It may be a thing for athletes to announce, "I'm going to Disney World!" after the completion of a championship game, but in Hollywood, the first stop post-red carpet victory is often In-N-Out Burger. (And, to be honest, as In-N-Out-starved East Coasters, we'd take their burgers over Mickey Mouse any day.) We first began noticing this unlikely trend a few years ago, and since then, as People exhaustively notes, everyone from Aziz Ansari to Brie Larson to Iskra Lawrence to Priyanka Chopra has dined on some variation of burgers and fries, formalwear and all, in the aftermath of an award show. Following last night's Golden Globe awards, for example, both Rachel Brosnahan and Julia Roberts separately decamped to the chain — and, of course, made headlines for doing so. It's become such a thing, in fact, that Vanity Fair has begun serving up the burgers at their legendary post-Oscar party. According to a spokesperson for the publication, last year they handed out 1,538 of them.
The question of "why In-N-Out?" seems, on its face, as simple as the fact that it's both undeniably delicious and now an iconic California commodity, right up there with the Hollywood sign and the Chateau Marmont. But is there more to it? Is dining on In-N-Out some kind of secret celebrity right of passage? Is In-N-Out somehow quietly sponsoring these celebs and their burger habits? Is In-N-Out involved in the Illuminati? And how come nobody's scared of dripping grease and Animal Sauce all over their borrowed gowns?
Rich and famous folks eating fast food to appear humble and low-maintenance has deep roots — remember Fergie announcing, "I still go to Taco Bell / Drive through, raw as Hell / I don't care, I'm still real" in her 2007 song "Glamorous"? Alexander Wang, among other designers, has a long history of serving food like McDonald's and 7-11 Slurpees at his Fashion Week after parties, and celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Chrissy Teigen, and Blake Lively have extolled the virtues of pizza, burgers, and ice cream in interviews and on social media. (It's worth noting that our society is often a lot more accepting of women dining out on these "unhealthy" foods when they fit the bill for our culturally accepted version of beautiful, which sucks.)
In an era that reveres a good high-low mix (think your favorite fashion blogger pairing a Zara dress with her Chanel bag), truly nothing seems cooler than scarfing down a burger and fries while wearing five-figure couture. Bonus points if you've already swapped out your Louboutins for a well-worn pair of Converse All-Stars, as Larson did after winning an Academy Award in 2016. Posing while juggling both juicy hamburger and shining award statue, a la both Larson and director Ang Lee, is also a good look, one that announces an enviable nonchalance about the most extraordinary of lifetime achievements.
As for whether or not the designers of said gowns have concerns about one bite gone awry resulting in irreparable damage to their priceless creations, the general attitude seems to be that all PR is good PR... even, or perhaps especially, when it means an A-lister consuming greasy snacks in your loaned frock. "As long as the celebrity knows their way around a double-double, I would loan out to them. I might throw in a bib for peace of mind though," remarks Denise Vizcarra, who runs the fashion PR firm VPR.
And while it's easy to assume that eating at In-N-Out is merely a publicity stunt designed to make them seem #relatable on the 'gram and in the tabloids, the fact is, after an award show, stars are hungry, exhausted, possibly drunk, and unlikely up for going to a nice restaurant. Hoovering down a burger in the back of their limo, however, hits the spot. Can you blame them? While the Golden Globes, widely known to be the chillest and most fun of the award shows, serve the stars food during the ceremony, the Oscars and the Grammys both do not. And since many celebs spend the whole day getting ready with little time to nosh, and have also possibly been confined to ultra-restrictive diets in the weeks or months leading up to the event, it's no wonder they're too hungry to wait on anything beyond a drive-thru window.
"I forgot to eat because it was so stressful at my house and I didn’t have time," known fast-food fan Jennifer Lawrence said at the Oscars in 2013. "I was in the car, and I was like, ‘I’m starving and the show's four hours long.’ I’m looking at the golden arches for McDonald’s here."
While McDonald's may hit the spot for J-Law, coolest of the Cool Girls, as far as fast food goes, In-N-Out is arguably at the top of the heap in both taste and quality, which may explain why stars so often opt for it over more mass-market options. The fact that they're available at Vanity Fair's hallowed after party has likely only added to the lore, as well as their implied luxury connection. Fascinatingly, they first appeared at the party not as food for the stars, but as offerings for the journalists covering the event.
"But, as the night wore on, guests who had arrived straight from the awards ceremony also began to avail themselves of the burger truck conveniently situated outside. It quickly became a staple of the party," Harrison Vail, a spokesperson for Vanity Fair, tells Refinery29.
As for why we collectively cherish these orchestrated-but-not "Stars: They're Just Like Us!" moments, well, perhaps it's because they allow us to imagine that, since an In-N-Out burger is vaguely attainable, somehow, in some world, an Oscar might be, too. Speaking of which, if In-N-Out ever wanted to EGOT (and who among us doesn't?), they could always set up a pop-up in New York City, home of the Tony Awards and, occasionally the Grammys. Just sayin'.