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Lee Daniels: ‘My Mother Knew I Had to Get Out of the Ghetto’

The 2015 TIME 100 honoree toasted his mother, Clara, at the gala in April. What follows is the text of his speech

I stand before you a very humble man — a very nervous man. I’ve been to many award shows, but this place is on another level.

I think about my kid, my son. I have twins that I didn’t want to have the life that I had. I didn’t have a great life growing up. I had my mom, who’s here tonight. But it wasn’t a great life.

And so I wanted my kids to have the life that I didn’t have, as all parents do. I wonder now… My son says I don’t have enough time for him.

My mom had five kids. And she came home after working three jobs, and I’d rub her feet. We’d all rub her feet. We were lucky to get any time with her.

My mom knew early on that I was gay, and she knew that I had to get out of the ghetto. And so she hit up my next door neighbor, who was a butler — hence The Butler. And he was the butler for Ed Snyder, who was the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles.

I drove out every day to a world of white people. And that world opened my life into a magical place that I don’t think I would’ve known.

Most of my friends are dead. I watched friends die in my arms at 5, 6, 8. When I grew up the rest of my friends died of AIDS. That I don’t have HIV is a miracle from God.

So this evening is for my mom, because she knew I was destined for something — what that something is, I don’t know. But I love her from the bottom of my heart, and I honor her tonight, because this is really for her.

Clara — Mom — stand up.

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Kanye West Warns Lee Daniels Not to Steal His Act for Empire

The hip hop superstar joked that his TIME 100 gala performance would turn up on the Fox show

During his performance at the TIME 100 gala Tuesday night, Kanye West jokingly warned fellow honoree Lee Daniels not to steal any of his act for the characters on his TV show Empire.

“Lee don’t try to take this on your next season, though man– trying to have one of the brothers pulling my sh-t man,” Kanye said in between songs, an apparent reference to the sons of Lucius Lyon on the hit Fox show. “If you see this on Empire, you just know where he got it from.”

The hit Fox show tells the story of a terminally ill hip hop magnate whose family members—and ex-wife—are fighting for control of his entertainment empire.

West performed hits like “New Slaves,” “Blood on the Leaves,” and “Gold Digger” while bathed in golden light in front of several shirtless men covered in white chalk. So keep your eyes peeled for some topless chalk-covered guys backing up Jamal or Hakeem on Empire.

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The 8 Best Things That Happened at the TIME 100 Gala

Good selfies were taken by all

What do you get when you put Kim Kardashian, Martha Stewart, David Koch and Amy Schumer in a room with a bunch of journalists and a ton of alcohol? A list of greatest hits, of course. Here’s a list of the 9 most jaw-dropping moment’s from Tuesday night’s TIME 100 Gala.

When Amy Schumer pretended to fall in front of Kim and Kanye on the red carpet

She later answered “Malala Yousafzai” when asked who she thought was the “most bangable” person on the TIME 100.

TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World - Red Carpet
Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for TIME

When Julianne Moore danced

She’s still got it.

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Clint Spaulding—Patrick McMullan/Sipa USA

When three power women hugged it out

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe said meeting U.S Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and Nigerian activist Obiageli Ezekwesili reminded her of “the power of women.” The trio discussed the best ways to beat Boko Haram and bring back the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.

Larry Busacca—Getty Images for TIME

When one Nolan interviewed another

TIME’s very own Nolan Feeney asked Christopher Nolan about how he avoids writers block (hint: he walks).

TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World - Cocktails
Jemal Countess—Getty Images for TIME

When Martha Stewart became everybody’s best friend

She got selfies with Kim Kardashian and Karlie Kloss.

Larry Busacca—Getty Images for TIME
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Andrew Hinderaker for TIME

When Kanye performed

TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World - Dinner
Kevin Mazur—Getty Images for TIME

When the Frozen songwriters tweeted that they were lonely, and John Green came to keep them company

“If you are at the TIME 100 event and don’t know anyone, come find us in the corner and we will sing showtunes,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez tweeted.

NY: 2015 Time 100 Gala - Inside
Clint Spaulding—Patrick McMullan/Sipa USA

When Laverne Cox finally got to meet Lee Daniels

Jemal Countess—Getty Images for TIME

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Watch Ballerina Misty Copeland Explain How ‘Ballet Found Me’

"I had no idea that was going to be my truth."

Ballerina Misty Copeland spoke about her humble beginnings and overcoming professional and personal challenges in a toast at the TIME 100 gala on Tuesday.

Copeland, who was the only African American ballerina at the American Ballet Theater during her first decade there, said she felt a calling to dance in unlikely circumstances. “As a 13-year-old growing up in Los Angeles, California, this very diverse place, I was living in a motel with my single parent, with my mother and five of my siblings. And that’s when ballet found me,” she said.

The author and dancer, who was named one of the world’s most influential people in the 2015 TIME 100, said that one of her major influences was Raven Wilkinson, the first African American ballerina to dance in an elite international dance company, and now her neighbor in New York City.

“She’s become an incredible role model for me, and someone who has sparked this curiosity for me to try and open up the doors for the history of African American ballerinas that I feel is just not told.”

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Watch Empire Creator Lee Daniels Give a Moving Toast to His Mom

"This evening is for my mom, because she knew that I was destined for something"

Director and producer Lee Daniels credits his success to a special woman in his life — his mom, Clara Watson, whom he toasted with a moving address at the TIME 100 gala on Tuesday.

The creator of the hit television series Empire told attendees his life as a gay African American man could have gone very differently were it not for the support of his mother. “My mom knew early on that I was gay. And she knew that I had to get out of the ghetto,” Daniels said. He acknowledged that many of his friends have died from HIV and AIDS. “That I don’t have HIV is a miracle from God.”

