It’s Naomi Scott's birthday, but you wouldn’t know it by the atmosphere in her room at the Mark Hotel on Monday evening. “I know, crazy, right?” she said mildly when wished a happy 26th. On an average birthday, the new W cover girl would be “just chilling, hanging out with family and friends,” she explained; probably, there would be “food involved at some point.” On her most memorable birthday, when she turned 21, her husband, the soccer player Jordan Spence, proposed to her. This year, though, she’s celebrating with a big, big party—the biggest, at least as far as fashion is concerned: the Met Gala. It was to be her first, and she was attending as a guest of Burberry's designer, Riccardo Tisci, who crafted her a custom look.
(Spence, meanwhile, planned to watch some basketball at the hotel bar before meeting her later at one of the Met after-parties. That sounded like a good deal, I informed him.)
So instead of balloons, packages, and birthday cake, Scott’s room was filled with palettes of eye colors, garment racks, and a whole fleet of hair-styling tools. An armada of stylists, including Scott’s own stylist, Zadrian Smith, took up battle stations around the room. Her cousin, Tiffany Pope, acted as traffic controller for the whole getting-ready process, orchestrating who goes in, goes out, goes where. (Earlier in the day, as seen on Scott's Instagram stories, Pope had also taped purple balloons around the suite.) On one side of the room, in front of a full-length mirror, Scott sat still, a towel wrapped around her, while a makeup artist and hairstylist polished her eyes and secured a last few strands of hair. Her look—a black silk-satin corset and matching black grain de poudre trousers with a chain mail dress overlay composed of crystals, PVC panels, and silver metal links with a tuft of marabou feathers floating off the back—lay sprawled on the bed.
Scott received the first sketches for her Burberry look a month ago; it was a whole lot like the end result, but the feather plume was a late addition. “You know when there’s just one thing that ties it together or pops a look?” she asked. “For us, that was it.” Perhaps not the “three million feathers” Susan Sontag described in her seminal essay "Notes on 'Camp,' " which informed the Met's theme this year, but critical feather action nevertheless. This year’s theme has proved a thorny one, in large part because the purest forms of camp aren’t trying to be camp at all. “Pure Camp is always naive,” Sontag wrote in “Notes on 'Camp.' " “Camp which knows itself to be Camp (‘camping’) is usually less satisfying.” It’s got to be exaggerated, serious, artificial, playful, all around too much. But downstairs in the lobby of the hotel, there was Janelle Monáe in a tower of hats; Elle Fanning in a psychotic peach-pink Valley of the Dolls ensemble; and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Violet Chacki with a glove-shaped train. Some attendees did their homework.
When she heard “camp,” Scott envisioned ball gowns; she was relieved to find Tisci’s proposal something more androgynous, layering the traditionally feminine (a bejeweled flapper silhouette) over the traditionally masculine (tuxedo pants). “I was like, ‘Oh, actually, that’s kind of sick, doing something unexpected,’ ” she said. The unexpected, to Scott, is the crux of camp: “It’s what maybe isn’t deemed appropriate,” she said, citing the sexual revolution of the 1920s—a clear reference for her look—when women began “to play a little bit more around with gender.”
Perhaps campiest of all, Tisci took the Burberry aesthetic and stretched it to an extreme. “It’s this consistent vision, it’s just a heightened version of it,” she said. Same goes for her camp icon Kate Bush (“correct me if we don’t think she’s camp,” Scott added as a disclaimer), whose “Wuthering Heights” video appears earnest in its intentions, yet outrageous, exaggerated in its look and sound.
Naomi Scott met Tisci, who took over Burberry a little more than a year ago and made his debut with the spring 2019 collection, during a fitting for the look; as she tells it, they hit it off immediately. “I obviously admire him and think he’s incredible and such a genius and just loves women and celebrates women but in a really cool, fresh way,” she said. “We clicked.” (Tisci, in turn, referred to his Met guest as “a real shining star in every sense” and a “beautiful spirit” in an email.)
As part of the Burberry clan, Scott would sit with the models Fran Summers, Irina Shayk, and Mariacarla Boscono, and the actors Alexander Skarsgard and Ezra Miller (whose look will make you feel light-headed but who most certainly also did his homework) at the gala—but what she was really looking forward to, she said, was her impending reunion with her Charlie’s Angels costars Kristen Stewart, who would undoubtedly be wearing Chanel, and Ella Balinska, who would arrive with Tory Burch. Their film is the third in a series of blockbuster remakes, following 2017’s Power Rangers and the live-action Aladdin, out at the end of the month, that find Scott stepping into beloved roles. (Important question: Is blue Will Smith camp?)
For Scott, making Charlie's Angels was especially impactful. “You can’t go through an experience like that—filming a movie that is literally about empowering other women—and not fall in love with your female castmates,” she said. “There would be something wrong.” On set, director Elizabeth Banks fostered a sense of camaraderie, emphasizing and celebrating her actors’ differences. They’ve stayed in touch via group text, naturally, and the gala felt like a “girls’ reunion, but in a really crazy way,” Scott added. “Like, ‘Girls’ reunion—see you at the Met Gala!’ ” And on her birthday, no less.
Beyond Charlie’s Angels, out in September, Scott—who’s a singer in addition to an actor; she came of age in teen movie musicals and still manages to sell out London theaters—said she’s not quite sure what comes next. “A break, hopefully,” she said with a laugh. For now, she’s just reveling in how confident she feels about her current projects: “You put something out there; you don’t have whole control over it,” she said. “That’s the best thing. That’s all you can ask for.”