With camp as the theme of the 2019 Met Gala, there were a lot of interpretations of exaggeration, kitsch and general extra-ness. Thankfully, the black and queer voices and looks that helped define the camp genre were at the forefront of the night.
The theme of the 2019 Met Gala and corresponding exhibit is based on Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp," where she described camp as "a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization."
In a time where white-washing and erasure of minority groups in popular culture have become hot-button issues, there was a certain amount of skepticism going into the first Monday in May. Would the guest list reflect the true camp tastemakers? Would people actually adhere to the theme?
The answers were yes and yes, and we got to see stars serve up nuanced and bold looks throughout the evening.
The amount of history at the intersection of being black and queer is staggering, but anyone who saw fashion's biggest night witnessed strong examples of that reclaimed camp narrative, thanks in part to the guest list, which included queer black icons.
Writer, producer and actor Lena Waithe is not new to making a statement on the Met Gala carpet, but this year she outdid herself.
Waithe chose a more androgynous look, rocking a powder blue pinstripe suit with the phrase "Black Drag Queens Invented Camp" emblazoned across the back, by black designer Kerby Jean-Raymond for his label Pyer Moss no less. The pinstripes on her suit also made a literal statement, with the stripes partially made up of lyrics from Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," among other LGBTQ icons.
“It’s about being extra," Waite told E! about the camp theme. "It’s about doing the most. And you know, black folks do the most all the time."
"Pose" star Billy Porter delivered the ultimate pose, arriving with an over-the-top Egyptian-themed entrance (carried by six shirtless pharaohs, of course) in a glittering gold custom catsuit inspired by Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor and Flash Gordon.
Porter spread his golden wings, invoking the image of a bird rising above.
"It's the art of being extra, and that takes authenticity and that takes courage sometimes," Porter said about camp. "It's a wonderful thing for me."
Even though drag queen extraordinaire RuPaul – who is camp through and through 365 days of the year – played it safe with his look, his presence alone is camp.
We also saw a reclamation of blackness within quintessential camp culture that has often been looked down upon by the mainstream.
Tiffany Haddish brought her version of pimp style to the Met carpet, describing her look as "pimp-erella" and bringing an exaggerated image of masculinity (plus bringing fried chicken in her bag, reclaiming black stereotypes). And although the actress didn't know what the theme meant when she first heard it, she said, "Now I know that it means you are glamorous and over the top and ready to have a good time. I kind of feel like Patti LaBelle, but on some pimp stuff."
Plus, there was lots of fun to be had that was a celebration of camp and being black: Ciara and Lupita Nyong'o embraced big fros and bright colors; Janelle Monae and Cardi B took up physical space with their ensembles; Tessa Thompson and Laverne Cox celebrated soft femininity within edgy costuming.
There continues to be work to do when it comes to occupying coveted real estate, including in the exhibit itself, which lacked designers of color (only including Peter Kelly, Dapper Dan and Virgil Abloh in the 75-designer lineup) and pieces worn by black camp icons (like Diana Ross, Grace Jones or Prince).
Anything can be camp, but not just anyone can get to the root of camp's inherently subversive, extravagant and resistive nature.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Met Gala 2019: Black, queer culture at forefront of camp-themed night