The MET Gala 2019 is just over and if you are anything like me, you would have headed straight to social media first thing this morning to check out what unfolded on the red carpet. The theme this year was Camp: Notes on Fashion, borrowed from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay titled Notes on Camp. The moment the theme was announced, media outlets began to speculate it’s meaning and how exactly designers might adapt it for the red carpet. This was, of course, a difficult question to answer considering the elusive nature of camp itself.
What is Camp?
The history of Notes on Camp by Sontag was part of a movement to overthrow hegemonic hierarchies: birth control pills, black civil rights, and naming homosexual tastes (i.e. camp) were nods to the underrepresented communities and subcultures. Camp preserves a fighting, mocking, outsider spirit and we mustn’t let it fall into the webs of mainstream appropriation without making clear it’s roots.
“Indeed, the essence of camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”
— Susan Sontag
Gucci sponsored this years MET Gala, and rightfully so. According to Vox, “Of all our major fashion houses, Gucci is one of the most consistently committed to camp. That’s saying something, because runway fashion, with its heightened aesthetics and commitment to the spectacle of artificiality over naturalism, is in some ways inherently camp — but Gucci takes it to a new level.”
In other words, Gucci: atypical, anti-establishment, cloying, but make it fashion.
Here we have a comparison of Billy Porter at the Academy Awards to Hector Xtravaganza (a prominent figure in the New York Ballroom Scene) which is a really good example of Camp. Not only is this a LOOK, but it is also magnificent homage to the House of Xtravaganza and LGBT history. The combination of the suit and the gown is unnatural and rages against the conformity of male versus female formal wear — perfectly Camp.
Who was Camp this year?
With 183 people attending and a lot of brave looks, it is impossible to imagine which outfits performed the best. Not everyone has posted their looks on social media but we took a look at the ones who have, and measured how well their posts (and by extension outfit) did on Instagram in relation to the number of followers that each celebrity/personality has. To do this we calculated the individual Engagement Rates on each post, and sieved out the Top 10.
Engagement Rate is calculated as the percentage of [total likes + total comments] ÷ [number of followers]. We chose to look at engagement rate as opposed to the number of likes because it is a better reflection of performance. An influencer with 1M likes and 10,000 comments on their post, for example, might strike you as a lot. But if they have millions of followers as well, this only translates to a 2% engagement rate on average.
10 – MJ Rodriquez
One of the stars of Netflix’s POSE, Rodriquez garnered an 8.04% engagement rate on her MET Gala OOTD post. She is one of the many members of the POSE cast present at the MET Gala — befitting considering the origins of the theme ‘Camp’.
9 – Aquaria
Coming in 9th place and looking stunning as she always does is Aquaria — one of two Rupaul’s Drag Race winners to walk the red carpet at the MET.
This post got an 8.3% engagement rate.
8 – James Charles
No stranger to the media, James Charles graced the red carpet in Alexander Wang and looked gorgeous. He scored an 11.2% engagement rate on this post.
7 – DVF
The DVF’s Instagram post of DVF herself is cute and got a 12.9% engagement rate. Really good for a 72 year old if you ask me.
6 – Jordan Roth
As a theatre owner it was only befitting that Roth came dressed as a theatre. This extravagant cape got him a 14.5% engagement rate.
5 – Gemma Chan
One of my personal favourites from the night is Gemma Chan’s ensemble, inspired by Elizabeth Taylor.
The Crazy Rich Asians actor got a 16.3% engagement rate on this post.
4 – Frank Ocean
More queer representation! I can’t say I am a huge fan of this get-up (doesn’t scream Camp at all), but his caption tells us that the idea behind it was controversy and non-conformity. Which I suppose is the concept behind ‘Camp’…… Did Frank Ocean just camp Camp?
For that he got a 17.7% engagement rate.
3 – Lena Waithe
Waithe’s outfit definitely makes it into the Top 3 of the night. She posted a number, but her top performing post which got a 19.15% engagement rate is a back-shot of her jacket.
The black LGBT community is very much at the centre of ‘Camp’ and the pinstripes–which are sewn on lyrics to Diana Ross’s I’m Every Woman–make the whole ensemble even more breathtaking. And of course she topped it all off with a Beyonce-esque caption.
2 – Whembley Sewell
Sewell, who is the executive editor at Conde Nast and also a queer icon, seems to be the only one who displays an intimate understanding of Sontag’s essay in her caption.
She also looks very adorable. 21.4% engagement rate for this.
1 – Billy Porter
And finally in first place is Billy Porter. Are we even surprised? Porter’s suit-gown ensemble at the Oscars–which paid homage to Hector Xtravaganza–went viral in 2018. He was Camp a whole year before all this. Not to mention he also stars in POSE and is one of the many transgender/queer guests that graced the MET yesterday evening.
His top performing post got a 26.3% engagement rate. Paris is BURNT.
I think it is important to point out the sheer number of queer and minority representation the MET had this year (7/10 in this post alone!). From transgender actors like Laverne Cox and the cast of POSE, to drag queens like Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and RuPaul, to other celebrities who have been proud and open about their sexualities like Ezra Miller, Cody Fern, and Michael Urie — the MET Gala 2019 managed to stay true to it’s theme of ‘Camp’ without forgetting the people whom the subculture was meant to encompass in the first place. Can’t wait for next year.