“Is this what happens at the UN every Friday night?” asked Anderson Cooper as he took the stage inside the United Nations General Assembly. For the first time ever, the space usually filled with international diplomats was turned into something not that: a music video set — for Beyoncé‘s “I Was Here” clip to serve as the UN’s anthem for World Humanitarian Day.
Established in 2008, World Humanitarian Day aims to put the spotlight on humanitarian efforts worldwide and acknowledge those who risk their lives for the betterment of others. Held annually on August 19, the day marks the anniversary of the 2003 bombing at the UN HQ in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed 22. This August 19, the UN and global humanitarian orgs are hoping to activate one billion people worldwide — with the help of Queen Bey.
We were at the United Nations headquarters in New York City to watch the Queen B film the video, set to hit MTV.com and air on MTV on August 19. From more of Anderson’s silly antics to what the video set looked like to what happened backstage before doors even opened, here’s what went down behind-the-scenes:
+ Beyoncé surprises the Do Something Award finalists before the event.
When Queen B heard about all the great things the 2012 Do Something Award finalists were up to, she thought the WHD festivities would be the perfect place to celebrate them. All five nominees got invites to the event, and during a tour of UN HQ, they were shocked to find Beyoncé in the last room they were visiting (it was planned, much to their surprise)!
Pictured above is 22-year-old Seth Maxwell, CEO and Founder of The Thirst Project. Since it’s launch 4 years ago, he has already provided clean water to over 100,000 people in 11 countries! (Even the cast of “Teen Wolf” has pitched in and funded a water well through Seth’s initative.)
+ Theophilus London, Julia Stiles and The-Dream among stars in attendance.
Before the event, MTV Act and MTV Voices got the chance to chat with friends of the UN (but mostly friends of Beyoncé) in attendance. A few other outlets joined in but were like, “Dream…who?” And we were like, “….Oh. Just Grammy Award-winning producer and ‘Single Ladies‘ songwriter THE Dream. No big deal.” *flips hair* Anyway. Photos below!
+ Before the big performance: Anderson Cooper makes us giggle, while a former child soldier and “One Sandwich As A Time” founder both leave us inspired.
Whoda thunk Anderson Cooper would cause so many giggle-fits in the audience? He was actually quite funny throughout the night. I was so busy giggling that I didn’t write down ONE joke verbatim, but at one point he joked with one of the humanitarians on stage and kiddingly told her she smelled… Oh Andy.
But it wasn’t all laughs. Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone and founder of the Ishmael Beah Foundation, and Erin Dinan, founder of One Sandwich At A Time, were among the humanitarians Anderson brought on stage to share their stories.
At age 12, violence and bloodshed in Sierra Leone separated Ishmael from the rest of his family. He never saw them again — his parents and two siblings were killed — so he escaped to a military base hoping to get help. Instead, he was forced to fight and become a child soldier for three years. He was able to flee to NYC by age 18, finished high school through the UN, and later graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio!
Erin was equally inspiring. A struggling (and hungry) artist in NYC, Erin was tired of walking the streets and walking past homeless individuals — sometimes five or ten on a given night. She wanted them to get attention, so she picked up her camera and snapped photos. She began taking a sandwich or two with her every day to hand out; just two days ago during her latest outing, she and volunteers were able to make enough sandwiches to feed over 600 people! “I’m no different than anyone on the street,” she told the audience, “We’ve just had different trials and tribulations.”
+ The moment everyone was waiting for… Beyoncé stuns!
Phenomenal, flawless, goosebump-inducing, inspiring — it straight up gave me lifeeee. And I’m not surprised. Beyoncé’s “I Was Here” couldn’t have been a better fit for the campaign. As soon as they started to introduce Bey, the crowd went wild. And when they finally said her name and she appeared in a long, white, sleeved gown full of 500-karat diamonds (probably, but probably not), the crowd — myself included — was just gobbled up by the presence that is Queen B.
Everyone sat back in their seats and gazed up at screens that draped the entire hall. Through her entire performance, the screens showcased UN workers and humanitarians worldwide leaving their footprint behind. BUT ENOUGH ABOUT THE SCREENS because Bey was simply flawless. Her voice, her dress, her touching (yet short) address after her performance sent chills down very limb.
Here is how I felt right after she finished:
WOW WOW WOW and WOW!!! Breath-taking! We've got goosies! Beyoncé, stunning as usual. WOW.— MTV Act (@MTVact) August 11, 2012
Here is how I felt hours later:
It’ll be eight days until the world sees how the video — filmed in one flawless take — turned out, but more importantly, we have eight days to all pledge to do our part in rallying 1 billion people worldwide to make a difference. Before leaving the stage, Beyoncé told the crowd, “‘I want all of you to be a part of August 19 — such a beautiful, beautiful day.” Will you?