SB’s Top Ten Picks: Black Celebrity Met Gala Looks

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

By Sarah Beth Huntley

Normani posing in a bright yellow dress with her hair pulled back
Normani at Met Gala

The Met Gala has been recognized as the Oscars of fashion and, after a long wait due to the cancellation of the 2020 event, has come back in full force. This year’s theme was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” While the theme definitely had plenty to pull from, I found most of the fashion to be pretty, but not very inspired. However, a few celebrities (especially several of the Black celebrities) really worked with their designers to create clothing that not only looked great on the carpet but told the story of America as well. I will be ranking my top ten looks from Black celebrities (some being fully Black and others mixed race). Their rankings will be based on an averaged score of the beauty of the look + the inspiration behind it, with both scores being on a 1-10 scale. These rankings are all based on my personal opinions and style preferences.

Coming in at number 10 is Normani. She looked absolutely gorgeous in her mustard yellow Valentino gown, and truly showed glamor with her simplicity. I also loved her natural bun, which was also quite simple, but helped pull off the elegant look. However, not only was the look uninspired, but it was also made by a non-American designer, which isn’t problematic, but doesn’t lend to the theme whatsoever. I gave her look an 8/10 and her inspiration a 1/10, averaging her out at a 4.5.

Number 9 is Kiki Layne, who tied with Normani in score. She looked stunning in her custom Oscar de la Renta gown (my dream!) and I loved the detail to her hair. While I loved the dress, the look was, once again, uninspired. However, she did go with an American designer, so I gave her a 2/10 for inspiration and a 7/10 for her look, averaging her out at a 4.5.

At number 8 I have Cynthia Erivo. I absolutely adored the two piece, strapless and backless white gown by Jeremy Scott. The look, similar to Normani’s, combined simplicity and elegance in the best of ways, with the white color of the gown truly making the look work. However, the look was, once again, uninspired, with me still giving her points in that arena for using an American designer. I gave her an 8/10 for the look and a 3/10 for inspiration, averaging her out at a 5.5.

Below are Normani, Kiki Layne, and Cynthia Erivo in respective order.

Number 7 is Ariana DeBose, who has our first inspired look. I want to start with her hair, which I absolutely adored and added to the look in the best possible way. I also loved her Michael Kors gown, which was inspired by the slip dresses of the 90s. I loved how they took such a simple idea and made it much more chic. I also don’t normally love dresses that are (lengthwise) in between a cocktail and a floor-length gown, but I loved this look. I gave the look a 7/10 and the inspiration a 4/10, averaging her out at a 5.5 and technically tying her with Cynthia Erivo.

Lupita Nyong’o is our number 6. She absolutely stunned in her denim paneled Versace gown. Honestly, upon first looking at this fit I didn’t love it, but it has truly grown on me (possibly because of my love for Lupita). The look was inspired by Brooklyn artist Lorna Simpson and her love for textured fabrics, and I thought it was a great tribute. I gave the look a 7/10 and the inspiration a 6/10, averaging her out at a 6.5.

Bringing us to our top 5, at number 5, is Keke Palmer. One of my favorite celebrities of all time, I loved seeing her not only shine at the Met Gala but host it as well. She looked absolutely gorgeous in her Sergio Hudson gown combined with her natural hair look. I loved how she went for a look that was both classic and elegant, as her sparkly gown was inspired by music legend Diana Ross (and approved by her daughter, actress Tracee Ellis Ross). I gave her look a 7/10 and her inspiration a 7/10, giving her a perfect 7.

Number 4 is Paloma Elsesser. This is a look I truly wish got more traction, as she looked absolutely stunning and showed off her curves while doing it. I absolutely love her red cinched Zac Posen gown and the inspiration behind the fit made the look even better. The dress is reminiscent of old Hollywood gowns, down to the corset, cinched waist figure and Paloma combined the old with the new as she (a curvy woman of color) represents the newer, more diverse look of women in Hollywood. I gave the fit an 8/10 and the inspiration a 7/10, averaging her out at a 7.5.

Below are Ariana DeBose, Lupita Nyong’o, Keke Palmer, and Paloma Elsesser, respectively.

In the top 3 at number 3 is Yara Shahidi. She absolutely killed this look, and look-wise, it is one of my absolute favorites out of them all. Her Christian Dior gown, gloves and veil looked amazing on her and I also loved the detail to her hair as well, with the diamond headband and soft curls. Her look was inspired by entertainer Josephine Baker, as she wanted to honor a Black legend with her look. I gave her a 9/10 for the look and a 7/10 for the inspiration, averaging her out at an 8.

Yara can be seen posing in her silver Christian Dior gown that touches the floor, matching gloves, curled hair and golden veil and cape,
Yara Shahidi at the 2021 Met Gala

Number 2 is Iman. She looked like an absolute goddess, and her look was definitely a top 2 overall for me as well. Her golden gown and halo came from a collaboration between Dolce and Gabbana x Harris Reed. The look was meant to make Iman into a ray of light to get rid of all the darkness of the past year. While I felt Iman on this list had the best look, the inspiration itself felt a little lackluster, which is why she fell to two. I gave her a 10/10 for the look and a 7/10 for the inspiration, averaging her out at an 8.5.

Iman wears a golden feathery dress and headpiece.
Iman at 2021 Met Gala

Before I reveal my number one, I’d like to provide a list of honorable mentions:

-Chloe and Halle Bailey

-Regina King

-Venus Williams

-Jackie Aina

-Janet Mock

Drumroll, please…

My number one look hands down goes to Jeremy Pope. Not only did he stun in his Dion Lee fit and Tabi ankle boots, but the message behind the look is what easily earned him this spot. His outfit was in tribute to slaves who built America, with the outfit’s lowered shoulders and cotton material representing the uniform of the American slave, as well as the pain. Many of the outfit’s pieces were also made of cotton as a reference to one of the most common forms of slave labor. Jeremy Pope truly worked to not only show a look of pure elegance, but also to represent America and to remind us of why we’re all here, as well as to honor his ancestors. All I have to say is “Bravo.” For his look, I gave the outfit a 9/10 and the inspiration a 10/10, averaging him out at a 9.5.

Jeremy posing with his cotton cape against the floor, matching his all white outfit.
Jeremy Pope at 2021 Met Gala

I hope you guys enjoyed my list! As previously stated, these are all my personal opinions and fashion preferences. I know I left a lot of fan favorites off the list, however, I still feel that these celebrities truly hit the mark while also working to represent America for what it is through their outfits. It was also truly outstanding to have so many celebrities to choose from, as so many Black celebrities represented Black America in such an overly white space.

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