If the mission statement of “camp,” this year’s Met Gala theme, is go big or go home, then there was only one logical choice for the night’s performer: Cher. The undisputed, unrivaled queen of camp took the stage at 10:00 p.m. in the Temple of Dendur for a surprise set. But first, Lady Gaga had to quiet down the crowd. “Sit down and shut up!” Gaga commanded in a playful voice, her black Brandon Maxwell bracelet sparkling under the lights. “We have incredible performances tonight, and I ask you kindly to pay attention. Are you quiet? Are you focused? Are you ready?!”
Cue the cheers and applause. Seconds later, the dancers from Ryan Murphy’s evocative show Pose emerged in colorful costumes to kick off the show. When they exited stage left, Cher appeared in a black leather jacket, silk camisole, faded jeans, and giant platinum blonde wig—owning the ancient Egyptian stage from the moment she walked out on to it.
Based on Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp,” the theme of this year’s gala drew on both the silly and sublime (think a pinkalicious red carpet), a larger than life 25 foot tall feather and pink rose centerpiece greeting guests upon entry, along with tablescapes complete with feathered lampshades)—and no one knows how to serve up this particular brand of aesthetic exaggeration and outrageousness better than Cher. After all, back when she first emerged as a TV personality in the 1970s with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Cher, she was known for delivering elaborate, ornate, and unexpected looks week after week.
The next-level star started out with “Waterloo,” and then segued into “Strong Enough” and “Believe” before making a costume change. Re-emerging in a sequined sheer bodysuit and fee flowing wavy inky blue (!) hair, Cher belted out “Found Someone” and “Turn Back Time.” Dancers stationed throughout the crowd got the party started, and guests swayed to the music waving their arms in the air to the music.
After Cher took her final bow, Serena Williams arrived at the mic to introduce RuPaul who had taken his position in the greenery-covered DJ booth, ready to commandeer the music for the remainder of the evening. Disco ball projections appeared on the walls of the temple as Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” It doesn’t get any campier than that.
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