The new attendees of The Met Gala
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Gala has become one of the most important events in the celebrity and fashion calendar. It’s the one event of the year where music, film, tech, sports, business and fashion meet and celebrate the world of art.
Fans line up the Manhattan streets leading up to Met, waiting for the invited guests to walk up those hallowed steps. Many a star has been cemented on those steps, with the nod of approval from Anna Wintour and her Vogue minions being all that guests seek on the night.
The gala is by invitation only, and Wintour approves every attendee, and even suggests which brands attendees need to wear. The brands and companies that purchase tables – paying up anything from $275 000 (about R4 million) to $500 000 – still need their guests to be approved by her.
Bagging an invitation to the event is a sign that you're clearly a big deal – Wintour, the legendary US Vogue editor, who chairs the event, knows you, approves of you and thinks you are good enough to be in her orbit.
So it’s a pinch-me moment for many ingenues who feel the need to make their debut at the Met, finally regarded as being in the fashion and celebrity inner circle.
And that is what has been happening over the last seven years – more people, even those many who wonder how they got in, are getting the approval from Wintour. It all starts with a certain reality star and swimsuit model.
A few years ago, it was headline news that model Kate Upton and Kim Kardashian were banned from attending the Met Gala. Page Six wrote about how Wintour had cautioned brands from inviting the two stars to the event.
However, they eventually made their débuts, with a heavily pregnant Kardashian making a statement, wearing a Givenchy by Riccard Tisci gown in what is now regarded as an ’80s sofa print. It might have landed her in the worst-dressed lists, but it was an entrance so loud, one couldn't ignore it.
Interestingly, A-List celebrities and frequent guests had already started pulling away from the event even before Kardashian and Upton were on the list.
Gwyneth Paltrow famously said that it wasn't cool anymore because everyone was now allowed to go.
Rachel Zoe also lost interest, while Coco Rocha and Chanel Iman got dropped for the more Internet savvy models, like Kendall Jenner, who made her debut in 2014 in a yellow gown by TopShop. The following year she returned, wearing Calvin Klein and with her posse of Insta model friends – Gigi and Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Stella Maxwell. And then the gates of fashion heaven seemed to open to everyone.
Suddenly every model with more than 1 million followers was invited, social media stars like James Charles and reality stars like Kylie Jenner found themselves hobnobbing with the Gala's frequent guests, those still lucky enough to make the list.
The attendees list is always a big issue, but this year it’s become even more contentious. The TikTok celebrities are rumoured to be invited and the fashion and celebrity world is outraged. Celebrity publicists and agents have moaned to publications about the Gen Z takeover at the event.
“I’ve been told that a lot of influencers are on the guest list,” one agent told Page Six. “I’ve heard that Facebook and Instagram have taken so many tables, and that’s put a lot of people off going, alongside the mask mandate.”
The discourse on social media has ranged from outrage to understanding. There are those who have taken the elitist thought that only stars who have proven themselves over the years and have crossed over from the field that made them popular, to world wide stardom, should be invited. But there are those who believe the time for the changing of the guard has come, and while the original guests were socialites, the new socialites are social media influencers.
So it does make sense that YouTube star Emma Chamberlain and TikTokers Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio will be invited, and likely be sitting at a table near Wintour. But also, this year’s co-chairs are all young people, specifically Gen Z. Timothée Chalamet, 25; Billie Eilish, 19; Amanda Gorman, 23; and Naomi Osaka, 23, appeal to the audience that Wintour and the Museum want to attract and they were clearly chosen because of that.
Wintour is shrewd and she knows that the core members of the museum are getting older and it’s time to bring in a new audience. And those people follow the word of their favourite social media star.
And yes, most of us will probably enjoy watching the TikTokers the children in our family follow, living their best lives and trying to grab a picture with Beyoncé, Rihanna and JLo. Who wouldn’t?
This article was first published in the Sunday Insider, Aug 29