Actor Billy Porter arrives for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York.  Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Image
Actor Billy Porter arrives for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York.  (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Image)

Forget the Black Tie—LGBTQ+ Celebs Shut Down the 2019 Camp Met Gala

Forget the Black Tie—LGBTQ+ Celebs Shut Down the 2019 Camp Met Gala

The queer and trans community has perfected the art of camp for decades through extravagant drag looks, otherworldly club kid fashions and themed vogue balls. Embracing the glittery, the tacky, the over-the-top, the gender-bending and the taboo, camp is an aesthetic that flies in the face of Western hetero notions of respectability and good taste, and looks good doing it.

Susan Sontag defined the flashy, kitschy style as a "love of the unnatural, of artifice and exaggeration." Her 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'" is the theme of this year's Met Gala fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art—and LGBTQ+ celebrities absolutely killed it on the red carpet.

In February, Pose star Billy Porter made homophobes quake in their boots with his androgynous Oscars look—an exaggerated, high-femme A-line gown with a masculine black blazer. Ever the king of extra, he dialed it up 10 notches with his Met Gala ensemble by The Blonds. Dressed like a luminescent rendition of Ra, the Ancient Egyptian sun god, Porter levitated above the red carpet on a throne carried by chiseled manservants. Naturally, he spread his gold bird wings once he returned to the ground.

Billy Porter attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Billy Porter attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue))

"Camp means as hugely over-the-top and grand and what some may feel is ridiculous and silly, and embracing all of those creative impulses inside us that very often are squelched," Porter told Variety.

Trans actress and activist Laverne Cox sparkled in her all-black Christian Siriano attire—an art deco-inspired gown with wisps of tulle that floated around her body like angel wings in Botticelli's Birth of Venus. With her turquoise hair and makeup as the only pops of color, the monochromatic outfit's dramatic shape and texture did the talking.

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"This sensibility, that is historically very queer, excited me to no end," she told E!.

Laverne Cox attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Laverne Cox attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Janelle Monae, whose 2018 album Dirty Computer was celebrated as a pansexual pop paean, wore a gravity-defying hat-made-of-hats and pop-art, portrait-style Siriano dress (with an eye complete with long lashes covering one of her breasts). Lady Gaga, who is bisexual, turned heads with not one, not two, but four outfit changes, stripping (a la a drag reveal) from an enormous hot-pink ball gown by Brandon Maxwell into fishnets and lingerie. Cardi B, who hasn't formally declared herself bi but has spoken openly about experiences with women, stunned in a wine-red, feathered Thom Browne gown with an enormous train and female anatomy-inspired details.

Queer actor Ezra Miller opted for illusion: he wore a mask of his own face, and the dizzying makeup on his actual face made it look like seeing double, as though through beer goggles. Model Cara Delevingne, who typically opts for masculine streetwear, wore a rainbow Dior playsuit with a bizarre headpiece made of plastic bananas and fake teeth, rainbow stripper heels and a Willy Wonka-esque cane. (I don't know what it means, but I'm into it.)

Ezra Miller attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Ezra Miller attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

In comparison to these displays of queer ingenuity, some straight red carpet A-listers looked boring in slightly shinier-than-normal formalwear. Kim Kardashian showed up in typical skin-tight beige. Nicki Minaj looked nice but safe in pastel pink. And some Hollywood men completely ignored the theme and wore black blazers.

Other straight celebs like Katy Perry and Ciara nailed the theme (Perry wore a literal chandelier; Ciara stunned in a three-foot-long afro). But this year's Met Gala made history with its overt celebration of queer culture, and LGBTQ+ stars' daring styles showed the world what camp is all about.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Cara Delevingne attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Cara Delevingne attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
Janelle Monae attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Janelle Monae attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
Cardi B attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Cardi B attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Singer/actress Lady Gaga arrives for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York. - The Gala raises money for the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute.
Singer/actress Lady Gaga arrives for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York. - The Gala raises money for the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images)
Lena Waithe and Kerby Jean-Raymond arrive for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York.
Lena Waithe and Kerby Jean-Raymond arrive for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019, in New York. (Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images))
Hamish Bowles attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City.
Hamish Bowles attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

This post has been updated.

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