9 Met Gala Mysteries We're Still Not Over

From who was too busy with his phone to politely chat with an Olsen twin to what was said between Solange and Jay-Z in the elevator, we've got lingering questions ahead of the 2021 Met Gala.

By Natalie Finn Sep 12, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: 2021 Met Gala: By the Numbers

For more than two decades, the red carpet at the Met Gala has deftly surpassed just about every other glamorous event when it comes to celebrity-spotting, fashion-ogling and intense, committed decoding of what's going on with the A-list attendees as they pose for the bank of photographers snapping away and ascend the humbling stairs outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

But that's outside.

Once everyone is inside the annual benefit for the Met's Costume Institute, one of the most hard-to-get invitations around, posting pics and video on social media is a no-no. Even at the still-very-private after-parties, it's up to the phone-wielding guests to decide how much they want to share their evening with the masses. If you're Kylie Jenner, you're there and you want your 265 million Instagram followers to know it. If you're Beyoncé...

Well, you may have your reasons to play the festivities close to the hand-beaded gown.

The Best Met Gala Looks Ever

Cloaked in such exclusivity, the Met Gala has inevitably birthed its share of mysteries over the years, leaving those charged with maintaining utmost discretion—from Vogue editor in chief and Met Gala co-chair Anna Wintour to the security guards who ensure safe passage from limo to main event to after-party to home, with maybe a few extra stops along the way—as the true keepers of the secrets.

Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for People.com

The rules have been slightly loosened over the years to allow for the millennials in attendance who must snap selfies lest they turn into pumpkins at midnight, privacy is still the name of the $30,000-a-ticket game. But oh, to be a couture-wearing fly on the wall... 

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This year's theme is "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion," meaning attendees have a license—if not an outright command, or at the very least a sartorial duty—to make a major statement without saying a word. As always, there will be plenty to unpack right there in the ensembles, but inevitably something will boil up from beneath the carefully curated surface to remind us that even the Met Gala isn't immune to the drama of real life lurking right outside those hallowed walls.

Something will happen that startles, puzzles or intrigues, and we'll want to know more. Whether or not answers are forthcoming always depends on what it was that happened, who's involved and who it affects. Sometimes a celeb will be quick to explain, or it might take awhile—such as until the revelatory visual album is complete—to find out just how serious a matter it was. 

So before there's even more Met Gala lore to pore over after Monday night, here are the existing mysteries we're having a hard time getting over:

Did Kylie Jenner Single-Handedly Put an End to the No-Selfie Rule?

Fashion is all about trends, so theoretically, what better place to start one? Since ignoring the selfie ban in 2017 by snapping a co-ed group pic in the Met's bathroom, Kylie Jenner has never looked back. Now, Kylie snapping selfies has become fodder for exclusive Vogue-sanctioned photographs taken inside the event, and more celebs have followed suit (starting in the bathroom during the same group shot in 2017).

Though the social media restrictions were originally put in place, as we were told, "solely to do with guests' security and enjoyment of the event," Anna Wintour understands that the cool kids all come with phones these days. Just so long as they can put them down long enough to enjoy a little friendly dinner conversation.

Table Manners

Who was the ill-mannered fellow sitting across from Ashley Olsen and between a couple of businessmen in 2015? Did he even show after being told to give his phone a rest?

"I thought he wasn't coming," Wintour is seen saying in the 2016 documentary The First Monday in May, pointing to a sticky note with a blurred-out name, representing a fellow who was assigned to a table that included the Olsen twins, then-couple Olivia Munn and Aaron Rodgers (who on his card is also identified as "Olivia Munn's BF"), Gilles Mendel, Gucci Westman, Roland Mouret, Elizabeth Shaffer (wife of Wintour's son, Charlie Shaffer) and Allison Williams

"I know, but then he decided he wanted to come," an assistant says.

"OK," Wintour sighed, "can he not be on his cell phone the entire time then? Maybe send him that message?"

"Loud and clear."

(Also, does Tom Brady's card additionally identify him as "Gisele Bündchen's Husband?")

A Decent Proposal

Where and when did Donald Trump propose to Melania ahead of the 2004 Met Gala, exactly? Some reports have since generalized that he did it during the ball, but she was wearing the 15-carat Graff diamond ring that he would brag about getting at a discount (though the chairman of Graff later said they didn't do discounts for publicity) by the time they got to the red carpet. Besides, it can't have been during—wouldn't more people have noticed if the couple had been having a yuuuuge moment, right there?

"It was a great surprise. We are very happy together," the discreet future first lady told the New York Post.

Larry King asked the couple on his CNN show, after they got married, how the proposal occurred, but the host of The Apprentice only said, "Well, we were together five years. We literally have never had an argument; forget about the word 'fight.' We never even had an argument. We just are very compatible. We get along. And I just said, 'You know what? It's time. It wasn't a big deal. It was almost like..."

"That's the way you do it, 'You know what, it's time'?" King inquired.

"I did it a little better than that," Trump said, "without going into too much detail. But it was time. We just have a very good relationship."

She featured Melania on the cover in her wedding dress in 2005, but Vogue editor-in-chief and Met Gala chairwoman Anna Wintour made it clear in 2017 that then-President Trump was henceforth disinvited from the party.

Going Down?

Even when they feel interminable, an elevator ride lasts only so long. How does a family come apart between floors?

