Sir Richard Branson Says “Don’t Build Walls” at Power Up Gala

At AltaMed’s Power Up, We Are The Future gala, the Virgin Group founder helped honor his mom, and spoke out on diversity.


“Obviously, I’m biased, because she’s the most wonderful mother I’ve ever had,” joked Sir Richard Branson, sitting with his mother Eve Branson.

“I’m glad he doesn’t have another one, as one is enough,” she responded in laughter.

Eve Branson was being honored for her philanthropy, alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and Janelle Monáe, at AltaMed’s Power Up, We Are The Future gala inside the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills Thursday night.

“She’s a wonderful grandmother, wonderful great-grandmother,” continued Branson. “She’s done some extraordinary things in her lifetime, and she deserves every bit of recognition for all her accomplishments. It’s a great honor to be here tonight.”

AltaMed’s mission is to close the gaps in health care disparities for minorities, and part of the proceeds from the night – which included a silent and live auction – are to support Empowerment Programs for Girls and Youth. The event also honored college-bound young women of color, who have fought to overcome adversity.

“Our goal is to reach one million [dollars] tonight,” said AltaMed’s Assistant Vice President Michelle Burton. “It’s a female driven curriculum to help girls with leadership skills, keep them in school, get into college, and then job training and job placement. And there’s a strong alumni program, so once they graduate college, they come back and work with us to continue mentoring other youth – we’re here to honor inspirational girls and women.”

Honoree Monáe said she was simply thankful for the recognition. “I just want to give all the love to young women, especially young girls that may not have purpose or direction, to encourage them to embrace the things that make them unique even if it makes others uncomfortable,” she said.

Monáe wore many hats throughout the night, giving a high-energy, black and white themed performance (she sang Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” followed by her own song, “Tightrope”), accepting her award and later presenting one to First Lady Michelle Obama, who wasn’t present but sent along a video message discussing the White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative.

“The future looks like Amandla [Stenberg],” Monáe later said, when she accepted her award from the young actress. “I dedicate this to my mother who sacrificed her senior year of high school to give birth to me. If you didn’t know, I wear black and white to pay homage to my working class. I also dedicate this to my musical hero, who was a feminist in his own right, Prince.””

Attendees included Empire’s Grace Gealey, Devious Maids’ Dania Ramirez and Edy Ganem, Jermaine Jackson, as well as Paris Hilton, who arrived halfway through dinner.

“I am all about women’s empowerment and supporting causes like this,” said Hilton in her familiar put-on voice. “I think it’s amazing, and I love the Branson family.”

“You’re a brave crowd, you’re still here,” said Sir Richard Branson, when he took the stage. It was 10:20 p.m. and some of the guests had prematurely made their way out of the event, which had started at 7 p.m. “Celebrate the diversity of America,” he said, before introducing his mother. “Don’t build walls.”

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Photos: Sir Richard Branson Says “Don’t Build Walls” at Power Up Gala

Richard Branson, Paris Hilton, and Eve Branson. Photo by Getty Images.

Janelle Monáe. Photo by Getty Images.

Dania Ramirez and Edy Ganem. Photo by Getty Images.

Amandla Stenberg. Photo by Getty Images.

Eve Branson and Grace Gealey. Photo by Getty Images.

Amandla Stenberg and Janelle Monáe. Photo by Getty Images.

Paris Hilton and Kyle Richards. Photo by Getty Images.

Janelle Monáe. Photo by Getty Images.

Paris Hilton. Photo by Getty Images.

Dania Ramirez and Richard Branson. Photo by Getty Images.

Christina Milian, Dania Ramirez, Richard Branson, and Edy Ganem. Photo by Getty Images.