When a sea of black dresses appeared at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards, it was clear that the red carpet has not only been a place for fashion, but a platform for political statements. It was there where Hollywood’s leading ladies came together to take a stand in solidarity against sexual harassment and gender inequality.
This certainly wasn’t the first time stars have used their platform on the red carpet to raise awareness for a particular matter. In 2017, celebrities such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Negga and Karlie Kloss hit the Oscars in various designer looks paired with blue ribbons worn as a symbol in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
At the 2019 Grammys in February pro-Trump fashion hit the carpet. Singer Joy Villa dressed in a gown designed to be the Mexican border wall, and Ricky Rebel wore a Trump 2020 suit jacket.
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For years, fashion has been used a medium to send a greater message. Take Issa Rae, who hosted the 2018 CFDA Awards, and Tracee Ellis Ross, who hosted the 2018 American Music Awards, for instance. Both donned all black designers in support of inclusivity and diversity in fashion.
As 2019 comes to an end, here’s a look at more celebrities who used the red carpet to make a political statement over the past decade.
At the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga showcased her stance on the U.S. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Wearing an Alexander McQueen dress, the pop star was accompanied by members of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is an organization of gay men and women who served in the Air Force or Army and left on their own or were discharged. The group is dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by DADT. She doubled down on her political statement by wearing the controversial meat dress.
Recently, she spoke with Oprah Winfrey in an interview with Elle, explaining the reason behind the moment. She said, “I went to the event with soldiers who were discharged from the army because they were out, or they were found out, and to me, if you’re willing to give up your life for your country, does it matter what your sexual orientation is or what your gender identity is? For me, it was like, ‘Flesh is flesh,’ so that was the intention of the meat dress. For me, that wasn’t shocking.”
Amber Rose & Blac Chyna
In 2015, Blac Chyna and Amber Rose went hand-in-hand to the MTV VMAs in outfits that challenged slut-shaming. The two wore matching looks with words including “slut,” “whore” and “golddigger” displayed in bright, big letters to fight back against gender inequality and sexual injustice. Rose has also been a supporter of the SlutWalk festival in Los Angeles, which is a movement calling for an end to rape culture and victim blaming.
At the 2016 MTV VMAs, the star made a social justice statement by bringing women featured in her “Lemonade” visual album, including Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr, Lesley McSpadden, and Wanda Johnson — the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant, whose sons died either by gun violence, in police custody or in the hands of police.
Singer Jennifer Nettle called upon designer Christian Siriano for a custom dress that went beyond fashion for the 2019 Country Music Awards red carpet. Wearing a cape and paint suit, the words “Play our f*@#in records please and thank you” were written on the inside by artist Alice Mizrachi to bring attention to the lack of female artists being played on country radio.
At the 2019 Emmy Awards, “Orange Is the New Black” star Laverne Cox stepped out in a Monsoori dress paired with a custom Edie Parker clutch, which was way more than a simple accessory. The rainbow-colored bag (a nod to the LGBTQ flag) was detailed with the words “Oct. 8,” “Title VII” and “Supreme Court” in order raise awareness that the Trump administration had been seeking to legalize firing workers based on gender identity or presentation. In addition, she brought lawyer Chase Strangio, with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, to bring attention to the anti-discrimination case Strangio is working on behalf of a transgender client fired from her job after coming out as trans in 2013.
The actress made a subtle statement in 2017 at the Oscars, where she won the award for Best Actress, with a small golden pin featuring the logo for Planned Parenthood. Dakota Johnson also showed support of Planned Parenthood with a pin seen on her clutch at the awards show.
At the 2017 SAG Awards, “Scandal” star Kerry Washington took the opportunity to protest President Trump’s immigration ban — which barred citizens from predominantly Muslim nations from entering the country — by wearing a safety pin on her dress. “I’ll be wearing one of these tonight. On my arm. To show solidarity. We will not stop fighting for our safety & the safety of our fellow citizens and human beings,” she posted on Instagram.
The actress used the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for her own political agenda, taking the opportunity to support the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The hashtag called for the release of nearly more than 200 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls being held by Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.
The actor and his wife, Amal Clooney, sported “Je Suis Charlie” pins at the 2015 Golden Globes to honor the victims of the terror attacks taken place at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, as well as to show support for press freedom.
At the 2016 NAACP Image Awards, “Quanitco” actress Aunjanue Ellis wore a white dress with the words “Take it down Mississippi” in protest of the Mississippi flag, which features imagery of the Confederate States of America.