July 16, 2004 06:00 AM

It’s not just her beyond-her-years voice and soulful style that set 17-year-old Joss Stone apart from other young pop stars: She also refuses to diss anyone (no matter how hard we tried to get her to). When we asked who she has met among the Britney-Christina-Lindsay Lohan-Avril Lavigne set, she demurred. “I usually meet people that are older and more into the soul thing,” she told us at the recent Music Visionary of the Year Awards Luncheon in New York, where she performed a brief set. “But I have met some people who are younger, I guess.” And does she, you know, like them? “Everyone’s got different styles, you know? Everyone’s on the same level. I respect everybody the same no matter what it is.” Hmm. Don’t look for her to try acting any time soon either: “Maybe in, like, 50 years, when I’m bored of singing. But I love singing so I’m not thinking about it.” Also onstage at the event, which raised more than $700,000 for the Music for Youth Foundation, was Anita Baker, who is releasing her first album in 10 years in September.

Cause Celeb
Ever since she played Audrey Hepburn in a 2000 ABC biopic, Jennifer Love Hewitt has held a place in her heart for the screen legend – so it’s no wonder she turned up recently at a gala for the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, a charity founded by the late actress’s son to continue his mother’s work on behalf of youngsters. “Going and visiting teenage girls who have been physically and mentally abused, I can talk to them in a different way because I’m closer to their age,” Hewitt told us at the event, held in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Hewitt has been globetrotting for work lately, having recently filmed a musical version of A Christmas Carol (with Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge) in Budapest and an upcoming indie romantic comedy, The Truth About Love, with Dougray Scott in England. “It’s kind of like Four Weddings and a Funeral meets Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Hewitt says. “It was fun for me to play an English girl. I play two people in this film, my husband’s wife and his mistress. You’ll see.”

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
Elton John showed some extra love to uber-fan Judith Whitaker after his benefit gala for the Julliard School in New York this week. When Whitaker, 49 – who is wheelchair-bound due to a long battle with multiple sclerosis – approached the singer, his handlers tried to rush him out. He exclaimed, “No, I will take this picture,” and posed with Whitaker, hugging and kissing her. “I’ve seen you in concert over 200 times and I’ve got MS and I’m sick and I just have to tell you it’s the music that gets me through,” she told him. Elton, holding her hand, thanked her and said that he loved her before he walked away. Whitaker proclaimed it “the best night of my life.”

Caught in the Act
Spotted Recently:
Sean Penn, actor-director Vincent Gallo, Chloe Sevigny and her DJ brother Paul, Natalie Portman, supermodels Carmen Kass, Karolina Kurkova and Maggie Rizer, Ashanti, Gina Gershon, Rebecca De Mornay, MTV Rich Girl Jaime Gleicher, Farnsworth Bentley and Sean Lennon, at the two-year anniversary celebration for Manhattan hotspot Butter.

• By MARK DAGOSTINO, PAUL GREENBERG and DOUG BRUNSWICK

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