The 2015 TIME 100 honoree — who was feted by Oprah Winfrey on this year’s list — concluded by asking his mother to stand up to a round of applause from the audience. “This evening is for my mom, because she knew that I was destined for something,” he said. “What that something is, I don’t know. But I love her from the bottom of my heart.”

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Watch Jorge Ramos Pay Tribute to Young Immigrants

The television anchors calls them, 'my real heroes'

Fusion and Univision News anchor Jorge Ramos paid tribute to young immigrants hoping for a chance at the American dream in a moving speech at the TIME 100 Gala.

“It is very difficult to be an immigrant because you have to leave everything,” Ramos said. “You leave your home, your family, your friends, your culture, your language, sometimes your soul.”

He concluded his remarks with a toast to young people brought to the country as children who are battling to secure access to higher education. “My real heroes. The dreamers. You know, they are young, undocumented students who came to this country when they were very young…Because Congress has done absolutely nothing in the last decade on immigration, the dreamers decided to take this on themselves.”

Ramos, a TIME 100 honoree in 2015, also toasted the group of Mexican journalists who, “have denounced corruption at the highest levels of the Mexican government” and paid tribute to political prisoners in Venezuela, including the leader of the opposition in Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez.

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Watch the Bring Back Our Girls Founder’s Emotional Speech: ‘You Can’t Move On’

"Whatever we choose to do, we can accomplish. Let’s choose to bring our girls back"

“Bring Back Our Girls” co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili lamented Tuesday night that hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram last year are still missing, during an emotional speech at the TIME 100 gala.

“How can we be in a world where technology can find you in your bedroom and today we have nothing on the matter of our 219 girls?” the TIME 100 honoree said in remarks that brought some attendees to tears.

“There’s absolutely nothing that the God I believe in cannot do,” she said. “But the same God has given man and woman the power of choice. Whatever we choose to do, we can accomplish. Let’s choose to bring our girls back, please?”

Earlier in the night she called on President Obama to do more to help find the girls.

“If he could get Osama bin Laden, he could get our girls,” she told TIME.

Watch her entire TIME 100 gala speech below.

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Here’s What You’d Find if Julianna Margulies’ Email Got Hacked

TIME 100 Gala, TIME's 100 Most Influential People In The World - Lobby Arrivals
Bennett Raglin—Getty Images for TIME Julianna Margulies attends the TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City on Apr. 21, 2015.

The Good Wife actress called Ruth Bader Ginsburg her favorite TIME 100 honoree at this year's gala

This season of the CBS drama The Good Wife featured an email-hacking storyline ripped from the news, but the show’s star and TIME 100 honoree Julianna Margulies said she didn’t feel right following the Sony hack scandal.

“I chose not to read any of those emails,” Margulies said at this year’s TIME 100 Gala. “It was such an invasion of privacy and was very disturbing.”

The award-winning actress thanked her husband Keith Lieberthal, whom she called a “recovering attorney,” for encouraging her to treat her email with extreme caution. “Anything important, I call,” she said.

So what would fans find in Margulies’ email were she hacked? “Nothing! Maybe romantic emails,” she said. “People wouldn’t believe it.” Added her husband, “They might blush.”

Margulies named Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her favorite person on this year’s TIME 100 and was disappointed when she heard she couldn’t attend the gala. “I get it,” she said. “Court’s in session.” Though Ginsburg is an inspiration for Margulies personally, she said she doesn’t think Alicia, her character on the CBS show, is anything like RBG. “I don’t think Ruth would quit work for her husband,” she said.

— With reporting by Charlotte Alter

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See the Stars at the 2015 TIME 100 Gala

From Diane Von Furstenberg to Kanye West, the world's most influential people rubbed shoulders at the 2015 TIME 100 Gala in New York City on Tuesday

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Kanye West and Tim McGraw to Perform at TIME 100 Gala

Photograph by Sebastian Kim for TIME

The two made this year's list of the 100 most influential people in the world

Hip-hop titan Kanye West and country star Tim McGraw will perform at this year’s TIME 100 gala, which celebrates the magazine’s annual list of the most influential people in the world, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York Tuesday.

West, one of the the five TIME 100 cover subjects revealed last week, is an award-winning musician, producer and entrepreneur who first made the list in 2005. “Kanye West would be the first person to tell you he belongs on this list,” writes SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who will also attend the gala, in his tribute to West. “The dude doesn’t believe in false modesty, and he shouldn’t. Kanye’s belief in himself and his incredible tenacity—he performed his first single with his jaw wired shut—got him to where he is today.”

McGraw, who also made the TIME 100 list this year, begins a 36-city arena tour in June and has a role in the upcoming film Tomorrowland. “He moves between genres with the same down-to-earth grace that’s always on display at the Nashville high school football games he never misses,” writes Jon Meacham, a TIME contributing editor at large. “McGraw’s a kind of Renaissance man in a cowboy hat, and it’s clear he’s got a lot of life left to live and art still to make—good news for the rest of us.”

Other artists and entertainers attending the event include actress Julianne Moore, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, comedian Amy Schumer, director Christopher Nolan, Boyhood filmmaker Richard Linklater, Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver.

Notable guests also include West’s fellow cover subjects Misty Copeland and Jorge Ramos as well as Gabrielle Giffords, Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Lorne Michaels, The Fault in Our Stars author John Green, Serial podcast host Sarah Koenig, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and supermodels Naomi Campbell and Karlie Kloss.

Visit TIME.com for news, photos and videos from the gala, or follow along in real-time with @TIME and the hashtag #time100 on Twitter.

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