Taraji P. Henson Takes Us Behind the Scenes of the 2024 Met Gala

Beauty

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Intrigued. That was Taraji P. Henson’s first reaction to the 2024 Met Gala exhibit, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” which inspired the night’s official dress code, “The Garden of Time.”

What makes the annual event extra-special is that it offers an opportunity for designers, stylists, makeup artists, hairstylists, and nail artists to work together with a celebrity to create a head-turning look. It’s fashion and high art—and Henson fully understands that. “My favorite thing about the Met Gala is how we all interpret the theme so differently from one another,” the actress exclusively tells ELLE.com. “I love to see how creative the guests can be.”

For the big night, Henson collaborated with Jonathan Simkhai and his team, in addition to her longtime stylists, Wayman and Micah, to create a custom beaded dress that took 400 hours to create, prior to completing the bodice and skirt. The gown was over 87 feet long with 410 feet of silk chiffon. “Everyone involved did such a wonderful job at making me feel really unique and special within the theme,” Henson adds. This is The Color Purple star’s sophomore appearance at the Met, and to her, it feels just as exciting as the first time. “It is such an honor to be invited and be a part of a night that truly celebrates and raises awareness for the arts,” she says. “Getting to explore fashion and collaborate with my team is always fun, and I love that this is also a fundraiser and a chance to view the exhibition early, too.”

After all, the Met Gala is more than a red carpet and a party—it’s a fundraiser for the museum’s Costume Institute. When the stars arrive, the first feat of the evening is walking the red carpet, which includes a towering staircase. “Getting to see La La [Anthony] at the top of the stairs is so comforting, because they seem so daunting when you’re walking up them,” Henson adds.

Once you reach the top, you’re welcomed by the year’s co-chairs—this time around, Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny, and Chris Hemsworth—before heading downstairs to view the exhibit. “You must check [it] out,” Henson says. “Being from D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a special place, and the curation and celebration of Black art and artists is something I really value myself, too.” She has a few favorites: Bisa Butler (“[she] creates the most stunning and colorful quilt art pieces”), Rickey Henry (“a very talented painter from New Orleans”), and @dopeblackart (“a great resource on Instagram”).

Next comes cocktail hour, where guests mix, mingle, and take the occasional bathroom selfie. “Seeing everyone, hearing their creative process, and seeing the final looks left me with too many favorites to count,” Henson says. “Getting to explore fashion is a privilege that I so enjoy, and everyone works so hard to bring their visions together.”

But what’s better than the event itself? What happens beforehand, of course. ELLE.com caught up with Henson and her glam team pre-Met to get all the details on her look. Click through our gallery below for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at her Met Gala prep process.

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