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    18 Seriously Genius Pro-Black Details You Might Have Missed At This Year's Met Gala

    A detailed breakdown of all the symbolism, nuances, and references that made this gala the blackest one yet!

    It's been two days since the Met Gala happened, which means you've definitely been FLOODED with more star-studded fashion recaps than you can stand.

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    But bear with me, dear reader, because in this post, we're going a bit deeper to explore the brilliant ways that celebs celebrated black culture, black people, and black history at this year's event.

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    FYI, the theme for this year's gala was "Camp: Notes on Fashion," inspired by writer Susan Sontag's 1964 essay. Camp aesthetic is all about theatrical, exaggerated, and playful self-expression. And as such, it's been sustained largely by the cishet and queer black community and white queer community, both of which have employed camp to assert their identities in a white cishet society that's historically marginalized, demonized, and erased them.

    1. OK, now that we're all on the same page, let's talk hair. Naps, kinks, and coils took center stage on the pink carpet last night, as demonstrated by this stunning snapshot of fashion icon Lupita Nyong'o.

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    Her sculptural 4C showpiece featured several black fist Afro picks, which were spray-painted gold by global hairstylist, educator, and artist Vernon François and hairstylist Sharif Poston.

    Vernon and Lupita's inspiration came from "Pickin'," the powerful self-portrait of multidisciplinary artist Lauren Kelley sporting a head full of painted black fist Afro picks.

    "Our goal is to continue to demonstrate the power of our hair texture, that it is the most moldable and luxurious hair texture there is," Vernon explained.

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    2. And that takes us to another glorious gala 'fro, this time rocked by Ciara aka Cici aka Miss I Serve Revlon Realness In My Sleep.

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    *Stares in black girl appreciation* UMMMM BRB, Y'ALL!!! *Runs out to Michaels to find a frame worthy of surrounding this masterpiece*

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    It truly takes a village, as seen from wig slayer César DeLeön Ramirêz's video here.

    Oh! And apparently, Ciara and her team were considering a bunch of other hair looks, including these flawless Afro puffs. There's always next year!

    3. While boxer braids were nowhere to be found because they're actually not a real hairstyle, there were quite a few cornrows! Take Zoë Kravitz, for instance, who came correct with a head of perfectly plaited tresses that allowed her gorgeous face, earrings, and gown to take center stage...

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    4. Same goes for Tracee Ellis Ross, whose face-framing Lacy Redway cornrows were also framed by a literal frame.

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    I sorta need to know where you got this from, Tracee, cuz as you probably heard, I'm in the market for a giant frame.

    5. Danai Gurira's cornrows were so small and intricate that her top hat was able to rest firmly on her head. Let those beaded bangs serve as a reminder of celeb hair expert Larry Sims' boundless creativity.

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    6. Known for making sociopolitical pro-black statements both on and off the football field, athlete and prominent activist Colin Kaepernick also flaunted a set of fresh cornrows, proving that this style is just as formal — if not more so — as a clean-shaven cut.

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    Both Nessa and Colin wore fits from the black-owned brand Pyer Moss.

    Colin is giving us laid and luxurious, and I'm not mad about it. I mean, the levels of fresh here are just unmatched.

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    7. Box braids (and bobos, OMG!) had their moment in the spotlight too, thanks to Slave Play playwright and actor Jeremy O. Harris...

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    This "new dandy who just hit up the hood beauty supply store" vibe was brought to us by NYC's top hair braider and artist Hair by Susy!

    8. ...and Aurora James, founder of the sustainable, artisanal footwear and handbag brand Brother Vellies.

    9. Rounding out our hair moments are these slick-ass finger waves that stylist Latisha Chong shaped on Ashton Sanders' custom unit.

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    You can't see it from here, but there's an 18th century–style ponytail and hair bow situation in the back, because RANGE.

    10. Which brings us to the fashion portion of this post, kicked off by Ashton and trailblazer/CFDA award winner/designer Telfar Clemens of Telfar.

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    Behold, two beautiful black men dressed in the finest of black-owned, self-made, gender-fluid garbs! THIS is the 18th-century period piece we need and deserve.

