The ‘Elizabeth Taylor Ball To End AIDS’ First In-Person Event Returns September 17th With Billy Porter To Be Honored
*Just announced* Activist and fashion icon Billy Porter is set to be honored with the Elizabeth Taylor Commitment to End AIDS Award — and in addition to the line up, singer-songwriter Jake Wesley Rogers will also perform.
We recently caught up with Tim Mendelson, Officer of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and Trustee of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust — to talk about the upcoming (in-person) ball since the pandemic, taking place September 17th:
Hi Tim, it is such a pleasure meeting you. It’s definitely been a tough year and a half and a lot has obviously taken place, since the last event. However, it’s really great news that The Elizabeth Taylor Ball to End AIDS is making an “in person” comeback this year, on September 17th. Was there a lot to plan around with the pandemic? Or did it all fall into place quite easily?
The inaugural gala, The Elizabeth Taylor Ball to End AIDS, was originally planned for April of 2020 on the backlot of Fox Studios, home to the storied Elizabeth Taylor film “Cleopatra.” Postponed due to the COVID pandemic, the event went forward as a virtual gala on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2020.
The event on September 17, 2021 will be the first in-person gala for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF).
Tickets went on sale last Friday, which is amazing! This year it will take place at West Hollywood Park. Was this location always on the agenda to hold the event?
The original plan was to hold the event on the Fox Studio backlot, but due to their continued pandemic requirements, the gala will now take place in a tented structure in West Hollywood Park, Los Angeles. Along with recognizing the 30th Anniversary of ETAF, the event will have a “Cleopatra” theme and will feature movie memorabilia, including the iconic gown of gold worn by Ms. Taylor in the film as her character Cleopatra enters Rome.
Other than The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation being such an incredible organization that has raised so much money over the years to help those suffering — as well as important and life saving research — what do you always make sure to continue doing, to honor Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy?
The main thing we do to honor Elizabeth’s legacy is to stay true to her vision and mission. Throughout her life, Elizabeth prioritized the most marginalized members of society and in the case of HIV/AIDS, her heart stayed focused on direct care. She did everything she could to make sure that sick and dying people were as comfortable as possible. Elizabeth had the idea of creating vans that would bring the care directly into places where people needed it most.
Her first action was during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and from there she went to Malawi, where the vans continue to this day and have been extremely successful. Working with GAIA, an on-the-ground organization, we’ve been able to achieve some incredible successes. Elizabeth was looking for a place with the highest HIV incidences, the least resources and the furthest distances for care. Creating these kinds of vans were a big part of Elizabeth’s vision and we are committed to continuing them where needed most.
Elizabeth made all the final funding decisions for ETAF. In Elizabeth’s absence, we brought in an advisory board of experienced experts, currently working in the field, to help decide our program initiatives and agenda.
Elizabeth had an enormous platform as one of, if not the most, famous woman in the world. She used her loud voice to force people to pay attention to the AIDS crisis and over time she became a respected expert in the field. In 1985, most people were terrified of the topic and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. They were content to relegate AIDS to “those people” at a time when gay men and intravenous drug users were invisible to mainstream society. Elizabeth basically went from being known primarily as an actress to becoming a powerful advocate. Although, ETAF’s work itself was not focused on advocacy, we felt it was important to fold it into the work of ETAF since Elizabeth was no longer here to speak about the inequities in all that she did.
We use Elizabeth’s words, images and history to demonstrate how little has changed regarding attitudes towards people affected by HIV/AIDS and to act as inspiration for a kinder, more gentle world. Luckily for us, Elizabeth’s voice was so far ahead of its time, that it remains relevant and completely contemporary today. Besides Elizabeth’s fame, Oscars, jewels and marriages, Elizabeth was a kind, caring, compassionate and generous human being who recognized human suffering and its indignities and all its forms. She was willing to risk everything to point out the wrongs in society and say exactly what she thought…and the world listened. Her voice will remain the guiding force for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, always.
This year’s ball will honor Dr. Anthony Fauci, amfAR, and Sandra Thurman with The Elizabeth Taylor Commitment to End AIDS Award. Tell us about that:
As this year marks the 30th anniversary of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, the decision was made to honor those who have made a significant contribution to an AIDS-free world. Dr. Anthony Fauci has been working in the AIDS crisis since the earliest reports of the disease. He developed programs that focused on the discovery of drug treatment of the disease, loosened HIV-drug clinical trial requirements, expanded research in underrepresented populations, and gave AIDS activists and people living with HIV a voice in the planning of clinical trials. Dr. Fauci continues his work to end the AIDS crisis in his role as Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Sandra Thurman has held important leadership positions on HIV and AIDS policy, including Office of National AIDS Policy under President Bill Clinton; Presidential Envoy on HIV/AIDS; Senior Advisor for Strategy and Development at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as Director of both the Interfaith Health Program and the Joseph W. Blount Center for Health and Human Rights at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
Elizabeth Taylor was the co-founder of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, in 1985. amfAR is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy.
All three will receive The Elizabeth Taylor Commitment to End AIDS Award that exists to honor profound leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS. It is given in the memory of Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy of compassion and courage while at the forefront of the movement to help people affected by HIV. Last year, ETAF presented the first of these awards to Mr. Daniel O’Day, CEO for our corporate partner, Gilead Sciences. Gilead’s extraordinary work in research and medicine development for people living with or at risk for HIV has profoundly impacted the epidemic.
Thanks to Caroline Stegner and the team at Rogers & Cowan for their continued support raising awareness for worthy causes, through events.
For more information about The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and where to buy tickets go to: