How new-school influencers shaped the legacy of the Met Gala

Getty Images
Getty Images

Today's social media influencer plays a unique role from people with influence in the past.

When the much-anticipated 2021 Met Gala guest list leaked, the internet had a lot to say. 

Some condemned Vogue and its notoriously selective editor-and-chief and gala chairwoman Anna Wintour for allowing TikTok stars and YouTubers to penetrate such a prestigious, glamorous and exclusive night.  

The Met Gala has become one of the year's most anticipated events, beckoning a diverse assortment of tastemakers and cultural leaders. The true magic of the ‘first Monday in May’ (or in this case, the second Monday in September) comes from bringing some of the biggest stars in entertainment, fashion, business, politics and sports under one roof. The actual Met Gala event has rarely been seen by outsiders; it has become such a cultural touchpoint because of the people walking up the carpeted steps of the museum. 

The event's strong footing in culture begs the question: why wouldn’t influencers be included?  

Influencers have the common power to reach and impact their audiences directly. While some may say they are “famous for being famous” or lack unique abilities, there is no denying their impact. The products they use, places they go and topics they talk about carry immense weight in the eyes of the people that actively follow them. 

While the power of “influence” is not new, today's social media influencer plays a unique role from people with influence in the past. It’s no surprise that Wintour didn’t dare miss out on inviting them to an event that doesn’t just represent glamour, but is designed to influence.  

Influencers shape culture

Historically, culture was shaped primarily by what was happening in real life. The digital world was a place for micro-communities and “subcultures” to flourish. But as social media has grown, many modern components of our culture have been sparked by the internet. 

Small ideas from digital groups can grow into global movements. Digital forum jargon has become everyday speech. Places people frequent are led by Instagram and camera culture.  

The internet pioneers cultural progression, and the influential within these spaces are leading the way, so much so that they’re changing the makeup of legacy events, from the Met Gala to Fashion Week, which just wrapped in NYC.  

Influencers are trusted

In many ways, influencers generate more impact because they aren’t celebrities. They are “relatable.” More than being a widely known name or face, they’ve built trust with audiences through continuous two-way communication. This trust demands attention much more than that of the traditional celebrity. 

Influencers impact action

The trust built between influencers and their audience is the reason why their recommendations lead to actions. While a traditional celebrity may have access to a massive audience, influencers have the impact.  

Influencers are more than just individuals. They are a direct source to hundreds of thousands of future brand advocates who are more likely to be driven to engage, watch or purchase after hearing your messages from an authentic, human point of view. Rather than forcing your message to an audience, aligning with an influencer can generate stronger and faster returns. 

With the influencer market continuing to grow and audiences increasingly looking up to them, we can expect influencers to continue to be invited to traditional spaces like the Met Gala. Brands looking to evolve with culture, reach niche audiences and use human-centric messaging should consider how to use this “influence,” just like the Met did this year to attract a new audience of Gen-Z gala fans.

Jay Choyce Tibbitts is a social strategist at Deutsch New York.


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