Who wasn’t at the annual Blacks’ gala? Quite a few people actually, but there were some notables:
TV judge Karen Mills-Francis, aka Judge Karen, was also there, invited by the night’s headliner, Aretha Franklin, whom Mills-Francis met earlier that day at Carpaccio in Bal Harbour. Apparently Franklin told Mills-Francis she was a big fan of her book, Stay in Your Lane: Judge Karen’s Guide to Living Your Best Life, and sent over tickets.
We spoke briefly with hip-hop artist/producer Swizz Beatz, who sat at a table with Haute Living publisher Kamal Hotchandani. Nearby was a newly single Nick Loeb, Sofia Vergara’s ex, whose facial expressions we could not catch when host Lea Black auctioned off a walk-on role on his ex’s show Modern Family (Black, by the way, referred to her former gig The Real Housewives of Miami as a “debacle”). At some point in the auction, gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, sporting a casual short-sleeved shirt, hopped on stage, as did race car driver Helio Castroneves, who, unlike Crist, was involved in one of the auction items.
The Queen of Soul was introduced by a gracious Gloria Estefan, whose husband Emilio joined the drummer for a few songs. Franklin belted out some hits including Chain of Fools, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and her rousing cover of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep before abruptly deciding to leave the stage without finishing a few bars of Respect. An awkward conclusion by TV’s Ross Matthews, who arrived at the event late, had people scratching their heads. Why the abrupt exit? “She was just done,” said an insider. And she was. One of her handlers jumped on stage and grabbed the legend’s purse, which she stowed under the piano.
During Franklin’s performance, Flo Rida was busy fielding fawning female fans. Rumor claims one of them was V. Stiviano, best known as Donald Sterling’s mistress. Backstage, Franklin was holding court at a meet and greet, where she went through the requisite photo ops before asking one of her assistants to grab her fur stole, which meant she was ready to roll. She said she liked Miami and was thinking of staying an extra day.