For the second year in a row, the first Monday in May did not find the Upper East Side buzzing with cartoonishly dressed celebrities on their way to the steps of the Met. But unlike last year’s event, which was all-out canceled save for a virtual show, 2021 brings new hope: The Met Gala is back and on for September.
We don’t know much about the event, led by the Condé Nast creative director and editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour. The inimitable EIC likes to keep it that way—there are few Met Gala sneak peeks, and what we see on the night of tends to be kept under impressive, if intimidating, wraps.
Who gets a spot on the tightly-controlled guest list? We’ll know on September 13. What will the COVID precautions look like? It’s unclear to just about everyone, but organizers have promised they’ll pay heed to whatever government guidelines are still in place by then.
The folks at Condé Nast clearly hope the Met Gala becomes a capital-M moment: it coincides with the return of an in-person New York Fashion Week, set to run September 8 to 12, and the official return of Broadway set for September 14. Designers who ditched showing in seasons past will also make a comeback, notably Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss.
It’s welcome news to those who love and cherish fashion. But what about everyone else? After a brutalizing pandemic spent watching celebs behave badly—parties never really went away for the Kardashians—do people really want to fête beautiful rich people anymore?
In the past, the Met Gala has been a red carpet event. No awards are given, but E! and others cover the night as they would the Academy Awards. Again, viewership of that ceremony was down 58 percent from 2020, the lowest ever. (So low, in fact, Donald Trump felt compelled to make a meandering statement about it.)
Wintour, who was the subject of a New York Times exposé last year detailing the racist work environment at Conde, clearly has no plans to pass her baton anytime soon. But she has tapped a group of young hosts to liven up the night a bit: Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka will co-chair this year’s event. (Tom Ford, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri, and Anna Wintour are “honorary chairs”—quite the generation gap.)
The night’s dress code, per Vogue: “American independence.” It’s a suspicious thing to celebrate considering how this country’s individualistic tendencies led to protests against life-saving masks, vaccines, lockdowns—plus the storming of the United States Capitol.
But not like that, organizers insist.
“The most exciting part is that the dress code is meant for fashion rebels and rule breakers. We’re expecting a red carpet filled with anything-goes gowns and a dash of something star-spangled,” Vogue features editor Lilah Ramzi wrote.
Another write-up from Vogue explained that “Each of the Met’s four cohosts embodies the defining factor of American style: individualism. They may approach the concept differently, but their shared passion for expressing themselves through clothing connects with the exhibition’s theme. Chalamet, Eilish, Osaka, and Gorman have all developed a distinct visual language for their public personae, one that is informed by the legacy of iconic fashion made in the USA.”
So we can expect the hosts to look good. (The bar is set high: see Lady Gaga’s performance art entrance/nod to “camp” in 2019 or Rihanna-as-Pope from the year before.) But other than that, what do the hosts, well, actually do?
Representatives for Vogue did not respond to a request for comment and explanation. A 2019 article from Vogue celebrating Harry Styles’ appointment as co-chair vaguely reported that, “The role of a co-chair also expands into the guestlist, the food, the decor and the general feel of the evening.” Duties also include: getting dressed up in a way that nails the theme and performing during dinner.
Whatever the hosts do, they’ll be speaking to a full house: Page Six reports that tickets for the night have sold out. (And they’re not cheap: $30,000 for an individual, $275,000 for a table.)
Ultimately, the hosts serve as the night’s biggest cheerleaders. It’s a job Condé Nast appears to take very seriously—as WWD reported this week, the magazine “wants to take control of Met Gala red carpet live coverage.”
Per the story, Condé Nast has some plans: “new live programming, from the final fittings and last-minute looks to the red carpet, offering audiences exclusive behind-the-scenes access.” WWD reported this could potentially impact access to other outlets such as E! (A rep for E! did not comment to The Daily Beast.)
But with a pared-down, “intimate” ceremony due to the pandemic, Condé Nast has the best excuse to prioritize itself as the prime source of Met Gala content.
So much is still up in the air—but we know one thing for certain. As Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter of her Met Gala co-chair position: “If I see Rihanna ima pass out.” She may not be the only one.