Quannah Chasinghorse, 19, said she felt she didn’t belong at the 2021 American-themed Met Gala.
The model and climate activist was one of the only Indigenous faces at the annual event.
“No one knew me. No one cared to ask,” she said. “People are there for themselves and it shows.”
The 19-year-old climate activist and land protector, whose heritage is Han Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota, told Insider that her first experience of fashion’s biggest night was lonelier than she let on when she tweeted about it on September 14.
“It was just such a weird space to be in,” Chasinghorse said. “I remember standing there and looking at everyone and feeling so alone. Like, really, really lonely.
“No one knew me. No one cared to ask,” she added. “People are there for themselves and it shows.”
She said that the excitement she initially felt when she heard she was invited to go as a guest of Peter Dundas, the designer whose gown she wore on the night, wore off during the event as reality set in.
Chasinghorse said that there weren’t a lot of other Indigenous people at the event and that she believed the theme, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” meant something different to her than to the celebrities and influencers walking the famous steps of the Met.
“No way am I celebrating America,” Chasinghorse said. “If I were to celebrate anything it would be my Indigenous roots, my Indigeneity, who I am. Because of what America did to my people, I am proud to be here today.”
By attending, she wanted to make a statement on behalf of Indigenous peoples, who historians say have faced a history of violence and genocide. “My ancestors had to go through so much genocide after genocide after genocide,” she said.
As Dundas’ guest along with Megan Fox, Ciara, and Mary J. Blige, she had limited choices for what she could wear, she said. The statement she wanted to make wasn’t the shimmering gold gown that had been picked for her. It was her facial tattoos, the ones she says make her feel “beautiful,” and the turquoise jewelry one of her aunts had flown in from Arizona.
The jewelry, she said, made all the difference in moments when she questioned why she came.
“All that turquoise and silver and my tattoos brought me back,” she said, adding that for her people, jewelry and body art are seen as medicine and have healing powers.
Throughout the night, she said, she kept coming back to the mantra her mother taught her growing up: “Never forget who you are and where you come from.”
“All my ancestors were with me in that moment; they walked the red carpet with me,” Chasinghorse said. “That made me feel more powerful.”
Chasinghorse said she couldn’t rule out going back but knew that the event didn’t align with her moral values.
While the gala is a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, only the rich and famous in the good graces of Anna Wintour, its chairwoman and Vogue’s editor-in-chief, can go. In 2018, single tickets cost up to $30,000, and a table was about $275,000, according to The New York Times.
“I just don’t think I belong in spaces like that because I’m not an elitist,” Chasinghorse said. “My way of walking in this world, in the industry, is so different compared to everyone else because I feel like I’m constantly having to break barriers.”
Representatives for the Metropolitan Museum of Art did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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