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Alanna Martine Kilkeary / Her Campus
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Opinion: The Different Interpretations of the Met Gala Theme

The Met Gala theme was “American Independence,” but what does independence mean for some stars who were invited? 

The highly anticipated Met Gala, known for their extravagant themes, was just last week after being postponed nearly a year because of the spread of COVID-19  in 2020.  

This year the theme was “American independence,” an interesting choice based on the turmoil the country has faced, such as the deaths of many unarmed Black men in the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election. 

When one thinks about what a Hollywood star would wear to represent “American independence,” a lot of red, white and blue, Lady Liberty and star-spangled gowns come to mind. However, a couple of guests decided to select outfits based on their specific interpretation of “American independence.” 

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)

AOC decided to make a mark at her first appearance at the Met Gala. She showed up in a white evening gown that had the message “tax the rich” emblazoned in red across the back. 

As powerful and bold as this was, it was unfortunately met with some criticism. In fact, many critics called AOC hypocritical because they said that she was standing next to celebrities at an event that charges $35,000 for a ticket.

Political commentator Ana Navarro-Cardenas even tweeted, “Not an @aoc hater, but come on, going to an event for the super-rich with ‘tax the rich’ written on your ass won’t change a thing.” Many people claimed that it was a publicity stunt and that AOC only wanted to stand out; however, AOC had valid reasons as to why she wore what she wore. 

To clap back at the critics who questioned if she had paid $35,000 to attend, AOC explained that NYC elected officials are invited. NYC elected officials get a free invitation because of their responsibilities of overseeing the city and serving the public, so no AOC did not pay $35,000 for a ticket. 

AOC also made it clear that the reason why she brought the message of “tax the rich” to the Met Gala was because when Congress talks about supporting the working families and having a fair tax code, those conversations happen among the working and middle-class people on the Senate floor. However, AOC believes that it is time to bring all classes into the conversation, including the wealthiest. 

Besides the message of “tax the rich ” emblazoned on the back of her dress, AOC decided to choose the color white for her gown to echo the history of many congresswomen wearing white in reference to the women’s suffrage movement. Additionally, the dress itself had a lot of significance because she worked with James, who is an activist and a “ sustainably Black woman immigrant designer who started her fashion career at a flea market in Brooklyn. 

AOC made it clear that she was going to break traditions by showing that taxing the rich and including minorities is the “American independence.” 

Representative Carolyn Maloney 

Another politician who decided to make a powerful statement at the Met Gala was Carolyn Maloney, another New York representative. Even though Representative Maloney did not receive backlash like AOC did, she still made a bold statement by wearing a floor-length gown that displayed the colors of the suffragette movement (purple, white, and gold). 

Aside from the colors, there were sashes embroidered with the words “equal rights for women,” and she accessorized it with a bag with the words “ERA YES” to show her endorsement of the Equal Right Amendment, which would add a line to the constitution that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. 

Just like AOC, representative Maloney claimed that “American independence” is equal rights for all women. 

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe, an American professional soccer player for the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT), also made a powerful statement at the Met Gala. Rapinoe wore a red silk pantsuit with a blue blouse with white stars. She was also holding a purse that had the words “In Gay We Trust” written over it. 

Rapinoe has always been outspoken when it comes to human rights and social justice; therefore, there is no surprise she wanted to use the Met Gala to make a point that “American independence” is when no one is discriminated against based on their sexuality, race, and gender. 

It seems as if the diversity of the stars invited to the Met Gala led to many different interpretations of “American independence.” I find it powerful that many politicians and stars decided to use fashion to express their views at a well-known event because it brings awareness to many issues. 

Katherine (she/her) is a second-year student at American and is majoring in Political Science. Katherine loves to write about current events, relationships, and politics. She is currently living in Washington DC.
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