A who's who of Hollywood (Tom! Katie! J.Lo!) raise more than $3.7M for Malawi & UNICEF

By Jeffrey Slonim and Kate Stroup
February 07, 2008 08:30 AM
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The carpet was black – not red – on the North lawn of the United Nations, but the parade of stars into Madonna‘s big-ticket benefit Wednesday night nearly put the Oscars to shame.

The singer (who brought along 11-year-old daughter, Lourdes) spearheaded the event to help bring in cash for UNICEF and her own non-profit organization, Raising Malawi. Even before the event’s auction took place, ticket sales had already raised $3.7 million for children made vulnerable by AIDS in Africa.

“Gucci is important to me,” Madonna – who has been passionate about Malawi since 2006, when she began adopting a child from the impoverished African nation – told PEOPLE. “Because they stepped up to the plate to support me. And that means a lot.”

Also showing support? A gaggle of her A-list friends, including Gwen Stefani, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Salma Hayek (whose fiancé – and father of her child – Francois-Henri Pinault, oversees Gucci).

A very pregnant Jennifer Lopez – whose father recently confirmed she is expecting twins – stole the scene in a flowing brown Gucci gown with a snakeskin belt. (Even at nine months along, the singer is still rocking high heels. She lifted up her skirt to flash a pair of platforms.)

Her ex, Sean “Diddy” Combs, also hit the event, which coincided with NYC’s fashion week. When asked if he had any tips for Lopez, the mogul (who welcomed twins of his own in 2006) replied, “She doesn’t need any advice. She’s a loving person. She’ll make a great mother.”

Katie Holmes looked stunning (as usual) in a red, knee-length dress. Carrying a black clutch, she kept her other hand firmly on the back of husband Tom Cruise.

Drew Barrymore and boyfriend Justin Long – both wearing Gucci, of course – jetted in just for the event. “[AIDS awareness] is what we should be talking about in the world,” she said. “The is a lot of fluff, a lot of gossip on people’s minds. I’d much rather that these subjects be encompassing their brain and hearts.”

Madonna also lined up entertainment for the evening, including Rihanna (who admitted she was “definitely nervous”) and Timbaland, who spent two months in London working on the singer’s new album. “I’m part of the family,” he told PEOPLE. “She’s such a perfectionist … She’s a gangsta.”