Put y’all's seatbelts on, because Addison Rae is allegedly attending the Met Gala.
When rumors about the 2021 Met Gala’s guest list began swirling around, all hell broke loose on Stan Twitter. One fabricated seating chart, which showed Addison Rae seated adjacent to Donatella Versace, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga, brought up several pressing questions on Twitter: why was Addison Rae, a nouveau rich professional lip-syncer, seated amongst these living legends? Would she make a TikTok in the iconic Met bathroom? Would Lady Gaga mistake Rae for a waitress, just like that time she mistook Ed Sheeran for one at the 2015 Grammys?
The Twitter backlash to the rumored seating chart is representative of a larger truth about influencers, influencer culture and our ever changing definition of celebrity. In an era where TikTok sweetheart Charli D’amelio is paid one million dollars to star in a hummus ad, TikTok influencers dominate our news headlines, explore pages and Superbowl ads. And yet, they are consistently the butt of the joke.
How did Addison Rae simultaneously become the Internet’s most loved and most hated celebrity? Are we uncomfortable with new ideas of what it means to be rich and famous? Ultimately, are we subconsciously gatekeeping the cultural elite when we question the legitimacy of Addison Rae’s Met Gala invitation?
When the news broke in 2007 that E! was producing a reality show about the family antics of Kim Kardashian, then known for her leaked sex tape scandal, the general consensus was that the family didn’t deserve the opportunities that were handed to them. That narrative persisted as Keeping Up with the Kardashians expanded into spinoffs and the family continued to grow their empire. “Kim needs to know she got her start like her mom spreading her legs,” wrote one blogger in 2011. “That is all she has going for her. She needs to grow up, she is not a celeb.” Kim Kardashian was never taken seriously by the fashion industry, either: in 2012, Jonathan Wallace wrote in NY Mag that “The boundaryless ambit of the Kardashians is the precise obverse of the fashion world, with its exclusionary fences and rigid caste distinctions.”
A decade later, the Kardashians have come to embody our very definition of celebrity, their every outfit influencing the hottest IG fashion trends. The Kardashians may have started off with a sex tape leak, but their gradual assimilation into the A-list said more about us — media consumers that feed off of gossip — than them. Love or hate them, the Kardashians paved the path towards a new reality, a reality in which people with no apparent talent could monetize every aspect of their brand.
In the same way, TikTokers like Addison Rae are facing similar questions of meritocracy online: she is famous simply “because she's perceived as another party girl bimbo, who's associated with a smutty social media site like Tik Tok,” writes a Quora commenter. Is Rae just “another party girl bimbo,” or are we just quick to hate on her because she challenges our preconceptions about making it in Hollywood? Do we simply hate influencers because they upend the myth of meritocracy?
When Netflix’s “He’s All That” trailer featuring Rae was first announced, viewers aired out their frustration at Rae, asserting that a more deserving actress should have gotten her role. But in an age where follower count reflects cultural capital, Netflix’s casting decision could not have made more sense: after all, the more we hate on it, the more publicity the movie receives. As TikTok influencers secure their cultural foothold on society, I have no choice but to acknowledge and respect the profound impact that these mediocre dancers have on us, our beauty standards, our buying habits, and our every decision.
This year, The Chronicle will not be producing a weekly print paper. As our lives become increasingly intertwined with our screens, we should come to embrace the new— whether that means a new idea of what it means to be a celebrity, or new formats of content consumption. Addison Rae might not win an Oscar for her role in “He’s All That,” but at the end of the day, she is the one getting a fat paycheck — can’t relate.
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