By Alexey Kim
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most-anticipated fashion events of the year, the Met Gala helmed by Anna Wintour, that usually takes place on the first Monday in May, has been officially cancelled. Leave it up to the NYC drag queens to take matters into their own hands and keep the fantasy alive.
CT Hedden, one of New York City’s prominent drag nightlife personas, came up with an idea to throw his own version of the Gala, inspired by social distancing.
“I feel like as an entertainer, it’s our job to entertain even in tough times,” says CT on the idea of throwing an apocalyptic homage to the actual Gala, “people look to us to lift their spirits. I’ve been doing live shows and I had this woman talk about how she was going to have elective surgery for cancer, and she’s been watching my shows and laughing about it. It’s about expressing art and just making people smile.”
During the five-hour shoot on the steps of The Met, countless numbers of people stopped by to say hello to the queens dressed in their best “QuarantQueen” looks and thank them for brightening up their day.
Since the end of April, at least 21 US states started partially reopening, just a month and a half after the nation’s implementation of stay-at-home orders. Meanwhile, New York remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, with the quarantine still going strong. Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently expressed that it was a possibility for New York City to start partially reopening in the first half of June.
After the government’s orders to shut down all non-essential businesses back in the middle of March, a lot of freelance workers found themselves stuck at home with nothing but time. All over social media people are talking about ways to stay sane during the quarantine, and one thing everyone swears by is “staying creative.” Many artists have dug deeper into exploring their passions and have found ways to acclimate to the new reality quickly. “It’s just adapting—that’s what we do as human beings, and if anyone knows how to adapt, it’s drag queens. We are constantly adapting, we don’t fit in a social norm—I don’t care how big a television show gets. We are still ridiculed, we are still a minority, but it never stops us. That’s the thing—we are resilient people,” says CT.
In 2019, the first people to attend the Met Gala in drag were Violet Chachki and Aquaria, both winners of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Just a few years ago it would have been an unimaginable feat for any drag queen (possibly besides RuPaul himself) to be invited to the world’s most elite fashion event like the Met Gala. Instead of waiting for his turn to be invited, CT decided to involve some of New York’s most notable trans and drag personalities to create their own version of the event.
“I think we are really creating a moment this morning and that’s really what it’s about,” says CT on his way to the steps of the Metropolitan Museum. “It’s so important,” he goes on, “when you see a garment on someone, it touches you. Fashion is an emotion, whether it’s good or bad. And this is about having that inner happiness. You gotta know that life is still happening.”
Alexey Kim is a New York City-based independent queer artist, writer, journalist, and photographer. He is the founder of and main contributor to the LGBTQ+ vertical www.sidewalkkilla.com. Alexey was born in Kazakhstan, formerly part of the USSR, eventually moving to the US in his teens.