It's time for change at the Met Gala

We don’t belong. We are not worthy. That’s the message of the inaccessibility of the Met Gala telegraphs. 

Dear Anna,

For over a decade now, I’ve found myself looking forward to the first Monday in May. This dazzling spectacle of fashion, art and theatre is known to the world as the Met Gala. The performance of it all. The glamour. What Blake Lively will be wearing. And yet, at the same time I’ve also always felt a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Why, you ask?

Simple, Anna. The stairs. As a visibly physically disabled woman (I navigate the world in a wheelchair) there is perhaps no greater signal that people like me are not really all that welcome in the worlds of fashion, culture and the currency of how an invite into the upper echelons of power, fame, wealth and influence are won, than those goddamn stairs. We don’t belong. We are not worthy. That’s the message of the inaccessibility of the Met Gala telegraphs. 

I’ve been to the Met Museum, seen the entrance on a cold winter’s day in New York and had to enter through the back. The most accessible way. Sure, that meant I got to see some of the building’s secrets invisible to the everyday eye, but there’s something about always having to use the tradesman’s entrance that starts to wear on a person. It left me wondering - if a disabled person was ever deemed high-profile enough by you and the powers that be, to attend the Met Gala, would they have to enter through the back as well? Robbed of the red carpet that sits as the beating heart of an event, built entirely on the value of seeing and being seen?

I don’t know if you have ever not felt seen by the world, Anna. Perhaps in the beginning of your career or in your girlhood but as one of the most recognisable and powerful figures in pop culture, I doubt it’s anything you would’ve felt for decades now. But me? I have spent my entire life fighting to be seen. Fighting for the representation and visibility our community has always deserved. People like me are silenced. Invisible. Instutionalised. Erased. But you see that’s not going to fly anymore in 2024. Not with me.

Now, I know what some people might be thinking. There’s no one that’s disabled who merits an invitation. Designers would struggle to create something that looked and felt like it belonged in the high calibre of outfits for someone in a wheelchair. A dress can’t exactly have a flowing train if it risks being caught in the wheels. You’d have to change the entire layout of the event and signal to the world your belief and Vogue’s as a brand, that disabled people deserve a seat at one of the most lavish tables in the world.

This is where I remind you that Edward Enniful made that statement with groundbreaking covers of British Vogue early last year. Sinead Burke is also a tour de force and a legend of the disabled community. Her advocacy has smashed open so many doors across entertainment, fashion and representation including with her historic appearance at the Met Gala. As the first physically disabled person to grace the red carpet, she sent a powerful message that our community belongs wherever power is. With that being said, there’s still a huge gap between where we are and where we need to be across accessibility, inclusion and representation

In an op-ed, Sinead noted: "Tonight marks the first time that a little person has attended the Met Gala. It is surreal, inspiring and humbling to be gracing the infamous red carpet. I am so grateful to Gucci, Vogue and Anna Wintour for their empathy and openness in thinking broadly about my accessibility needs. Prior to tonight, I practised the stairs, and did an accessibility audit of the seating, bathrooms, elevators and corridors to figure out where and how we could ensure that I am as independent as possible on this very glamorous night. (Speaking of glamorous – my footstools have been decorated to seamlessly blend with the Met Gala furniture.)" So let's keep this momentum going, Anna?

You’ve taken a lot of risks in your career, Anna and I know that because without them you wouldn’t be where you are. You’ve taken risks on countless men and women, your green light the one they need to become titans with epic careers. So, although this may be bold, I’m asking you to take a risk on me, a writer, actor, advocate and fellow Editor In Chief. On Daphne Frias, a force of nature whose determination and persistence knows no bounds. Of the millions of disabled people around the world who, contrary to popular belief, would very much like to be included in conversations around fashion, beauty, entertainment and culture. 

With our inclusion, not only would you be transforming ALL of those industries forever, but you’d transform how the world looked for anyone who opened Instagram or used the Internet on the first Monday in May.

The only question is … are you brave enough to do it? I hope so too.

Love, Hannah x