Better yet, how does that family piece itself back together, stronger than ever, after an exchange—captured after a 2014 Met Gala after-party in black-and-white silence by a security camera and leaked to TMZ by a soon-to-be-fired Standard Hotel employee—shatters an image and sends the world on a hunt for the reason Solange Knowles railed at Jay-Z, stopping only when a bodyguard stepped in while Beyoncé stood by, unmoved to intervene?

Lemonade and 4:44 are all about coming back from the seemingly inescapable marital abyss, but what was said in that elevator?

How This Love Story Began

Did Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift's dance at the 2016 Met Gala lead immediately to the most fascinating celebrity summer romance of the year?

"I was on a table with Taylor Swift and The Weeknd was playing and she said, 'The thing about these parties is nobody gets up to dance' and you're making music," Hiddleston modestly explained the moment in an interview the next day. "She, as a musician, was like, 'We've got to dance for The Weeknd' so we got up and danced." He added, "I didn't know it was going to ping round the world, but it's all good."

What we know is, Swift and Calvin Harris were broken up by the end of the month and, two weeks after that, photos surfaced of the pair soon to be known as Hiddleswift kissing outside her estate in Rhode Island.

Now that she's happily squared away with Joe Alwyn, this all feels like so much ancient folklore—but you don't just forget an A-plus dance-off like that one.

Sorry, Wrong Number

Who actually calls Anna Wintour after the fact to quibble about where they sat, disregarding the fact that being anywhere in that room means they've arrived? (Kidding, way too many people who arrive have no qualms about complaining about the destination once they're there.)

As an unnamed socialite who'd attended in the past put it to Page Six in 2017, "There are no bad seats in that room. It's the Oscars of New York. When you turn around and you see Kanye at one side and Taylor Swift and every celebrity you've ever heard of every time you turn your head, it's hard to be disappointed."

Still, the night after the 2018 Met Gala, Wintour acknowledged to Stephen Colbert (who had attended) on The Late Show that she had "barely" slept. "It's been a lot of recovery time and wondering who's upset about where they sat and what went wrong, what went right."

Wintour, who oversees the guest list and drawing-up of the seating chart herself, said there were "in-depth discussions" on the topic.

As seen in The First Monday in May, the organizers' concerns can include anything from whether or not two people already sat together last year to "Josh Hartnett? What has he done lately?" 

Ex Marks the Spot

Seemingly every year, celebrities who used to date, even if they don't literally pass each other on the red carpet, share rarefied air inside the ballroom. And just as Sean "Diddy" Combs noted that then-girlfriend Cassie "had some questions" after he chatted with Jennifer Lopez at the 2015 American Music Awards, we too wondered what really transpired between Diddy and Cassie and Lopez and Alex Rodriguez at the 2018 Met Gala? Or, for that matter, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, or the ex and current Mrs. Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Scarlet Johansson?

And now relegated to the ex-files, will J.Lo and A-Rod encounter each other again in the future at one of these things?!

Did Ocean's 8 Get Away With It?

Just how close to an actual Met Gala did the "Met Gala" setting for the central heist in the 2018 film get? Aside from the fact that Rihanna was there?

Well, you might have guessed that Wintour wouldn't have made a cameo in a film that was getting her party all wrong. A team from Vogue, including director of special events Edie Kierna (also in the movie), consulted on the details and the climactic sequence was shot at the actual museum, where they effectively recreated what a real Met Gala red carpet looks like and packed the faux event with Vogue-approved celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Gigi Hadid and Serena Williams.

"The ball, that's Anna Wintour's creation. And this was done from the very beginning with the collaboration, advice and the assistance of Vogue," Ocean's 8 director Gary Ross told Vulture. "Anna wanted to make sure the aesthetics were up to her standards. I presented her with the design. She was impressed with and moved by that. And she went, 'OK, this is up to what we do.'"

It took 10 days to shoot the Met scenes, which the Metropolitan Museum of Art allowed between the hours of 4 p.m. and 3 a.m.

"We took the executive dining room and converted it into a kind of club where people could hang out. A bunch of interesting people up there," Ross revealed about how they handled all the celebs idling on set between takes. "When they were not on camera, they were at a fun party meeting people. And we had a bunch of Cartier jewels that they could wear if they wanted to and accessorize with, like, millions of dollars' worth of jewelry."

Does Tom Brady Like Going to the Met Gala?

The NFL star seems to love it, in fact, having gone nine times so far with Gisele since they've been together, and they both served as co-chairs in 2017.

"I've never in my life told him to wear anything," the supermodel told the Wall Street Journal in 2018. "You should see our closets...It's so funny. I would say that he likes fashion more than I like fashion. I would say he's changed his haircut in one year more than I've changed in my whole life."

Sure enough, Brady told Bloomberg in 2016 that his wife was "very helpful for a lot of things, but she kinda lets me do my own thing" when it came to picking out clothes. He was happy to give her advice when she asked, though.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner's favorite designers? "I like Tom Ford a lot because it's so classic and has great quality. I wear a lot of Rag & Bone."

Brady has worn Tom Ford at least three times to the Met Gala, in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

And visit E! Online's 2023 Met Gala page for every photo and must-see moment from fashion's biggest night.

(Originally published May 5, 2019, at 5 a.m. PT)