Drag Race queen Symone on her Lil' Kim-inspired Met Gala look and hilarious run-in with Rihanna
Five months into her RuPaul's Drag Race reign, Symone is running with the big wigs. No, literally, as the season 13 champion became the franchise's first reigning royal to attend the annual Met Gala, wearing a larger-than-life tribute to Lil' Kim sitting atop her head as she worked the carpet.
"I wanted to feel glamorous, gorgeous, stunning, but I wanted to be me! I didn't want to feel like I was just wearing a dress, and [I needed] elements of my culture in there," she tells EW of working with Jeremy Scott to conceive a dress that fused her love of drag with a vision of herself as a Moschino Barbie. "He put my brand and my aesthetic through his lens. For the hair, I wanted elements of Freaknik in it. The inspiration was definitely the Moschino Barbie and Lil' Kim [for the hair]!"
"[Tom Daley] ushered me over [to Goldberg's table] and I said, 'I'm so sorry to do this, but I just wanted to say how much I love you, and I watch you every day on The View,'" Symone recalls. "She said, 'Thank you! I'd get up, but I can't because of this dress, but thank you, you look great!' That got me, that was my moment."
Below, Symone breaks down the many, many, many other moments that went into bringing her Met Gala dreams to life, including how she and Scott devised her 20-pound, metal-mesh dress, working with fellow Drag Race alum Gigi Goode on her hair, and her hilarious run-in with Rihanna.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Miss Symone, are you trying to give us all a heart attack this week?
SYMONE: Not trying, but if I did, I'm sorry!
You don't have to apologize, I'd love to go out that way, because I'm so happy for you, what a week, the VMAs, the Met Gala, the Kacey Musgraves film. How are you feeling, all the way up there at the top of the world?
It feels pretty good. It's crazy, all this stuff happened at one time! It's an amazing feeling, it's a great high.
How did your grand appearance come together?
Jeremy Scott called me over to his studio. I just thought it was a regular old day like we were going over to pull something! He sat me down and said, "I want to ask you something. So, there's this event happening in September, and I was wondering if you'd like to go? Would you like to go to the Met Gala with me?" and I screamed! [Laughs]. Like, yes, absolutely! I was on the verge of tears so I had to keep it together… I think it was in May, so it's been a while. I had to keep it under wraps for a long time.
Was this the look you had in mind from day one or did you cycle through different options?
We had a consultation with Jeremy about it, about how I wanted to feel and what I wanted it to look like. He did a sketch and sent it over, and it was the one from day one. No complaints, no critiques! That was the vision, going back and forth.
What were your notes to him in those initial conversations about how you wanted to feel?
I wanted to feel glamorous, gorgeous, stunning, but I wanted to be me! I didn't want to feel like I was just wearing a dress and elements of my culture in there. He put my brand and my aesthetic through his lens. For the hair, I wanted elements of Freaknik in it. The inspiration was definitely the Moschino Barbie and Lil' Kim!
How long did it take to get ready?
The Met is an all-day affair! I got out of bed at nine that day, went and got myself a pedicure, had a little spa moment, came back, and took a good three or four hours on my makeup because I wanted to look stunning! It took everyone around me to get together the dress, the hair, the nails that my friend Juan did, the shoes, everything. It was an all-day process. The dress was 20 pounds because it was metal mesh, all individual chains! It was a feat to put on and carry, but I'm the Ebony Enchantress, so I had to do it. Big, heavy dress for a stunning moment.
The theme was American fashion, and you brought a unique perspective that showcased Black excellence on the runway on Drag Race. What is American fashion, and how do you think this look either fit in or bucked what American fashion means?
I think American fashion is broad. It's made of so many different people. It's individual but diverse. Jeremy is an American designer and did what he wanted. When he said that, it came together for everyone. We came from the perspective of wanting to be glamorous, stunning, Barbie, but me. That's what American fashion is in how people dress themselves. There are so many different cultures and ways to express yourself in this country, so I wanted to give who I am and what I love about fashion on the red carpet.
