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Showbiz elite descend on Manhattan for Met Gala



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The entertainment world hits the red carpet Monday for the annual Met Gala, New York's party of the year that hosts a parade of superstars donning their most extravagant looks. Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth will join Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour to host the so-called Oscars of the East Coast, which is a mammoth fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.

The extravaganza's dress code this year is "The Garden of Time" -- which draws inspiration from the 1962 short story of the same name written by English writer J.G. Ballard, and is in essence about the ephemeral nature of beauty.

The theme parallels the exhibit "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion," which focuses on the most fragile pieces of the Costume Institute's vast collection.

The show, which will be on view to the public from May 10 through September 2, features clothing so delicate it cannot be displayed on mannequins. Celebrity interpretation of the dress code is anyone's guess, but vintage couture will likely reign.

Zendaya's look is among the most highly anticipated: the 27-year-old has become a red carpet icon during her most recent movie press tours, with cyborg fits for "Dune: Part Two" and courtside chic for the tennis-themed "Challengers."

She hasn't attended a Met Gala since 2019, so her return is sure to turn heads.

The Costume Institute relies on the blockbuster Met Gala to fund its work, including exhibitions and acquisitions. The gala was first held in 1948 and for decades was reserved for New York high society.

Wintour, the high priestess of fashion, took over the show in the 1990s, transforming the party into a catwalk for the rich and famous. This year, a ticket costs a cool $75,000, with tables starting at $350,000. The 2023 gala -- which celebrated the late Karl Lagerfeld -- raised nearly $22 million, a record sum.

Social media frenzy

The spectacle is social media catnip for celebrity watchers -- and once again, both the gala and the exhibit are co-sponsored by TikTok. The tech world will join luminaries of music, film, politics and sports on the carpet, with TikTok CEO Shou Chew, also an honorary co-chair, expected to attend.

But the 41-year-old's appearance comes as the future of TikTok in the United States teeters on thin ice, just after President Joe Biden signed a bill demanding that ByteDance -- the Chinese company behind the wildly popular video-sharing app -- sell it off or go dark stateside.

Preparation for this year's Met Gala also included turmoil within, as workers at Conde Nast -which publishes Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among other titles - threatened to walk off the job on the fete's eve as they bargained for a new contract.

Wintour was the public face of worker ire: in addition to heading Vogue, she is Conde Nast's global chief content officer, overseeing all publications worldwide.

Contract negotiations between the union and management dragged on for months, as the company meanwhile vowed to lay off scores of employees. It has already let some go, as it consolidates, sells or closes some of its publications.

Early Monday, the union announced a deal including a higher salary floor and just severance for those on the layoff list, saying its mobilization ahead of the gala had "moved the company." Stars will begin arriving at the event at about 5:30 pm (2130 GMT), and the style parade run until approximately 8:00 pm.

But stars with the most clout -- ahem, Rihanna -- live by their own clocks. More than once, the 36-year-old Barbadian mogul has arrived so late that other guests were already leaving, on their way to the just-as-buzzy afterparties.(AFP)

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