Billionaire Wendy Yu reveals what it’s like to attend the Met Gala: ‘I have a team of about 10 who help me’

By Katie O'Malley

In just a few days, the most famous faces in Hollywood will walk the red carpet at this year’s Met Gala.

Hosted at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the gala is usually scheduled on the first Monday of May every year, and widely heralded as the most important event on the sartorial calendar.

This year, however, it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with last year’s event cancelled altogether.

From fashion designers and artists, to models and musicians, the gala is a “who’s who” of Tinseltown, where A-listers come together to celebrate the fusion between art, fashion, and notoriety, and the unveiling of the fashion institute’s blockbuster exhibition.

Wendy Yu – who is the founder and chief executive of Hong Kong-based investment business Yu Holdings – has not only attended as a guest, but has also previously co-hosted the event alongside the likes of Blake Lively and Lupita Nyong’o.

In 2018, museum curator Andrew Bolton was endowed and named the Wendy Yu curator in charge of The Costume Institute at the museum.

“I enjoy seeing Andrew Bolton’s and Anna Wintour’s work being celebrated by the most important designers, industry leaders and celebrities,” Yu says of the night.

As a contributor to Vogue, and a patron of the Victoria and Albert museum with more than 199,000 Instagram followers, Yu knows all too well the influence her role in events inspired by art, fashion and business has on a global scale.

We caught up with the entrepreneur in 2019 to find out everything she knows about the Met Gala, from how long it takes to get ready to seating plans.

I have a dress-rehearsal to practice walking in my dress

“I usually prepare for the gala three hours before the event, having done a full dress rehearsal the night before so that I can capture some great photos without feeling pressurised.

“During fittings, I’ll practice walking up stairs and sitting in my outfit because it’s so important to get a feeling for the dress so that you can wear it, and not the other way around. I tend to wear comfortable shoes to help me feel confident walking.

“I have a team of about 10 who help me get ready, from hairstylists to make-up artists. We have all worked together on many occasions before, so it’s like having my extended family around, which means it never feels stressful.”

"My favourite Met Gala dress was made by Oscar de la Renta.

“So far, I have worn American designers to the Met Gala. For my first Met Gala, I wore Zac Posen. The dress was picked out by the American Vogue team at a fitting in their offices.

“Last year, I wore custom Oscar de La Renta, which is one of my favourite brands of all time and the gown fit so beautifully and it’s timeless.

“I was very much involved at the beginning stages of the design process, but then I trusted the brand’s creative directors Laura and Fernando to work their magic with my final tweaks at the end. They really understand how to flatter a woman's body and help you look your best.”

Walking the red carpet gets easier the more you do it

“This will be my third year so I'm quite familiar now. I like to arrive early so that it is less congested and I'm able to have the time and space to have my picture taken properly.

“That said, the atmosphere is surreal. There's so much individuality and personality around you. It's a feast for the eyes. Anna Wintour does such an amazing job at creating a "never before, never again" sense of atmosphere.

People are more relaxed at the gala than you think

“There is a real sense of effortless fun and flamboyance, which is not always the case at big events.

“The attendees first walk through the exhibition, and then we catch up with old friends and make new ones, and watch and guess what others are wearing. There is a long walk through the museum to dinner. The seating plan is not shared with guests in advance. Sometimes there is a performance before the dinner as well as an unexpected performance afterwards.

“As for the famous Met bathroom, it tends to be a rather relaxed and informal atmosphere. Everyone is helping each other and cracking jokes."

Planning a Met Gala outfit takes months

“I often find out about the theme quite early on through my connection with The Met so I begin to think about which designers I might like to work with and feel would be best fitting months in advance. That said, the reality is that my decision and ultimately outfit always ends up being quite a last minute affair.

“This year I worked with a wonderful stylist and dear friend, Min Rui, who is a long-term stylist for Chinese celebrities such as Fan Bing Bing and Roy Wan, and has a great taste and vision as well as understanding me perfectly. He has narrowed the choice down for me to a few fashion houses who submitted their designs, which we then reviewed and picked our favourite. It is always a difficult decision, but ultimately I would say it comes down to a mood and an instinct.

“We are working with a fashion house that I have had the pleasure of working with before for couture. They are familiar with my body and my style, so the process has been incredibly fluid.

“I'm really excited about my outfit this year, as the theme is more playful and the colour palette is more vibrant, which reflects my personal style.”

The gala ends pretty early

“I have to say I’m a bit boring when it comes to the partying aspect. It ends around 10pm and by that point I feel exhausted by all the excitement and am ready to go home.

“I sometimes drop by the after-party, but I’m not much of a public drinker or dancer so I tend to call it a night pretty soon after.”

Follow The Independent's coverage on the Met Gala here.

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