Are there any Easter eggs about the look that people haven't picked up on yet?
That it weighed 20 pounds, and it took about three people to get me into that dress! [Laughs] I don't think people realize how heavy that dress is! The corset inside it that gave me more of a shape had to be put in there to shape but also help distribute the weight, otherwise, it would've all been hanging on my neck! It was a stunningly heavy dress.
I think I also saw a photo of Gigi Goode in the room with you. Did you have a moment with her, after you were all dolled up and glam? Did she say anything meaningful to you?
She was able to execute the vision for the hair, and she said it was a moment that I should look fun and go turn it. She brought the vision for the hair to life, as she always does!
Did you remember lashes this time? Because you spilled that tea on how you accidentally didn't wear lashes to the season 13 finale.
[Laughs] Yes, I did! And I put mascara on this time, too. I was extra prepared, thank you, sis!
What's the best reaction or message you've received from friends or family today?
Anyone and everyone who saw me at the Met! It was a room full of celebrities and heavy hitters of the world, everyone looking at me like, "You look stunning!" People gasping or knowing who I was, period, that was a beautiful moment. What really got me was my mom. She texted me today and said how proud she was and how amazing she looked, she just can't believe what's happening and how far I've come. She's very proud of me. That's what gets me the most.
What was the wildest celebrity interaction you had inside the event?
I got to sit at the table with Taraji P. Henson, and she's a character, to say the least! Her energy is so loud and fun and infectious. Oh, hold on, stop to pause, I got to meet Whoopi Goldberg! I got to go up to her. I said, I'm taking this moment, I don't care how I look. Tom Daley helped me over to her table, he said, "I can introduce you to her, she was on one of the shows that my husband did, so I'll introduce you!" He ushered me over and I said, "I'm so sorry to do this, but I just wanted to say how much I love you, and I watch you every day on The View."
What did she say?
She said, "Thank you! I'd get up but I can't, this dress, but thank you, you look great!" [Laughs] That got me, that was my moment… I always get so nervous asking for a picture! So, I'll just have the memory.
Taking in the seriousness of this moment: Not many drag queens have walked that carpet, you're part of a very select few including Violet Chachki, Aquaria, and Mother RuPaul. How did this moment feel, being on one of the biggest red carpets in the world?
I was like, this is insanity! I'm the first reigning queen to walk that red carpet. I was very humbled by it. A lot of people don't get it. I was in awe of the magic in the moment. Being asked by Jeremy, that was already mind-boggling, but to be there with him and the rest of the people he brought, being able to walk in and be in that moment and realize what's happening was otherworldly, humbling, fun, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, the full range of emotions on the red carpet.
It was also interesting to see Rihanna there because you had the whole DM thing with her going on through season 13. And now you and Gottmik were announced as part of the cast of the upcoming Savage x Fenty show. Did you have a moment with Rihanna, too?
I did! I went over to her and I said, "Hello, hey diva!" and she said, "They let you in? They let your ass in, huh?" I said, "They sure did, they let me in, girl!" She said, "Ok, turn around, you look good!" She of course looked amazing; it was just two only girls talking to each other. The only girls in the world, darling!
Can you tease what we can expect from the Savage x Fenty show?
My goodness, you know I signed an NDA so there's not much I can say, honey! But you know it's always going to be a good time. We're going to be pumping runways and bridges, I'll say that!
Subscribe to EW's BINGE podcast for full recaps of RuPaul's Drag Race, including our new season diving into all five All Stars seasons, featuring exclusive interviews with Jujubee, Alexis Mateo, Shea Couleé, Alaska, Detox, BenDeLaCreme, Kennedy Davenport, and more. And be sure to catch up on our BINGE recaps of RuPaul's Drag Race seasons 1-13 with Symone, Jaida Essence Hall, Trixie Mattel, Katya, Peppermint, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Sasha Velour, and more!
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