“I don’t think you’re using the most updated list,” says an exasperated person next to me. “Is there someone you can call?” Guest lists remain a hallmark of Met Gala weekend, just like fireworks during the Fourth of July or credit card debt after the holidays.
This poor soul. Fortunately for me, I am on the list, a statement impossible to say without sounding like a total jackass.
It’s around 10 p.m. and I’m making my way to The Standard’s Boom Boom Room for a Met Gala afterparty thrown by Janelle Monáe. There were a few choice ones to choose from tonight, all thrown by famous figures, from Dua Lipa’s at Lower East Side’s Virgo to Diddy’s at The Box. From fashion to music, film and television, the party-thrower personalities are disparate. Outside, the hoi polloi are desperate.
However, I am not one of those desperate types, and I expect getting in will be no problem. As I said earlier and as I’ll repeat here, proud to really own it this time: I am on the list.
“Your name?” a pretty woman holding an iPad prompts. I give it to her because if there’s a list, which there most certainly is, I’m for sure on it. But she’s not seeing my name. No problem! I can only assume she’s spelling it wrong. I get this a lot; it’s really no sweat.
“You’re not on here,” she says, and I look at her glowing tablet for confirmation. The cold truth is she’s searching my correctly-spelled name, and I am not on this list—full emphasis on the not.
“I’m going to have to ask you to move to the back of the line,” she continues. But wait. I know a guy. He’s upstairs. He’ll come to my rescue. Let me just send a quick text; it’ll just take a second. Maybe I can shift over and not lose my place in line, I ask while giving her my best puppy-dog eyes. But here comes a guy: “Move, move, move; this area is not for standing.” I commence my walk of shame to the other side of the barricades to loiter on the cobblestone street. So close. So far.
Flashbulbs go off around me as I contact my contact. Did I say I know a guy? Because I actually do. He says someone appropriately named Mercy is coming to get me and a second later, she’s here, resplendent in a long, flowing pink dress with a pendant on a chain around her neck. “Where’d you get that?” I ask as we’re making our way into the elevator. “A jeweler in France,” she answers. I’m wearing a chain, too, but my mom bought mine in a casino. Just as cool, perhaps? But she doesn’t ask in return because I guess you can’t even see it under my shirt.
It’s eleven p.m. and I’m definitely not drinking tonight. I need to be focused on what goes on at a Met Gala afterparty for a piece I’m writing, after all. But what’s this? An open bar? My favorite kind. “I’ll have one Campari soda, please,” I say as the Boom Boom Room starts to fill up with people who were lucky to be on the list that, well, I wasn’t on.
Nearby, I see writer and influencer Evan Ross Katz. He’s with his husband who I know from Instagram as Billy Loves Waffles. I ask Evan if he’s seen the Spanish actor-model Manu Rios, whose clean fit made many a men’s Gala fashion roundup. Manu is not here, but Jonathan Groff, Lea Michelle and Darren Criss are. I circumnavigate the room, sipping my Campari and thinking.
Earlier in the night, back uptown, a cockroach walked the red carpet. Insert joke here about the state of modern celebrity. Meanwhile, both Doja Cat and Jared Leto dressed up as (you’re never going to believe this) cats. Like Doja’s name, except Leto was Lagerfeld’s Choupette. That’s crazy, right?
There are white flowers everywhere. Kaytranada DJs, and a lot of the songs that blare through the speakers are throwback tracks, including Whitney Houston’s Million Dollar Bill—a track penned by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, fun fact. A group walks in and are photographed together. Usually, people are photographed individually as they enter, like fellow guests Christian Soriano or Jenna Ortega. Are they in a band? No, it’s just Russell Westbrook and friends, who I don’t recognize because I’m the kind of guy who knows Whitney Houston facts.
A flash goes off, and Keke Palmer walks in donning a multi-color dress. Florence Pugh is close by, but I don’t recognize her because she shaved her head. Ariana DeBose is here, presumably looking for Jamie Lee Curtis. I see another person I know: it’s Ira Madison III, and he’s not sure if he should stay or go. Last year, the Boom Boom Room was the Met Gala afterparty. Was it still the party this year? As Chris Rock once said, referring to the music industry: “Here today, gone today!”
But Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra are in attendance, which has to lend some credence that this is still the party, right? More flashbulbs go off, and the presence of Trevor Noah and Olivia Rodrigo is further evidence that decamping to the elevators at this point would be a fool’s errand.
By around twenty minutes to one a.m., the music quiets and something is happening by the bar. Janelle Monáe herself jumps up onto the bartop with an array of dancers.
“Let me tell you all right now,” she proclaims into the mic. “This is the age of pleasure. I’ve been in the age of trouble. I’ve been in the age of uncertainty. But tonight, this year, we are in the age of mother-fucking pleasure.” It’s like I’m witnessing The Sermon on the Mount but for fashion. “We are actively doing the things that make us feel good, unapologetically,” she continues, stretching out that final word.
“We are with the people who we love, who make us feel good. Un… apolo… getically.”
After singing her new single Float, she grabs a glass from the crowd. “Repeat after me,” she says to the audience of revelers, which now includes Rami Malek and Lil Nas X, prepared for another pearl of Monáe-wisdom in the form of a toast. “To the lives we lead. To the dreams we chase. To the moments that we maaaaaake. To the fucked-up-shit we can’t erase. Cheers.”
But the night is getting late and my phone battery is getting low. By 2:30 a.m., the room seems roomier than it was before. Flashbulbs flash again in the distance, and Lizzo has arrived, but I must go. As Sarah McLachlan once sang, “I will remember you,” and I will remember this night. I head back to the elevator, ready to venture back into reality.