A Brief History of Political Statements at the Met Gala

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the 2021 Met Gala wearing Brother Vellies. Photo: Getty Images

As if to underscore the intentionally campy insouciance of the whole thing (the 32-year-old politician is a devoted RuPaul’s Drag Race fan, after all), a white tulle fishtail skirt exploded from underneath the gown, and Ocasio-Cortez only posed looking over her shoulder. It was the kind of nudge-nudge act of trolling that only she could pull off, and that you just know drove her Republican colleagues apoplectic when they saw the photos.

Still, cheering as all that may be, what feels the most important is seeing celebrities use the platform afforded by the global press coverage at the Met to advocate for, and build visibility around, a political that matters to them. Perhaps the most powerful political statement from a Met Gala attendee—at least in terms of taking concrete action—came courtesy of Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton.

The cost of a table at the Met Gala may well be for a good cause, but for many up-and-coming designers, it’s a prohibitively expensive barrier to having their clothes paraded on the red carpet—and one that Hamilton knows all too well as a Black sportsman in the predominantly white industry of Formula 1 racing. “We’re living in a time where diversity and inclusion is so important, and that’s why I started an organization within my own sport,” Hamilton told Vogue last year. “I realized it’s very similar in the fashion industry. A lot of young brands and designers don’t have the same opportunities, so that’s what really set me off.” So what did Hamilton do? He bought a table at the gala and enlisted the crème of Black fashion talent to join him, including Theophilio, Kenneth Nicholson, and Jason Rembert, while also inviting an illustrious coterie of stars to wear their designs, such as Kehlani, Alton Mason, and Sha’Carri Richardson.

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