The stars were out in full force for the 10th annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala in New York’s Harlem community.
The event, hosted by Extra TV correspondent AJ Calloway, celebrated the theater’s legacy as a cradle and platform for Black musical talent, with a spectacular one-night-only concert, followed by a star-studded party with dinner, music, and dancing. Proceeds from the event support the Theater’s performing arts, education, and community initiatives.
NewsOne was on hand at the red carpet for the event, catching up with Calloway, singer-songwriter Luke James, disco music legend Nile Rodgers, singer Deborah Cox, and others.
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, told NewsOne’s Brandon Gillespie that the Apollo is a “global brand for Harlem, representing our legacy, our heritage, in the most remarkable and excellent way.”
Cox, who is set to star in the upcoming touring musical, The Bodyguard, based on the movie starring Whitney Houston (after wowing TV audiences with her re-recordings of Houston’s songs in a recent biopic) reflected on her first time taking the Apollo stage. She told NewsOne that before she performed her single “Sentimental” in front of the Apollo audience, which is known for its high standards, “I remember being so nervous because I wasn’t sure how the audience was going to receive me.” However, her experience on the historic stage turned out to be a “really great moment of support and love,” and in the end, she said, “I felt like I conquered the Apollo.”
When asked what the Apollo meant to her, performer Sidra Smith, who is the twin sister of actress Tasha Smith, said “The Apollo means Blackness,” adding that her favorite memory is of seeing her sister perform there in Def Comedy Jam.
Calloway said of the Spring Gala, “It’s a legendary stage on a legendary night and I’m just blessed to be able to say that I had a chance to host an event at the Apollo.”
After being hailed as a “pioneer of Disco-Funk,” by NewsOne‘s Gillespie, founding member of Chic, Nile Rogers, said he was “strangely uncomfortable” with being called that. “I never thought of myself that way. I always thought of myself as a working musician and having a great band that knew how to make R&B music that made people dance,” he said.
Rising R&B star Luke James credited the Apollo experience as one of the reasons that he “does what he does.” He added, “It was one of the first stages that I witnessed people performing and electrifying the crowd” and said the Apollo is “very important” to him as a result.
Watch portions of the 10th annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala red carpet event in the video clip above.