I attended my very first Met Gala red carpet yesterday and learned many things, including but not limited to the fact that the red carpet was not, in fact, red (more on that below), that Ashley Graham is obsessed with SZA (she asked for lots of selfies) and that Jaden Smith and Kris Jenner are among the most enthusiastic celebrity greeters (when they spotted each other at the top of the stairs their eyes mutually widened with delight).
I also learned a lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes that I never would have known about had I not been there to witness it firsthand. It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall. Below, I chronicled six notable things about the event that might surprise you — because they surprised me. Keep scrolling to read (but don’t you dare leave before telling me your favorite outfits in the comments!!!!!!)
1. It’s a Full-Day Affair
The Met Gala’s festivities conceivably begin at 6 p.m. when Vogue staffers and minor celebrities begin to trickle up the red carpet. For press, though, they begin at 10 a.m., when journalists and editors and photographers and videographers line up on Fifth Avenue to preview the Costume Institute’s thematic exhibit.
I arrived at the Met yesterday morning on the hour. After letting a cute security dog sniff me and my belongings, I was permitted to enter the museum. I followed a throng of fellow content-seekers through the gigantic room that houses the Temple of Dendur, where croissants and juice were being served, and into an adjoining room.
There, I was greeted by mannequins wearing angelic gown after angelic gown — Dior, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Balenciaga, Versace — accented with halo-like headpieces and ornamentation so fine I wish I’d brought a magnifying glass. According to a write-up on Vogue.com, this year’s exhibit, aptly-titled Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, is “designed to create a dialogue between fashion and the masterworks of religious art in the museum’s holdings.” I did some social coverage for Man Repeller’s Instagram before scurrying back downtown to our office.
In what felt like the blink of an eye but was really three and a half hours later, I headed back uptown to the Met, dressed in a wispy gown from Rosie Assoulin that made me feel like a Shakespearean fairy, carrying a tiny clutch packed with nothing more than my wallet, my keys and my phone charged to 100%. All members of the press were instructed to arrive at 3:30 p.m. Anyone who arrived later than 4:15 p.m. would be barred from the event — no exceptions. I was (obviously) terrified of getting there late but am happy to report I rolled up at 3:25 p.m. with plenty of time to spare.
After waiting in line at the press entrance for about 45 minutes, I was shepherded into a holding room where I would hang out and go to the bathroom and blow my allergic nose and shush my stomach butterflies for another hour. At 5:15 p.m., I finally made my way up to the tent where I found a spot behind the red carpet barricade labeled “MAN REPELLER.” I’d heard in past years the red carpet portion of the event usually goes until 9:00 p.m., so I did some clandestine knee bends underneath my gown to limber them up for a night of (very exciting) standing. Like I said: a full-day affair.
2. Every Journalist Brings a Tote Bag
It turns out my little purse situation was a huge rookie move. Every other journalist brought a full-on tote bag with them filled with all kinds of extremely important accoutrements like regular phone chargers, portable phone chargers, a change of comfy shoes, bottled water, snacks, gum, lip balm, tissues and selfie sticks. Fortunately my shoes were very comfortable and I had aggressively hydrated and stuffed myself with various proteins beforehand, but I did start to regret my lack of external phone batteries when I was only halfway through the evening and my phone started dipping below 40%.
However, as luck would have it, I was standing behind my pal Maura Brannigan (Fashionista’s Senior Editor) who offered me some juice from her portable charger. She was the real heavenly body of the evening, if you ask me.
3. This Red Carpet Was Actually Beige
I’ve started calling it the crème brûlée carpet and surely hope you will join me.
4. The Most Important People to Walk the Carpet Are Also the Most Overlooked
As some of the more major celebrities began making their way up the carpet (Amal Clooney! Rita Ora! Bella Hadid! Kate Bosworth!), I’ll admit I was a little starstruck — but I was also transfixed by the people working the event who helped them get up the stairs. They were absolute pros. They ushered up celebrities wearing dresses the size of Texas without batting an eye. They carried gargantuan capes as if they were napkins. They stabilized limbs teetering upon seven-inch heels. (They dressed impeccably themselves.) I was in awe.
I tried to beckon some of them over for an Instagram interview so I could ask them every question under the sun (What’s your favorite sandwich and why? Does Rihanna’s left armpit smell like a rose petal?), but they were busy working. It was like watching Jack Bauer in behind-the-scenes action, but with boob tape.
5. It’s VERY Loud
Whenever I’ve watched any kind of red carpet coverage on television it always looks serene and cordial, like a garden party where the dresses are floor-length instead of tea-length. Yesterday I learned that red carpets — or at least this particular crème brûlée carpet — is nothing like that. For one thing, it was very, very loud. Photographers and journalists shouted celebrities’ names at top volume (ZENDAYA! OVER HERE! TURN AROUND! QUICK QUESTION! ONE PHOTO!), and for the most part they were ignored, unless they worked for huge outlets like Good Morning America or The New York Times. (Shoutout to Lena Waithe, Cardi B and Lana Del Rey for notably taking time to talk to lots of journalists, even the lesser-known ones.)
Even though everyone is clamoring for sound bites and photographs, there was a palpable we’re-all-in-this-together vibe that seemed to bond the press corps together. I overheard Instagram editors from different outlets bouncing caption ideas off each other, photographers gossiping about Met Galas past, editors sharing portable chargers (thanks again, Maura!), friendly commiseration about the fickle WiFi and shared enthusiasm for the parade of famous faces that walked by. It was loud and chaotic but also thrilling and surreal.
6. The Outfits Are Even More Elaborate (and Precarious) in Person
Oh my goodness gracious THE OUTFITS. I can’t believe I waited until my last point to talk about them! They were incredible — works of art held together by what looked like air and magic and glitter. It was fascinating to see them up close in 3D and hard to believe that people could actually walk in them, much less climb in and out of limousines and consume three courses of food in them.
Almost every outfit included a headpiece this year, ranging in style from Janelle Monáe’s wide-brim fedora to Mindy Kaling’s bejeweled crown. Many of the guests (Eva Chen, Solange, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) arrived wearing what looked a lot like halos — a nod to the evening’s theme. These delicate and oftentimes breathtaking accessories truly made each guest look museum-worthy — pun fully intended. Overall, the fashion went above and beyond expectations, a testament to why this A-list affair is beloved by many for upending typical approaches to red carpet style (i.e. playing it safe) and celebrating the risk-takers instead.
If I were charged with awarding “best dressed” accolades, I would give them to Lena Waithe for her delectable rainbow cape, Diane Kruger for making an extremely long ruched taffeta train look more effortless than denim, Frances McDormand for so clearly embodying what it means to dress like your best self, Rihanna and Cardi B for going balls to the walls ornate and Tracee Ellis Ross for wearing a perfect, hot pink hug.
How about you?
Feature photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images.