The Met Gala 2024 Controversy

Por Melina del Castillo Image of the influencer Hayley Kalil on the carpet of Met Gala 2024

The Met Gala, formally known as the Costume Institute Benefit, is an annual high-profile fundraiser organized by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Despite being considered one of the most prestigious and exclusive events in the fashion world, the 2024 edition sparked intense debate about the influencer economy (income generation through online content) and its implications, which had a massive impact on social media.

This year’s theme, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” provoked significant controversy in the digital landscape. The glaring economic disparities within the influencer economy became evident as the gala showcased outfits inspired by the “Garden of Time” with luxurious and historically significant dresses, and the phrase “Let them eat cake” sparked online outrage due to a TikTok video by influencer Haleyybaylee.

Kalil (her real last name), with over 9 million followers on the platform, used the phrase, mistakenly attributed to Marie Antoinette, in a controversial audio clip. By doing so, Kalil failed to grasp the context, creating a significant disconnect with those who have no access to the event. The phrase originated from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiographical writings “Confessions” (1765-1767), where he mentions a “great princess” who said, “Let them eat cake” upon being told that the peasants had no bread. The video (deleted at the time of writing) garnered over 20 million views, becoming one of the week’s most searched topics.

Beyond Kalil’s video, other controversial moments reinforced the perception of a disconnect from reality. Kim Kardashian wore a dress so tight it hindered her breathing, requiring assistance to climb stairs, while others struggled with their restrictive outfits.

Influencers and celebrities, often sponsored by major brands like Givenchy, Balenciaga, and Versace, flocked to the event in large numbers. This led many on TikTok to draw parallels with the dystopian “Hunger Games” story, where the Capitol indulges in extravagant fashion and feasts while the impoverished districts struggle to survive, raising questions about the ethical responsibilities of the attendees.

As modern arbiters of taste and culture, influencers wield considerable authority over public perception and consumer behavior, whether they desire it or not. The Met Gala controversy underscores their responsibility to transcend mere consumerism and the promotion of privileges disconnected from social realities. With their vast followings, influencers inherently have a responsibility to society. They should become catalysts for critical thinking and positive social change, representing diverse sectors responsibly and using their platforms to educate rather than misinform or glorify possessions as status symbols.

To truly reorient the influencer economy toward a more conscious, inclusive, and representative paradigm, there must be a fundamental shift in how success is measured in these spaces. Instead of valuing only follower counts or luxury displays on the red carpet, our focus as an audience should shift toward responsible messaging, community impact, and tangible commitment to real-world issues.

Influencers could lead by example, using their platforms to highlight issues such as economic inequality, sustainability, social justice, and equitable representation. For this to happen, society as a whole needs to start valuing these things and ask: who are we following and why?

In summary, the 2024 Met Gala controversy highlighted the need to rethink the influencer economy and its societal impact, leading many to block celebrities on social media. As the entertainment and fame industry continues to evolve with technology, both content creators and their audiences must take a more active role in promoting and consuming more responsible narratives. Knowing that the influencer economy is based on our attention, we should choose to give it to causes that can positively change our reality. By fostering a deeper awareness of diverse realities and using digital platforms as a force for the common good, we have the potential to be part of significant change and avoid repeating these “Hunger Games.”

Melina del Castillo

Profesional de comunicación y marketing especializada en la creación de contenido digital.