Celebrities packed the Biltmore Hotel to raise money for domestic abuse victims

LaToya Jackson and founder of Face Forward Deborah Alessi pose on the red carpet before the gala.  (Faye Sadou)
LaToya Jackson and founder/ CEO of Face Forward Deborah Alessi pose on the red carpet before the gala. (Faye Sadou)

“At first I smelled something sweet and then all of a sudden a burn sensation took over my body,” said Hanifa, a 32 year-old Ugandan domestic violence survivor and mother of two. She was describing the moment sulfuric acid was thrown on her from her abuser. “It was a slow process, but pieces of my body fell off slowly.”

Her face was deformed and melting off her nose, and parts of her right eye.

“Face Forward really has transformed my life and [is] transforming my body. They brought me out here to help me and I am so happy to have them I’m learning more about myself and seeing a new me,” she said.

Face Forward Foundation hosted their 6th annual fundraising gala at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel on Saturday, Sept. 19th to help support and raise money for victims of domestic violence.

“I am very proud that for the past seven years we have been able to do things like this for our patients,” said Deborah Alessi, founder and CEO of Face Forward Foundation.

Created by plastic surgeon Dr. David and Deborah Alessi, Face Forward is a nonprofit organization that has offered pro bono reconstructive surgeries for thousands of women and children who have experienced physical damage by domestic abuse since 2007. The foundation strives to bring help through physical and emotional guidance for victims.

“We started this program because so many women out there don’t know where to go or have the resources to get the help they need. We have do about $700,000 worth of surgeries a year to help,” said renowned plastic surgeon Dr. David Alessi.

Chaka Khan performing some of her greatest hits to rock the “Moulin Rouge” themed gala.  (Faye Sadou)
Chaka Khan performing some of her greatest hits to rock the “Moulin Rouge” themed gala. (Faye Sadou)

The high-profile gala held in downtown Los Angeles had more than 500 attendees and many of those attendees were some of Hollywood’s finest actors, musicians and philanthropists. Celebrities such as Nelly, Shauntel Jackson, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Luis Guzman, Anna Silk and many more walked the red carpet to talk about domestic violence. The gala dinner and auction was hosted by Nicole Sullivan and emceed by Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier and KTLA’s Lu Parker.

Legendary singer LaToya Jackson spoke intimately about the affects of domestic violence on women and children who are in need.

“It’s so important that people are consistently taught about what domestic violence is,” said Jackson. She took a pause in her speech while holding back tears. “Abuse doesn’t differentiate. It doesn’t happen to just one class of people it happens to everyone. People have to pay attention to the early signs and find a way to get out.”

The gala also touched on how domestic violence is correlated with sex trafficking. Sex trafficking has become the world’s third largest crime industry and California harbors 3 of the FBI’s top child sex trafficking areas in the U.S.

The in the light of recent media coverage of pro-athletes and celebrities involved in domestic abuse in the past year has kept society socially aware about the issue.

Retired boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley believes that men should definitely check their emotions before reacting.

“Sugar” Shane Mosley and guest at Face Forward gala.  (Faye Sadou)
“Sugar” Shane Mosley and guest at Face Forward gala. (Faye Sadou)

“I come from an aggressive sport and I know how to channel my emotions in a boxing ring. Men have to do the same, no matter the situation, we have to know that hitting a woman is not acceptable,” Mosley said.

The gala closed out with a night of musical performances from Chaka Khan, Macy Gray and USC’s SoCal Vocals.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The line and operators are standing by 24/7.