During an auction to raise money for Keep a Child Alive, Keys took off two 18-carat gold bracelets and put them up for bid. Once someone agreed to buy the items for $14,000, a light bulb seemed to switch on in her brain.
"Wait a minute, I have an idea. I was just thinking, since I have two that we could sell one to you for $14,000 and one to you for $14,000," she said, pointing at two different people. "Isn't that a great idea?"
The crowd cheered her on.
"This is a very special table by the way," she said. "These are my friends. Friends love friends."
Her charm and talent helped the singer raise $401,500 through auctions at her Black Ball event, which celebrates Keep a Child Alive, which aids HIV/AIDS victims in Africa and India. Overall, the charity raised $3 million Thursday night.
A dinner party with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts went for $25,000 and a trip to Paris Fashion Week to see shows by Givenchy sold for $15,000. The top bid was a lifetime membership to all Donald Trump golf properties, selling at $180,000.
Keys was joined onstage by Usher, Richie Sambora, Norah Jones, Gary Clark Jr. and others at the Hammerstein Ballroom. She closed the night with Black Eyed Peas' leader will.i.am, singing Fergie's verse on the hit "I Gotta Feeling," which had Keys' mom and younger brother dancing happily onstage.
The event honored the charity's commitment to India, showing videos of children in the country battling HIV/AIDS and being kicked out of their homes as a result.
"We all deserve a chance at life," Keys said in an interview on the red carpet. "Tonight really goes to the people. It really goes to the people that we serve, so that they can have the medicine to live."
George Harrison, the late Beatles guitarist, was honored for his philanthropic commitments to India and his 1971 concert for Bangladesh with Ravi Shankar, which funded relief efforts for East Pakistan refugees following the 1970 Bhola cyclone. Harrison's widow, Olivia Harrison, said she would make a pledge to Keys' charity.
Another honoree was Anthony Scaramucci, the author and managing partner of SkyBridge Capital. He said he and SkyBridge will raise $1 million for Keys' charity next year.
Keep a Child Alive, which Keys started in 2003, came just two years after the singer released her multiplatinum and multiple Grammy-winning debut, "songs in A minor." Besides raising money, the 30-year-old said she's happy to raise "consciousness and awareness" of HIV/AIDS struggles throughout the world.
Celebrities at the Black Ball event included Serena Williams, David Arquette, Queen Latifah, Tyra Banks, Clive Davis and Keys' husband, rapper-producer Swizz Beatz.