    11. Telfar and Ashton weren't the only Hollywood–fashion duo in the building. Mogul Lena Waithe and innovator/CFDA award winner Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss pulled up in a pair of very detailed silk Zoot suits made by the Haitian American designer himself.

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    Lena's pinstripes consisted of lyrics from iconic queer anthems, like Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out," Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," and Rent's "Take Me or Leave Me"...

    ...Whereas Kerby's listed various hip-hop lyrics from motivational hip-hop tracks, like Meek Mill's "Get Dis Money," 2Pac's "Keep Ya Head Up," and Jay-Z's "The Story of O.J."

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    The 16 buttons, crafted by Johnny Nelson of Johnny Nelson Jewelry, were no mere buttons. They were actually custom sculpture portraits honoring Kerby's eight favorite rappers and eight of Lena's LGBTQ icons.

    And finally, the backs of their suits doubled as walking billboards, promoting financial empowerment and ownership among black folks in the hood and the centering, crediting, and acknowledgment of black drag queens.

    "I really wanted to make sure my outfit represented the black drag queens who started this camp thing, about being over the top and all that jazz," Lena told Elle. "People like RuPaul, all these pioneers who really started this whole thing, and I really wanted to pay tribute to them."

    12. We've got another badass designer coming through. Oh, look! It's Aurora again. Her custom outfit voiced her strong stance against Susan Sontag's rejection of nature as camp. "I think the true Queen of Camp might actually be Mother Nature," the designer wrote on Instagram. "And something tells me, she’s black."

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    It's this same inspired, unconventional perspective that earned Aurora a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2015, making her the first black woman to ever receive the prestigious honor (Telfar and Kerby also won in 2017 and 2018, respectively.)

    "When I truly think about it, the campiest things I have seen in life, I have seen during my time in Africa," Aurora said. "The black narrative seems to be missing from her notes."

    13. Now, I'm sure you remember Tracee's ensemble from earlier. It turns out that her frame holds a significant meaning, as both Tracee and fashion/costume expert and podcast host Shelby Ivey Christie noted on social media.

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    P.S. I highly recommend checking out Shelby's podcast, Girl with the Bamboo Earring. She drops a ton of fashion gems, especially related to black culture. The episode with the inimitable costume designer Stacy Beverly (Girlfriends! The Game! Black-ish!) is my favorite!

    While Tracee is and always has been a walking work of art, the star used this opportunity to also pay tribute to conceptual artist and cultural critic Lorraine O'Grady's "Art Is..." performance, a radical work that defies the avant-garde art world's exclusion of black people by literally exhibiting attendees of Harlem’s 1983 African American Day Parade.

    So cultural nuance of @TraceeEllisRoss’ look - People used to show up to the African American Day parade in Harlem with frames around their faces! Lorraine O’Grady’s ‘Art Is’ movement. Centering blackness as beauty. Reclaiming the narrative. BLACK CAMP! #MetCamp

    "RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE ~ black camp," wrote Tracee on Instagram. "Thank you Lorraine O'Grady for existing and creating 'Art Is...' Thank you [Shelby Ivey Christie] for pulling the reference."

    14. Moving right along to Tiffany Haddish, whose self-proclaimed "Pimperella" Michael Kors suit was one of the most talked-about looks of the evening. Days before the gala even happened, Shelby Ivey Christie noted how the "Player’s Ball as a whole is Camp."

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    And then, when Tiffany revealed her clutch full of homemade fried chicken, the fashion scholar schooled us some more:

    Tiffany Haddish brought fried chicken in her purse. Again, Camp has an element of “spoof” or “trolling” - Making fun of cultural + societal moments. Love that she’s trolling to this friend 🍗 stereotype of blackness while dressed as a pimp 😂 #MetCamp

    Shout out to Shelby! She's currently pursing her master's in costume studies at NYU (while also working as media manager at L'Oréal USA). All I'm saying is I'll be first in line when she curates a future Costume Institute exhibit.

    15. A personal fave of mine had to be KiKi Layne's leggings, which read "GUCCI DOWN 2 THA" before hitting her socks. What better way to honor hip-hop — one of the most influential and impactful proponents of camp aesthetic — than with a repurposed line from the Notorious B.I.G.'s famously grandiose track "One More Chance/Stay With Me (Remix)"?

