Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves; MARIA BELLO chose her back. The 39-year-old actress hit the Critics’ Choice Awards in Santa Monica Jan 12 in a vintage Galanos dress embroidered with the words “Peace in Darfur.” Bello, who has been active with Save the Children for the past 10 years, joins fellow celebs GEORGE CLOONEY and DON CHEADLE in support of the war-ravaged African region. “Every voice counts, and I’m using [mine] to state my beliefs,” says the Flicka star. “I stand against genocide.”
BLIGE’S BIRTHDAY SURPRISE
A month after pulling down eight Grammy nods, MARY J. BLIGE had another reason to celebrate. On Jan. 11 the R&B star (escorted by husband KENDU ISAACS) walked into her surprise 36th-birthday party at Mr. Chow Beverly Hills, where CHRIS TUCKER led a group serenade with an off-key “Happy Birthday.” More than 100 well-wishers accompanied the comedian, including CHRIS ROCK and HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE (QUEEN LATIFAH stopped in later). While guests enjoyed Mary-tinis, Blige just reveled in it all: “I’ve gotten everything I’ve ever wanted,” she told PEOPLE, “which is real love.”
HILARY SWANK will serve as honorary chairman at 20th Century Fox Studios’ Jan. 25 auction of more than 200 items of Hollywood memorabilia, including a memo dictating MARILYN MONROE’s name change from Norma Jean Dougherty. Proceeds benefit the MPTF health insurance fund for actors.
For more on the organizations Bello works with, visit savedarfur.org and crisisgroup.org