preventing HIV/AIDS… Carnival is celebrated throughout the world and is especially popular in the Caribbean and South America among diverse Latino and African cultures… It is this diversity of people and health issues that we want you to think about as we celebrate the personal achievements and contributions of the people and companies we honor tonight.”
Familiar faces at the party included Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza and Wilson Cruz, who had a great time raffling off two plane tickets We also ran into actorSteve Guttenberg, who dropped by to support the cause and pose for snapshots with fans. Actors Wilmer Valderrama, Roselyn Sanchez, and Rosie Perez were also there.
The evening began with cocktails and a silent auction, to the soundtrack provided byDJ Henry Knowles. After walking the red carpet, guests checked out the fabulous prizes on display, donated by event sponsors and supporters, including MTV, Goya, Macy’s, The New York Knicks, the Giants football team, NBC Telemundo, Latino Commission advertising partner and agency Sudler & Hennessey, the Yankees, the Rangers, Disney World, and Rums of Puerto Rico.
Lots ranged from decadent gift baskets of beauty products and spirits, dinners at Cipriani’s and Palo Santo, fine jewelry, spa packages and even priceless memorabilia and experiences.
MTV Tr3s donated a signed photo by Paulina Rubio, Dave Navarro, 50 Cent, Tommy Lee and REIK, while one lucky winner picked up a dinner with Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza. Bellini cocktails flowed and the crowd, including many celebrity presenters, placed written bids on auction items.
The role of Master of Ceremonies was filled by Tom Llamas, Emmy Award-winning reporter, and host of WNBC’s News 4 New York. In one of the most touching moments of the evening, Ruben Medina, chair of the board of the Latino Commission on AIDS, presented a posthumous Pioneer Award honor to the widow and daughter ofJose Morales, the dedicated community organizer and health administrator who dedicated his life to social justice and public health.
Lupe Ontiveros and Yancey Arias presented the Companero Award to CNN anchor,Anderson Cooper for his hour-long special “Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS.” Although the journalist could not attend, he did send an emotional video thank you to the Commission and sponsors.
Finally TV star and Ugly Betty’s dad, Tony Plana, presented the Business Leadership Award to Gilead Sciences, the pioneering biopharmaceuticals firm whose products aim to increase the quality of life of patients with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.
If you’d like to donate or participate, please visit LatinoAIDS.org to find out how you can take part in the fight against HIV/AIDS in our community!
By: Vanessa Beatriz Soto