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    The weight of wearing Gucci in the wake of their blackface controversy wasn't lost on the If Beale Street Could Talk star (she actually decided against wearing Gucci to the Oscars as she'd originally planned, Vogue reported). But after much consideration, the actor decided to don the label for the gala, pointing to the Italian luxury brand's newly added "opportunities for inclusion within their company."

    “I know what it meant to me when I saw Lupita in her first awards campaign,” KiKi told Vogue. “To see this girl who looks like me slaying red carpets and magazine covers. I hope that through building relationships with all these brands I can do the same for all the little black girls out there.”

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    I'd never forgive myself if I didn't big up Larry Sims, the hair artist responsible for this whimsical B*A*P*S-esque bun and bangs style.

    16. Walking straight out of the pages of a fairy tale that needs to be told, SiriusXM radio and TV host Bevy Smith made it a point to wear #AllBlackEverything. "Entire look done by BLACK ARTISTS (nails by Latinx)," she shared on Instagram.

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    Bevy thanked and credited Project Runway finalist and Brooklyn designer Kimberly Goldson for her rose champagne gown, luxury footwear designer Tiannia Barnes for her shoes, milliner Anthony Maxwell for her crown (see below), Sheryl Jones for her earrings and rings, Q and Janet of the Nail Bar for her bejeweled tips, scent storyteller Chris Collins for her perfume, makeup artist Mimi Kamara for her beat face, and Harlem hairstylist Shelli Mosley for her gorgeous updo.

    And while we're here, we GOTTA talk about this magnificent cape, provided and fitted by Dapper Dan at his historic Harlem atelier (more on Dapper Dan in a bit). The detailed embroidery, the marvelous use of color, and the superb tailoring of it all! *Black chef's kiss*

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    17. Last but not least are our living legends of black fashion and style, without whom most of our faves wouldn't even have received a seat at the table. Firstly, there's fashion activist, diversity advocate, and one of the first black models to walk a European runway, Bethann Hardison.

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    Let's unpack the blackity blackness that is Bethann's outfit. Her artfully folded head wrap brings to mind the sophisticated geles of West Africa, while the black, red, and green color scheme mirrors that of the Pan-African flag, a self-determined symbol of freedom and community within the African diaspora.

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    For those of you thinking, "Well, Bethann was styled by Dapper Dan, and red and green are Gucci's signature colors, sooo...," you're not wrong, and it's possible that she wasn't alluding to Pan-Africanism. But I'm sticking to my theory, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    18. This brings me to our second and final living legend of the evening: revolutionary designer and haberdasher, industry groundbreaker and trendsetter Dapper Dan. He actually styled Bethann in Gucci for the gala, along with Regina Hall, 21 Savage, Omari Hardwick, Ashley Graham, and Karlie Kloss. Bevy Smith was his guest of honor.

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    The Harlem luminary recently partnered with Gucci and opened the neighborhood's first major luxury brand boutique, after the brand was accused of plagiarizing the same monogrammed designs that got him blacklisted from the industry in the early '90s.

    If you find yourself asking, "But why Gucci??? They did blackface!!!" Dapper Dan actually addressed this conundrum in a recent interview with Elle's Nikki Ogunnaike. "Being a partner of Gucci opens up a whole world," he said. "A whole world of education. Me being here, navigating like this here, lets them know, 'This is important to us. This cannot do.'"

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    "The African American brands that have come about all collapsed for a lack of knowledge," the designer continued. "Gucci has afforded me an opportunity to function on this level for the first time. I know how to sell to blacks, I know how to be black, I know how to be in the black community. Gucci afforded me the opportunity to go global black. This is a global blackness."

    WHEEEW!!! And there you have it: the blackest Met Gala in the event's 71-year history! What a ride.


    I dunno about you, but I'm feeling proud, inspired, and motivated to continue uplifting and empowering our community through my own daily actions, whether that's stunting in my black-owned lewks or simply recognizing someone for their contributions to the culture. Like the age-old black proverb goes, we all we got! *Wakanda salute*