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JLO and Bad Bunny to Host 2024 MET Gala: What this means for the Latino Community

This year the MET Gala will write an unprecedented chapter for Latino representation. For the first time, two artists of Puerto Rican origin, Bad Bunny and Jennifer Lopez, will take on the roles of hosts. This decision is not accidental. That these two names join the co-hosts of the MET Gala Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion along with Zendaya, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Wintour, is the result of a long and laborious journey. One where Latinos are creditors of that place, not with one, but with many battles won.

This milestone invites us to celebrate it, but also to revisit the past, raise awareness of the present and imagine the position of Hispanics towards the future as part of this great fashionable celebration. Certain reflections need to be put on the table, starting with defining exactly what it means that the MET Gala has selected Bad Bunny and Jennifer Lopez among its select list of hosts. Here we explain it.

Image Sourced: Getty Images

Let's start by deciphering what's behind this selection. The co-chairs of the MET Gala carry the flag of what a certain moment in culture represents. According to Callie Holtermann, journalist for The New York Times, “as random as it may seem, the selection of the co-chair is a delicate alchemy that seeks to convey the appeal of the event to all age groups and creative industries, especially fashion, cinema, music and social networks”.

In the exercise of understanding what the path of Latinos to the MET Gala has been like, it is necessary to recapitulate two key contexts. Let's start as we should, at the beginning, remembering what the initial purpose of its creation was. The first MET gala took place in 1948 under the vision of its founder, the renowned public relations specialist and visionary Eleanor Lambert. It was a midnight dinner that guests attended for the modest amount of fifty dollars to raise funds to benefit the Costume Institute.

Today it sounds implausible, but it was an event without a theme or dress code, only with people dressed in luxurious suits and gala dresses. It was organized by and for American and European high society, in locations such as Central Park, the Rainbow Room and the Waldorf Astoria. Although the dynamic underwent a radical change when the legendary former editor of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, became a special consultant from 1972 until her death in 1989. It was she who saw the opportunity to bring the MET Gala to life under themes and invite the most media, rebellious and important artists and celebrities of the moment. And if we talk about the presence of Latinos, at that time we can barely mention Bianca Jagger, the Nicaraguan actress and activist who already rubbed shoulders with the New York socialite in emblematic places in the city such as Studio 54.

Carolina Herrera en la MET Gala de 1979. Tony Palmieri

The second part of the context has to do with emphasizing how the documentation that articulates the history of fashion has also permeated the curation of the exhibitions and themes of the MET gala. A large number of archives, books, photographs, editorials and documentaries focus on reviewing fashion from London, Paris and New York, especially that of the 20th century. In breaking down the influence of designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Paul Poiret and characters such as Marie Antoinette, in addition to analyzing the bridge that the post-war period created between the society of the old continent and that of the United States. Hence, to date, the museum's exhibitions have taken us on a journey that has spanned from the era of Napoleon to the Belle Epoque, passing through the exploration of oriental culture, the influence of Jacqueline Kennedy and an exhaustive review of the work of French and American designers.

Carolina Herrera en la MET Gala de 2010. Larry Busacca

Eureka. The point of convergence of both contexts is found in its Eurocentric view. In this sense, what place has Latin American culture and its contribution to fashion occupied before the Costume Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of New York ? The first Latin Americans who stand out on the list of guests at the MET Gala over the years are the pioneers of Latin fashion in New York: Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta. Not only have both attended the MET Gala on more than one occasion, but in the 90s they were named co-hosts. They enjoy recognition. The Venezuelan designer revealed it between the lines with the dress she wore in 1979, an elegant design with prominent sleeves that reflected her personal style. In her subsequent appearances, she was followed by designs that draw a map of what Carolina Herrera means in the construction of Latin fashion and her relevance in her imagination before the foreign gaze.

The impact of the Dominican Oscar de la Renta has not been minimal either. Over the years, the record of his time at the MET Gala includes the muses with whom he has walked arm in arm. Names of high social status such as Oprah Winfrey, Daphne Guinness and Penélope Cruz. And if we talk about celebrities who have worn their designs at the MET, the list includes personalities such as Ashley Olsen, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift. Hence, to this day the legacy of Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta continues in force. More discreetly, Haider Ackermann, Narciso Rodríguez , Francisco Costa and Isabel Toledo are added to the list of the few Latin designers who have visited the MET Gala. They have paved the path of Latinidad within the system of the great fashion capitals, but if we see it side by side in perspective with the magnitude of Latin culture, there are still gaps to heal. However, this is the year in which the image of Latinos expands even more and occurs, naturally, along with the evolution of the global situation.

Salma Hayek en MET gala 1997.

In the timeline, cinema has influenced the exposure of Latinos at the MET Gala. The first time Salma Hayek attended was in 1997 dressed in Versace, the fashion house that supported her from the beginning, a year after the premiere of From Dusk till Dawn, the film written by Quentin Tarantino, where she starred in the dancer's scene. with the snake that became a cult. “ Salma has always been a reference for Latinas like me and at this moment she was THE Latina, because not so many Latinas were invited to the MET,” shares Karla Martínez de Salas, Head of Editorial Content at Vogue México y Latinoamérica. More than ten years later she was joined by Eva Longoria , who was captured by the MET cameras for the first time in 2008, at the time when her career was taking off with the success of Desperate Housewives. It was not until recent years that Mexican actress Eiza González joined the MET Gala as a representation of Latin women, thanks to the international reach she has achieved with her projects.

