Let’s be real; The first Monday in May might be the biggest day of the year for fashion, but it’s never been the most diverse. This year that all changed with the amount of sheer blackness that was present on the Met Gala red carpet, topping anything we’ve seen in the event’s 71-year history.
This year’s theme, “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, refers to the freedom that stems from fashion that is highly exaggerated, theatrical and ostentatious. Needless to say that when it comes to unapologetic forms of expression as a means for liberation, black people can clearly relate. Making room for more black designers than the Met Gala has ever seen and sending subtle nods to some of the most influential black artists of our generation, the biggest black celebs in fashion and entertainment showed up and showed OUT to interpret Camp Culture from the black perspective. With all this blackness present, we’re hopeful that it signals a new era for diversity at the Met Gala for years to come. Here’s our roundup of the best & blackest moments from the 2019 Met Gala red carpet:
Big Freedia & Ciara Twerk to Bounce Music on the Met Museum Steps
If you thought that twerking couldn’t make history, you better ask Big Freedia and Ciara. The Queen of bounce music and the Princess of Crunk kicked off the evening’s festivities with a gold ‘ole NOLA-style twerk session to Big Freedia’s single ‘Play.’ This was a huge moment for the culture in more ways than one, especially considering that camp culture is hugely inspired by Queer P.O.C. who are often excluded from the mainstream narrative. Add in Ciara’s epic afro puffs and you’ve got the blackest Met Gala entrance of all time.
Everything’s Gucci: Dapper Dan Dresses Regina Hall, Ashley Graham & Bevy Smith
IT’S ABOUT TIME! Pioneer of streetwear fashion Dapper Dan finally made his debut on the Met Gala red carpet, swagging out five celebrities in his pieces including Regina Hall, Ashley Graham, Bevy Smith, 21 Savage and Omari Hardwick.
Lena Waithe Rolls Up in a ‘Zoot Suit’ by Pyer Moss
Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean Raymond is never one to be subtle in sending a pro-black message through his designs. This year’s Met Gala was no different, as he showed up with his date Lena Waithe in matching zoot suits. Not only were their zoot suits a nod to a treasured camp staple in African American communities, but their pinstripes were made up of lyrics from their favorite black musical artists including Tupac, Nipsey Hussle, Thelma Houston and Diana Ross. Black jewelry designer Johnny Nelson designed the custom gold sculpture portrait buttons and black power fist cuff links for both suits.
To top it all off, the back of Lena Waithe’s blazer read ‘Black Drag Queens Inventend Camp’ while Kerby Jean-Raymond’s read ‘Fix Your Credit, Pool Money, Buy Back the Block.’ Message, received.
Pyer Moss also dressed Lala Anthony in a money-themed dress that had her in her bag, plus Colin Kaepernick whose look was inspired by Ghanaian, Egyptian and Nigerian traditional garb.
Tracee Ellis Ross Brings it Back to Harlem with her Lorraine O’ Grady Inspired Look
Tracee took the quote "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art” literally in the inspiration for this year’s Met Gala. Her look was inspired by black artist Lorraine O’ Grady’s performance piece, ‘Art is,’ where she positioned blackness as art by holding up gold frames to onlookers who attended the 1983 African American Day parade in Harlem.
Lupita Nyongo Lets Her Flow Glow with Gold Afro Picks
There were so many natural hair moments on the Met Gala red carpet, but Lupita’s might have been the most special. Her elaborate fro, decked out with gold ‘black power’ picks, was inspired by a self-portrait created by Lauren Kelley entitled “Pickin.’” The hairstyle, which was executed by Vernon François and hairstylist Sharif Poston, was designed as the ultimate celebration of black beauty.
Aurora James Wants You to Rethink How You View Camp
While everybody else tried to dazzle on the red carpet with gowns made of man made materials, Brother Vellies designer Aurora James came through with an entirely nuanced perspective. In Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,’ she states that nothing in nature can be campy. Aurora James challenged this notion by donning a Swahili-inspired look made entirely of all-natural materials, asserting that Sontag’s notion eliminated black culture -- and specifically groups with limited access to man made synthetic materials--from this important narrative.
Tiffany Haddish & Kelela Walker Play Homage to Black Music & Film
You can’t have a ‘Camp’ themed Met Gala without a Pimp Named Slickback making an appearance. Tiffany Haddish came through and made it happen by donning a self-proclaimed ‘Pimperalla’ sequined suit and matching hat to the Met Gala red carpet. She fully committed to her character by carrying fried chicken in her bag, trolling us all by playing into this popular (and triggering) black stereotype.
Meanwhile, actress KiKi Layne channeled the Notorious B.I.G. by sporting Gucci leggings that read “Gucci Down to the Socks” under her Gucci gown. And if you’re wondering, yes, she was wearing Gucci socks.
If there’s anything we can learn from this year’s Met Gala red carpet, it’s how integral black people have been to Camp culture. It’s about time we get that credit, and thanks to all of the black creatives who showed out this year, we did.