What It's Really Like To Party With Rihanna At The Met Gala

Photo: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock.
The Tribeca opening night party had a lot to live up to. After all, guests had just come from seeing The First Monday in May, a film about one of the most legendary parties of all: the Met Gala. And while there were certainly some famous faces wandering around the Festival Hub on Varick Street — Rose McGowan with a shaved head, Meg Ryan, Zac Posen — can anything really compare to Rihanna belting out “Bitch Better Have My Money” as hordes of celebrities dance along?

Directed by Andrew Rossi, The First Monday in May charts preparations for the 2015 Met Gala and the accompanying Costume Institute exhibition, "China: Through the Looking Glass." The film spends time with curator Andrew Bolton, as he wrestles with the potentially offensive cultural implications of examining China’s influence on Western fashion designers. The doc moves through the halls of Vogue, where Anna Wintour examines the seating chart and Director of Special Events Sylvana Ward Durrett wrangles celebs. Josh Hartnett hasn’t done enough recently to merit an invite. Rihanna is very expensive. Someone has a habit of being on his phone too much. (Page Six claims to know who that last person is.)

Then the cameras take us into the party.

Watching footage of the event is like getting to eavesdrop on the stars. Sure, they are likely aware they're being filmed, but they also seem unfiltered. They are, after all, among their super-famous peers. And — as Justin Bieber sings in a falsetto walking through the museum — remember, this is a “party.” You proceed to survey the exhibit with Kate Hudson, who sees a John Galliano dress on display and comments that she’d like to wear it in her “bedroom.” (Um, okay.) You nod along when when Lady Gaga says she wants to “mainline pinot grigio.” (Always, girl, always.) You sympathize with Chloë Sevigny as she ventures to her isolated seat, remarking, “I’m going to be all by my lonesome just like in high school.” (It me.) Kanye and Kim are there, as are George and Amal. You can observe Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kendall Jenner, and Cara Delevingne. It's basically the people-watching opportunity of your dreams.

But for all the gossipy goodness, this picture of excess is an uncomfortable one. Before launching into her song, Rihanna makes a vague comment about how the event is bringing two cultures together. It feels false, in part because you hear her being instructed to do so in an earlier scene, and especially if you consider how few people of Chinese descent are depicted as intimately involved with the creation of the exhibit, save for filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. No one seems to care that much about the Chinese art in the museum, much to the dismay of one of the film’s most sympathetic characters, Asian Art curator Mike Hearn, who doesn't want the collection he presides over to get steamrolled. Wintour certainly doesn't seem concerned with Chinese culture or the non-fashion treasures the Met houses from the region. She makes a crass comment about a piece of fabric of which she disapproves being “made in China.” She claims that a column in the museum “isn’t art,” and then is told it’s actually Tiffany.

The film firmly comes down on the side of fashion as art, but it also shows how ignorant the industry can be when it comes to matters of appropriation, and highlights (intentionally and not) the inherent hypocrisy of an event like the Met Gala. The First Monday in May has the potential to leave you fuming, and make you a little jealous that you'll probably never actually get to attend the party. It does look like a blast.
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