Dubbed the “Oscars of the East Coast,” the annual Met Gala is dependably a star-studded affair with celebrities and other public figures dressing to impress. The standout star at this year’s event, which was held Monday at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, was actress, producer and screenwriter Lena Waithe, who made a powerful statement by donning a rainbow pride cape at the major fashion event.
In a red carpet interview with Vogue, Waithe — an out lesbian who last year became the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for comedy writing — said her colorful Carolina Herrera ensemble was a way to bring her powerful 2017 Emmy speech to life.
“In my Emmy speech, you know, I mentioned putting on imaginary capes. Tonight this cape is not imaginary, and it’s rainbow colored, and we got the black and brown. I’m reppin’ my community, and I want everybody to know that you can be whoever you are, and be completely proud, and be doin’ it.”
The inclusion of black and brown stripes on Waithe’s rainbow cape is a nod to Philadelphia’s revised rainbow pride flag, which added the two colors in the hopes of making non-white LGBTQ people more visible.
Anita Dolce Vita, editor-in-chief of queer fashion website dapperQ, applauded Waithe’s “flawless” Met Gala outfit.
"Waithe brilliantly leveraged the gala to create visibility for LGBTQ communities that are often erased from fashion,” she told NBC News. "For a queer woman of color, I felt seen."
"Fashion tends to be very binary at these types of celebrity events," Dolce Vita added. "Women are expected to wear dresses, men are expected to wear suits, everyone is expected to adhere to normative beauty standards, and there is little representation for those who present along a wider spectrum outside of these guidelines."
She called Waithe's fashion choice was an act of "visual activism" against the erasure of LGBTQ people of color and the "highly gendered" world of fashion.
With the theme of this year's Met Gala being "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," some also speculated her choice of ensemble may have been a protest against the Catholic Church's stance on same-sex marriage.
The Met Gala is not the first time Waithe has made headlines in the fashion world this year. Last month, the entertainer graced the cover of Vanity Fair, and the magazine included a photo spread of her with her partner and an article about how Waithe is changing the entertainment industry.