TIME100 Gala 2022: The Best Moments

Is Bill Gates a fan of boba?

That was the question posed to the billionaire tech mogul and philanthropist on Tuesday night at New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center by actor Simu Liu. Liu, the host of the 2022 TIME100 Gala, and an honoree on the TIME100 list himself, Liu approached Gates in front of 200-plus guests to gauge his interest in the specialty beverage after he’d finished dinner. “This is the best boba we could find in a three-block radius,” he joked, before offering him a drink. “Don’t forget to chew!”

It was one of the evening’s lighter moments. Returning after two years on pause, the TIME100 Gala is TIME’s annual celebration of the TIME100 list of the world’s most influential people, released this year on May 23. The Gala brought together many of the notable names on the list, from actors Zendaya, Andrew Garfield, and Amanda Seyfried to directors Taika Waititi and Quinta Brunson, activists including Brazil’s Sonia Guajajara and India’s Karuna Nundy, and scientists like the sequencers on the Human Genome Project and the brain behind the James Webb Space Telescope, Gregory Robinson. Perhaps the most notable moment: a ten-minute recorded video address from President Volodymyr Zelensky, who shared his thoughts on everything from the duties of fellow influential people to the duress of his country, comparing the current war to COVID-19 and calling it “COVID-22.”

TIME CEO and editor in chief Edward Felsenthal had set the tone earlier in the night, reminding the audience that the Gala wasn’t just a party, but also an opportunity. “Tonight is about honoring superheroes: superheroes across every field. Athletes, athletes, innovators, icons, leaders, of nations, companies and movements. People who are blasting through closed doors and holding them open for others,” he said. “The TIME100 is a list of individuals, but true influence comes from how we as individuals stir our fellow humans to action.”

With a 2-song set, Miranda Lambert (country star) kicked off this event. Leaders from all industries had the unique opportunity to get together and share their experiences at the nigh. Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO and co-owner of TIME, honored Gabby Giffords (ex-Congresswoman), who is the subject of TIME Studios’ new documentary. It examines the impact of gun violence and how advocacy can help. He noted she was also celebrating her birthday, and led the room in singing a heartfelt “Happy Birthday” to a smiling Giffords, who seemed genuinely touched.

Ariana DeBose (the triple threat Oscar winner) gave an inspiring toast to the LGBTQIA+ community, and future generations. Quinta Brunson enlisted the support of her teachers and praised them all. Questlove—introduced by his friend Dwyane Wade—elicited titters with his gesture to Josh Wardle, a fellow TIME100 list member, who created the game Wordle and helped bring him some levity in a dark time. Sevgil Mosaieva (editor of Ukrainskya Pravda) spoke out about the importance words like simple text messages that we get to verify all is well in an emotional speech to honor the experiences of fellow Ukrainians. Meanwhile, Indian women’s rights lawyer Karuna Nundy emphasized how patriarchal courts have enabled violence against women to continue unchecked.

Mary J. Blige closed the show with an energetic set of songs, which brought everyone to their feet. “Let’s have a little party here,” she said. Guests like Taika Waititi, Andrew Garfield, and Tarana Burke were spotted happily dancing to “Family Affair” as an amiable, energetic Blige joked about her allergies and asked her musicians to do exactly as she said.

Afterward, guests mingled in a foyer sipping champagne: there was Wade chatting with Brunson and Liu; maybe they were discussing Liu’s earlier joke that he and Wade could co-star in a buddy comedy. Colson whitehead and Cathy Park Hong were seen mingling with Waititi and Maya Lin in another corner. Amazon labor organizers Chris Smalls, and Derrick Palmer took a picture with activist Ijeoma Oluo. Succession‘s Jeremy Strong meandered through the crowd, stopping to reflect on the Ukrainian president’s address to the group. “I don’t know if I feel quite worthy of weighing in on that,” he said. “I’ll just say that it was incredible to be in this room, and I feel really humbled to be in this room with all these extraordinary people, him being one of them. I loved hearing what he had to say.”

Each year, TIME100 Gala gathers icons, change-makers and leaders from across all sectors and countries for a lively evening of celebration and dialogue. This year’s Gala featured live performances from Miranda Lambert and Mary J. Blige, two honorees on the 2022 TIME100 list. Further attendees from this year’s list included musicians Jazmine Sullivan and Jon Batiste, athlete Eileen Gu, and activist Nadine Smith, along with honorees from years past like J Balvin who were not able to attend a Gala during COVID-19.

TIME has teamed up with ABC on June 12 to allow viewers into the TIME100 Gala, a first-ever television special. “TIME100: The World’s Most Influential People” airs Sunday, June 12 at 8:00 p.m. EDT on ABC, featuring host Simu Liu, director Quinta Brunson, Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musaieva, and more.

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