The 2018 City Gala, held at Universal Studios Hollywood™, celebrated the 90th annual Academy Awards with an elegance, glamour, and heart.
An impressive 90 ft. red carpet welcomed guests – where one couldn’t help but notice elaborate gowns, shining crowns, and television and film stars galore. Walking along this prestigious entryway, I spotted shining pageant queens and artists with intricate headdresses interspersed among Hollywood elite, like Skye P. Marshall (Shameless), Angelique Bates (All That), Diandra Lyle (NCIS), Lindsay McCormick(sportscaster), Victoria Konefal (Days of Our Lives), Carrie Bernans (Black Panther), London Brown (Ballers), Adam Mendoza (SWAT), Joe Jackson (Father of the late Michael Jackson), Tom Choi (Teen Wolf), Sheldon Bailey and Bubba Ganter (GameShakers) and Shaka Smith (fitness model). I also caught a quick glimpse of the gorgeous Shannon Elizabeth, who was one of the key players in the celebrity poker tournament being hosted. Everyone was happy to be supporting an amazing cause on this special night.
But it wasn’t until I entered the Globe Theater, where the main festivities were taking place, that I, too became a little star struck! Baltimore Ravens NFL linebacker Ray Lewis was in the house, dapper as ever. And the main event featured a truly moving speech by the man of the evening, Matthew McConaughey.
As the recipient of the City Gala Inspiration Award, McConaughey spoke about his educational foundation, just keep livin. It was amazing to hear how passionate the esteemed actor is about giving back to students in need. The just keep livin Foundation is dedicated to empowering high school students by equipping them with tools to lead active, healthy lives. They currently aid over 2,500 students in 32 schools across California, Washington D.C., Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Ohio. McConaughey was eloquent and of course – dashing! And his wife, Camila Alves, looked radiant in her white gown by Vivienne Westwood.
I was also moved by the panel discussion that preceded Matthew’s heartfelt award acceptance speech, featuring representatives from the philanthropic beneficiaries of the evening – Already Always Amazing, Bright Futures Foundation, Feed A Billion, Fulfilled Families, Firelife Foundation, Project NOW, Conscious Capitalism, Child Liberation Foundation, and My Life My Power.
The event also premiered the trailer for the feature film “Wishman,” based on the life of Make-a-Wish Foundation Co-Founder Frank Shankwitz. With a vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a critical illness, Shankwitz developed this growing foundation that now grants a wish every 34 minutes – an astounding and meaningful feat.
Finally, the City Gala Achievement Award was presented to Dr. James Dentley. As the Co-Founder of NBC University, Dentley spoke about his mentorship program that has empowered thousands of aspiring professionals achieve career success through seminars, talks, and interactive workshops.
Overall, the event was a true success for City Gala Founder, Ryan Long. As an entrepreneur himself, Long established City Gala in 2014 to aid non-profit start-ups in obtaining seed funding to launch and develop into full-fledged businesses. He creatively conceived the idea to match influencers with these charitable organizations in order to attract media attention and large-scale sponsorships for the causes. He personally works year-round with the Gala beneficiaries to bring awareness to their causes, and this night was the culmination of a tremendous year.
The catered dinner was delicious, the entertainment enjoyable, and the celebrity poker game fun to watch. But most of all, it felt good to be celebrating Hollywood’s biggest night in a meaningful and important way.