Camila Cabello’s Saturday Night Live performance is steeped in centuries of pop culture references. Taking the stage in an ensemble fit for an 18th-century aristocrat, Cabello paid homage to multiple iconic women.
Cabello, poised regally center stage, appeared to have travelled back in time for her performance of her new single “Cry For Me.” Throughout the song, she narrates the story of a breakup and a man who moves on to someone new immediately after ending a relationship as it plays out on stage. The story may be timeless, but Cabello chose a very specific era for her SNL performance.
The most prominent reference is to Madonna’s 1990 MTV Awards performance of “Vogue.” In it, Madonna emerges as a perfect likeness of 18th-century French high society’s famous queen, Marie Antoinette, complete with a corset, powdered wig, and large fan. Cabello’s homage to Madonna’s performance is detailed. Even the set-up of the stage is similar, with a window at the center and mirrors framing either side. Madonna appears to have lip-synced her performance whereas Cabello is belting out lyrics in full costume. Cabello put her own spin on the Marie Antoinette-inspired look with a brighter colour palette, new choreography, and a nod to herself with a “C” in the stained glass window. Where Madonna stayed truer to a more traditional look, Cabello deviated more and incorporated some modern accessories such as ankle boots and colour blocking.
Madonna’s performance, often referred to as the Marie Antoinette performance, became one of her most career-defining moments to date. Cabello isn’t the first pop star to reference Madonna, but Madonna wasn’t the first to reference this look either. She took inspiration from a film that came out two years before the award show, Dangerous Liaisons. The movie, based on the 18th-century French novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, and John Malkovich — and Madonna even wore Pfeiffer’s dress from the film for her performance.
Who knew one SNL performance could turn into a miniature history lesson on pop music and inspirational women.