"Welcome everybody to the second annual Diamond Ball," Rihanna smiled from the stage at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar on Thursday night. The Grammy-winning singer's charity ball kicked off with a heartwarming speech, as she quickly dispelled any potential surprise album drops by announcing, "This evening is not about me. Tonight is about extending a helping hand to others when they need it most."
More specifically, helping people through the Clara Lionel Foundation, which was founded by Rihanna herself in 2012. The foundation was named for her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite, and aims to help those in need through health, education, arts and culture. Last year's Diamond Ball raised more than $2 million for the Clara Braithwaite Center of Oncology in Barbados, and as soon as he took the stage, host Kevin Hart made it clear he wanted to beat last year's amount -- and during the night, he proudly announced they had done just that, with more than $3 million raised this year.
As he spoke to the audience, Hart singled out the night's queen to say: "Your heart is a heart of gold. And tonight, everybody's heart in here will become a heart of gold, because we are going to follow in Rihanna's lead," before launching back into the comedy. "We'll let you eat before we really get into it."
In between the baby greens salad to start and brown sugar ginger cake for dessert, a live auction took place. There were six lots, including "King, 2011," an original oil on canvas by Roy Nachum, the artist behind the upcoming Anti cover art; the piece sold for $47,000. Another lot was Bono's autographed (RED) Gretsch Guitar featuring lyrics from the song "Invisible." As a sales tactic, the auctioneer invited Hart back onstage to play a few poorly mic'd chords -- which seemed to work, as it sold for $75,000.
After the auction, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino was the inaugural recipient of the Diamond Honors award. As the back end of the hall filed out, Rihanna introduced the night's performer: "So to be honest, it's really hard to introduce someone whose music speaks for itself. I'm gonna give it a try." Those who stayed swarmed the front to watch Lionel Richie perform. "I'm sure everyone in here has a favorite Lionel Richie song, right? There's 'All Night Long,' 'Stuck On You,' 'Say You, Say Me,' which is my favorite, and 'Dancing on the Ceiling.' He also wrote this song called 'Hello' way before Adele was even born."
Richie then took to the stage to perform his and the Commodores' hits.The black-tie crowd slipped off their heels and jackets to let loose as he performed "Running Through the Night," "Easy like Sunday Morning" and "Brick House." Transitioning to the piano, Richie said, "There is a song I need to reclaim..." before playing the classic -- and, as of late, heavily mentioned -- "Hello" before rounding out the night with "All Night Long."
The audience headed for the doors, stopping to pick up their goodie bags featuring a three-month Tidal subscription and Rihanna's perfume.
As Richie himself said, "Rih, I wouldn't have missed this for the world," and after the delicious food, sincere stories, laugh-out-loud moments and the lively musical performance, the audience -- which included Tyga and Zendaya -- couldn't have agreed more.