The Influencer Wears Prada

by The Cowl Editor on September 30, 2021


The Influencer Wears Prada

How Social Media Stars Devalue the Prominence of the Met Gala

by Ashley Seldon ’24

The Met Gala has always stood out from the long array of red-carpet events held each year because of its unique themes. It is the biggest night in fashion where A-list celebrities grace New York City wearing one-of-a-kind gowns and other ensembles created by iconic high fashion designers. It celebrates fashion as an art form and allows celebrities to wear unique looks that do not necessarily have to be glamorous or over-sexualized like other red-carpet events.

 The stars invited to the Met Gala have typically influenced the fashion industry in some way and perhaps have already developed strong relationships with these designers through parties and other events. Usual attendees are NYFW models, renowned actors and actresses, and talented musicians and athletes. Just being a celebrity doesn’t necessarily grant access to this exclusive event. For example, the entire Kardashian family has been invited except for Kourtney and Khloe because they lack a strong influence on fashion. The editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, personally invites these celebrities to the fundraising benefit.

Knowing the exclusivity of the Met Gala, it was shocking to many that TikTok star Addison Rae was invited to this year’s event. Rae boasts 84.6 million followers on the app, where she has accrued fame through posting 30-second dancing clips. Recently, Rae released the movie He’s All That on Netflix, which has received much criticism. Twitter tore the film up; one user, @HistoryofPopcorn, tweeted, “Cringe and expected disappointment, that’s how we describe Netflix’s He’s All That.”

 In the past, other social media influencers have gone to the Met Gala, such as Liza Koshy and Emma Chamberlain. However, the difference is that Koshy was asked to interview celebrities walking the carpet, and Chamberlain had a brand deal with Louis Vuitton. TikTok stars, in general, have been bashed for reaching fame through stealing dances created by lesser-known black artists or creators. Since Rae has the famous “it girl” look, she gets more views and likes than the creators making the choreography she mimics. So, her simply being a famous TikTok star should not have granted her an invite to the Met Gala.

Though Rae does have a brand deal with American Eagle and has launched a makeup line available at Sephora, these are more commercial business endeavors. Unlike Chamberlain, she has not developed a name for herself in the high fashion industry. Rae’s invitation devalues the high status required in previous years to go to the Met Gala. She has set the precedent that any famous and pretty social media influencer may score an invite. Could this lead to Wintour inviting Instagram models or other barely famous people in the future?

A viral Tik Tok blew up in the weeks preceding the Met Gala going over a leaked image of the seating arrangements. The video made by @charlesgross shows that Addison Rae would be sitting next to fashion icons Donatella Versace and Naomi Campbell and across from global star Beyoncé. The comments section blew up with one user saying, “My honest opinion is that influencers shouldn’t be allowed at something like the Met Gala. You’re telling me Addison Rae/James Charles hold the same power as Lady Gaga or Donatella Versace ” (koicrystals). While fact-checkers later proved the image to be fake, the idea that Rae, a person famous for quick dancing clips, would be in the company of people who have paved the way in trendsetting and making fashion perceived as art was unsettling. 

Rae wasn’t the only member of Generation Z in attendance; perhaps Anna Wintour is trying to push the high fashion industry onto a younger audience. Though the Met Gala has never been a marketing event, it’s supposed to highlight the designers’ looks and showcase a walking Gala of their art. Perhaps this was a first attempt of reaching out to those who have yet to discover high fashion.

Rae wore a red, vintage Tom Ford gown with a classic blonde bob. She attempted to channel old Hollywood glam for the Met theme—American fashion. Nonetheless, her look came off very simple compared to the other celebrities who use the Met Gala to send a social or political message. Often these looks aren’t meant to be effortlessly beautiful but something that the average person questions. The outfit should be interpreted like most art and require onlookers to hypothesize the designer’s intentions concerning the theme. Rae addressed backlash surrounding her invite, saying, “Anyone who supports me, I love you, and thank you for everything. It means the world, and I couldn’t do this without you guys!” All in all, her presence as a D-list celebrity devalues the elite air the Met Gala once held.