This Year’s Met Gala Theme: AI Deepfakes

deepfake ai met-gala 2024

Artificially generated images of celebrities fooled fans our provided fodder at fashion’s biggest night

AI deepfakes have been an issue in various creative fields, from pop music to fine art. This year’s Met Gala red carpet proved no exception. As stars began arriving at fashion’s biggest event of the year on Monday night, multiple AI-generated images of celebrities surfaced online, making it difficult to discern what was real.

The first Monday in May is one of the most anticipated events, bringing together some of the biggest names in entertainment and fashion. Certain stars are particularly eagerly anticipated as they grace the Metropolitan Museum of Art staircase in New York City to celebrate the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition. This year, users on X took advantage of fans’ excitement to see celebrities like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Selena Gomez by sharing artificially generated images of them—even though none were actually present on the red carpet.

Early in the evening, an AI image of Perry in a floral gown, seemingly trimmed with moss and inspired by the night’s theme, “Sleeping Beauties: The Garden of Time,” began circulating online. The post, uploaded to X as the Met Gala red carpet began, garnered over 288,000 likes and more than 9 million views within three hours. The simple caption read, “Katy Perry. That’s it,” accompanied by the Met Gala hashtag.

At first glance, it appeared that the “Teenage Dream” singer had arrived at fashion’s biggest night wearing a whimsical, woodland-like gown. But unlike other photos of the Met Gala, where the carpet was white and green to match the theme, this image featured a beige and red carpet. This discrepancy was the telltale sign that the viral image of Perry was fake. Despite this, it accumulated over 10 million views and 300,000 likes on X.

More AI-generated images of Perry allegedly walking the red carpet soon cropped up across X. One showed an AI version of Perry in a corseted gown with a vineyard-inspired train and a key breastplate, viewed over 2 million times and receiving 94,000 likes. The singer cryptically liked both posts but didn’t comment.

Rihanna, usually among the best dressed at the Met Gala, also fell victim to AI-generated images. Days before the event, she promised to arrive on time for dinner—usually, she’s fashionably late. One image surfaced of Rihanna in a regal, garden-themed dress with sculptural shoulders, embroidered birds, vines, and flowers. The image received 2.6 million views but was also fake. In reality, Rihanna had to skip the event due to illness, as reported by People Magazine.

While the consequences of a fake Rihanna dress are relatively harmless, it’s unlikely she would wear something so on-the-nose for the “Garden of Time” theme. These AI-generated images lacked the creativity that makes the Met Gala unique. Would an AI come up with Cynthia Erivo’s brilliant suit or Lana Del Rey’s creepy-cool woodsy look?

Zendaya, an early contender for best dressed, showed up in a blue-green outfit resembling a super-chic fairy-tale villain. Hours later, an image surfaced of Zendaya in a black leather gown with a floral headpiece. Initially dismissed as another fake, it turned out that Zendaya had actually walked the carpet twice after a five-year absence, wearing two different outfits.

Ultimately, each new image of a celebrity became a call to scrutinize the carpet patterns, flowers along the staircase, and whether the paparazzi in the background looked a little off. Usually, the Met Gala is an opportunity to marvel at celebrities’ extravagant outfits. But in the age of widespread generative AI tools, it’s more of a reminder that sometimes, even at fashion’s biggest night, we’re all just playing dress-up in an AI-generated fantasy land.