Although the Met Gala is an annual charity event for New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, it’s about much more than mere fundraising. Each year, scores of fashion-forward celebrities eagerly wait to find out the theme of the event and if they’re in vogue enough to score a highly desirable invite.
The 2023 event, which took place on Monday, saw new and old faces, all donning outfits associated with “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”
According to The Met’s teaser video, the dress code was chosen to honor “the artistic methodology and stylistic vocabulary of Karl Lagerfeld’s designs through recurring themes across more than 65 years, from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019.”
Why This Year’s Met Gala Theme Was So Controversial
At first blush, it makes all the sense in the world for The Costume Institute to choose the late designer as the event’s theme, as it currently houses an exhibition on his life and designs, and there were likely very few among the affluent attendees who were strangers to the juggernaut’s work.
However, although Karl Lagerfeld left an indelible mark on the world of fashion, he also left a legacy that is … complicated.
As the New York Times noted, “His missteps could be monumental — in a literal sense,” like the time he attempted to make a statement about global warming by crowding a show’s runway with a 28-foot-high iceberg that had been delivered via 15 tractor-trailers kept at 25 degrees for six entire days.
In another show, he trivialized the feminist movement by staging a fake protest.
But one of his most infamous controversies came in 1994, when one of his models donned a Chanel dress that was embroidered with a sacred Muslim text. To make matters worse, his only defense was that he had no idea what the phrase even meant.
Karl Lagerfeld Had a History of Making Fatphobic and Sexist Comments
In addition to putting on provocative and culturally illiterate fashion shows, the German-born designer notoriously ran his mouth.
Back in 2009, he weighed in on the debate surrounding inclusivity in fashion. “No one wants to see curvy women,” he told a magazine, adding that the only people who want more diversity in the industry are “fat mommies” who sit on the couch shoving potato chips into their mouths.
Another jaw-dropping comment came when he spoke about women in France, suggesting we “take care of the zillions of the too fat before we talk about the percentage that’s left.”
And then there are all the comments against the #MeToo movement and gay rights.
“I’m fed up with it,” he told Numéro magazine regarding the former. “What shocks me most in all of this are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened.”
According to Hypebae, he also sent gifts to alleged abusers. Major. Yikes.
Lizzo Took the Occasion To Make a Statement
Considering all of the above atrocities, there were a handful of celebrities who were less than thrilled when The Met announced this year’s theme.
Among them was Lizzo, who has continuously used her platform to deride body shaming and champion fatness, blackness, and (true) body positivity.
The multi-talented musician, who also performed at the event, posted a photo of herself all dolled up, much to the delight of her 13.4M Instagram followers.
In the pic, she’s wearing a very on-theme black and white ensemble that’s dripping with pearls, but she’s notably posing in a restaurant’s kitchen and clutching a fresh order of Mcdonald’s fries.
While many of her followers scorned her appearance, others understood the not-so-subtle shade.
“Lizzo attending this year’s MetGala is the ultimate middle finger to this charade of a theme,” one user wrote. “She’s subverting the narrative and literally taking up space in a place where she wasn’t wanted! That in itself is a revolution,” said another.
Quannah Chasinghorse’s Look Also Sent a Clear Message
The indigenous model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse also opted to make a statement with her look. For one thing, she wore Karl Lagerfeld’s all-time least favorite color: pink. Bubblegum-pink, for that matter.
She finished off the girly look with punk-rock opera gloves and handmade Dakota jewelry (via Hypebae).
Multiple outlets have since commented on how she “honored” a dishonorable man by nodding to styles and movements he despised.
Whether intentional or not, a number of other celebrities also wore pink on the red carpet, including Viola Davis, Ashley Graham, Quinta Brunson, Harvey Guillén, Cardi B, and Naomi Campbell. I’d like to think they were all making statements, too.
Why These Fashion Choices Were Prophetic
Although many people hear the word “prophet” and think “future teller,” we theologians have a different definition. In the biblical context, a prophet is a brazen truth-teller who calls out society’s institutional sins.
With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see how celebrities like Lizzo and Quannah Chasinghorse became prophets on the red carpet that night. Without uttering a word, they creatively spoke out against injustice – namely, fatphobia, sexism, and racism.
Moreover, they did so in an embodied way, which is one of the hallmarks of womanist (i.e., black feminist) theology.
You might be wondering if wearing a bubblegum-pink dress to a high-society event is really a prophetic act, and I wouldn’t blame you. But as the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “In every crowd are certain persons who seem just like the rest, yet they bear amazing messages.”
What would it be like to “bear amazing messages” in all that you do, even down to picking out your OOTD?
How can you use what you have to speak out against injustice wherever you may find yourself?
And most importantly, W.W.L.D. (What Would Lizzo Do)?