Jennifer Lopez en la MET Gala In America: A Lexicon of Fashion (2021) Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

And while it is true that Hollywood has been the showcase for these actresses, the truth is that music has been the great ally of Latino exposure, especially in recent decades. Thalia is the Mexican singer who can attest to this with the eight occasions on which she walked the red carpet on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Two of those occasions, wearing Latin designers, the Colombian Brian Sánchez and the Venezuelan Ángel Sánchez. Today the door has also opened for the Colombian singers J Balvin and Maluma, the artist with Mexican and Cuban roots, Camila Cabello, as well as the Brazilian singer, Anitta.

The journey of Latin music began to have more presence in the ears of the masses internationally, under the genre of pop, when at the end of the 90s the Puerto Rican Ricky Martin was selected with the official theme of the World Cup, France' 98. The lyrics were chanted in “Spanglish.” Although he has never been to the MET Gala. A case very similar to Shakira's. Two decades have passed since that phenomenon, and today the story reads differently. “ 2022 was a historic year for Latin music in the US, with revenue exceeding $1 billion for the first time, according to a new report from the Recording Industry Association of America,” Rolling Stone reported. In the same year, artists such as Bad Bunny and Karol G were recognized as global superstars by the same organization. It has taken a long road for Latinos to enjoy the right to representation. In 2017, “ Despacito becomes the most streamed song of all time , with 4.6 billion streams,” as reported by The Guardian, with Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee topping charts around the world including nine weeks in the United Kingdom. United, getting the Anglo-Saxons to pronounce the melody in Spanish, however they could.

Shakira y Jennifer Lopez en el show de medio tiempo en el Super Bowl 2020.Kevin Winter

The Super Bowl is another platform in the entertainment industry where Latinos have gained, little by little, a piece of the territory. Miami Sound Machine, the band formed by Emilio Estefan, where Gloria Estefan participated for a few years as a singer, had a moment of glory in the 1995 final. Then came the great moment of seeing Gloria Estefan sing at halftime , seven years later, alongside Stevie Wonder in 1999. However, it was not until Half Time in 2020 when we saw Shakira and Jennifer Lopez together, “the first time in the history of the Super Bowl sports championship that two Latinas headlined the event's halftime show.” most watched television program in the United States, with an audience last year of 98.2 million viewers,” as reported by the BBC. That time, Bad Bunny and J Balvin joined the stage representing Puerto Rico and Colombia. Latino Gang!

Bad Bunny en la MET Gala Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty (2023) Getty Images.

But not long ago the story was different, at the Grammys alone, the Hispanic community had to wait seventeen years from the creation of the awards in 1959 until the Latin music category was recognized in 1976, according to Billboard. Today, as the Latin diaspora and its various musical genres continue to expand in pop culture, Latinos increasingly occupy spaces that were previously reserved for English and American audiences. This year alone, almost twenty Latin artists took to the Coachella stages, including Peso Pluma with a performance prior to Lana del Rey on one of the main stages.

Many years have passed between one milestone and another for Latinos to achieve a presence in the big leagues. Since the 90s, Jennifer Lopez has not stopped growing her empire, expanding her talents as an actress and singer to the business field. The daughter of Puerto Rican parents has been nominated for the Golden Globes, has entered the top positions on Billboard and is credited with the creation of Google Images after searches skyrocketed when she wore Versace's legendary “jungle dress” in the 2000 Grammy Awards. J. Lo has climbed the iconic steps of the Metropolitan Museum in New York on more than ten occasions, the first dressed in Dolce & Gabbana in 2004, until seven years after the debut of Selena, the film with the one that won over the Latin public. This year will be the first time that she comes with the title of co-host.

Anitta en la MET Gala de 2023 con un vestido de Marc Jacobs. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

For his part, since the 2018 debut of his first album titled Since 2020, “he has become the first most listened to Spanish-speaking artist on Spotify worldwide , with more than 8.3 billion streams.” And he made his tour, The Last Tour of the World, the one that sold out the most tickets quickly, “with 480,000 tickets sold in less than a week,” something that had not happened “since the release of On the Run II Tour by Beyoncé and Jay-Z in 2018,” according to Billboard. Apple Music named him “the artist of the year” in 2022 and he was the first Latin artist to headline the Coachella festival in 2023. As of today, Bad Bunny has three Grammys and eleven Latin Grammy awards. And with good reason, his third time at the MET Gala will come with a notable participation.

Maluma en la MET Gala de 2021 con un traje de Versace. Getty Images

The path of Latinos at the MET Gala already touched beyond the entertainment industry when the Mexican activist, Xiye Bastida, attended in 2022 wearing a black Chloé suit and Otomí jewelry. An indicator that clearly tells us how far the influence of those who opened the doors in the past and those who continue to drive them, stronger than ever, in the present can reach. Today it's Jennifer Lopez and Bad Bunny's turn. However, hosting two Latinos is only the tip of the iceberg of what we have to offer at the most globally recognized fashion festival.

In utopia, Latin culture could continue to inspire and imbue its narratives on a platform like the MET Gala. In terms of fashion, as inspiration for a Costume Institute exhibition. Let's imagine what a recounting of the most emblematic outfits of muses such as Selena Quintanilla, Celia Cruz, María Félix, Frida Kahlo, Bianca Jagger, Dolores del Río, Gloria Guiness or Gloria Estefan would be like, to name a few. Another idea would be an in-depth exploration of fashion made in Latin America or even how it has served as inspiration for renowned designers throughout various eras and regions. Is worth dreaming.

The original article can be found on Vogue Mexico.

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