While other Met Gala attendees aimed to shock with their camp-themed outfits, Lena Waithe sought to send a message with hers. The screenwriter, actress, and creator of The Chi ditched the ruffles and grandeur for a pinstripe double-breasted Pyer Moss suit with a strong statement stitched on the back: “Black drag queens invented camp.”
Kerby Jean-Raymond, the creative director of Pyer Moss and Waithe’s plus one at the gala, came up with the design. He wore a matching white striped suit with the message “Fix your credit. Pool money. Buy back the block,” on the back.
“We collaborated on really bringing a message,” Waithe told E! News on the red carpet. “To me, 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.”
She continued, “People like RuPaul, all these pioneers who really started this whole thing and I really wanted to pay tribute to them.” RuPaul was actually present at last night’s event, and so were other drag queens like Aquaria and Violet Chachki.
Some critics say that Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp”—which inspired and informed the Met Gala’s 2019 theme—brushes over the contributions that the LGBTQIA community and people of color gave to the genre, according to Them and Refinery29. With her statement-making suit, Waithe made sure to give credit where it was due.
In addition to the stitched messages, the button and pinstripes on Waithe’s outfit also served as mini tributes. “The buttons are pictures of those people and the lyrics like ‘I’m coming out, Sylvester, you make me feel,'” she added to E!. “I want to pay tribute to them and the culture.”
The stripes on Waithe’s suit included lines from “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” by Sylvester, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “Supermodel” by RuPaul, “Take Me or Leave Me” from the musical Rent, and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. Waithe revealed that a song by the late rapper Nipsey Hussle is also in the mix.
Last year, the acclaimed screenwriter also took a stand with her Met Gala look when she showed up to the Catholicism-themed event draped in a rainbow Pride flag-inspired cape as a nod to the LGBTQIA community. She called the colorful look, by Carolina Herrera, an “epic moment of defiance.”
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