Van Bramer and Rihanna
BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
On May 7, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside)—the chairman of the council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations—was living his best life as he dropped by the 2018 Met Gala, snapping selfies and mingling with A-list celebrities.
Known as the Oscars of the fashion world, this year’s fundraiser at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was themed “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” which is in conjunction with a new exhibit that was designed to create a conversation on fashion and its relationship with religious art.
More than 150 pieces were on display by top designers, such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Donatella Versace, Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman, Coco Chanel, John Galliano and Christian Dior.
Since the exhibit and gala revolved around religion and Catholicism, participants were faced with the challenge of interpreting the theme.
While Disney actress Zendaya impersonated Joan of Arc, Anna Wintour and Rihanna channeled the pope and Lana Del Rey transformed into Our Lady of Sorrows. Van Bramer sported his decade-old black tuxedo—the only one that the councilman owns. It is the same outfit that he’s worn to the last four Met Galas he has attended since chairing the committee.
“I own one tuxedo,” said Van Bramer. “I bought it when I got this job because I had never owned a tuxedo before I became a council member and the cultural affairs chairman. When I realized that part of my job was to go to events like this periodically, I went out and bought a relatively modest Ralph Lauren tuxedo. It’s boring. It’s not very fancy. But it’s my version of keeping it real at the Met Gala.”
But being “trendy” was not Van Bramer’s focus while attending the event. He grew up in Astoria and was raised by a father who did janitorial work at a local high school and a mother who worked in the neighborhood’s Key Food and Pathmark stores. Van Bramer said that he was humbled to attend the event.
“[Going to the Met Gala] is cool because my family worked really hard and sacrificed a lot so that I could be a council member and I could do things like this,” said Van Bramer. “So, every time I’m approaching the red carpet, it makes me think of how modestly I grew up and reassures me not to get lost in it.”
As Cardi B—who attended the event—might say, Van Bramer is just “a regular degular shmegular” boy from Queens. Regardless, Van Bramer was given the opportunity to blend with A-list actors and performers—including several of his favorites. But he said that couldn’t just walk up to Jennifer Lopez. He had a strategy.
“You’re at an event with 600 of the most famous people in the world—you have to be careful with your approach because they all know each other and they’re all friends,” said Van Bramer. “You see Kim Kardashian, Cardi B and Kendall Jenner in a group talking, you don’t want to interrupt and say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’”
Van Bramer said that his celebrity highlight was meeting Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman from 1975.
Carter was attending the event with her husband, Robert A. Altman. Van Bramer said that he walked up to her, engaged her in casual conversation and snapped a selfie.
The councilman was so excited that he immediately posted the photo and captioned it: “#lifegoal achieved! Meeting the one and only Lynda Carter, THE #wonderwoman of my youth. And she was a hoot, so funny and touched when I told her how much the gays love her! #metgala #heavenlybodies”
Elsewhere, Rihanna—who had just taken off her heels—was standing alone waiting for Madonna’s Met Gala 2018 headlining performance.
“She was so lovely, so sweet, so down to earth,” said Van Bramer.
Madonna’s performance on the Met’s grand staircase was Van Bramer’s highlight of the evening.
“She sang ‘Like A Prayer’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah,’” said Van Bramer. “It was surreal and more fun than I could believe. It was quite a scene.”
Later in the evening, Van Bramer conversed with Black Panther lead Chadwick Boseman, who sported a white Versace cape with crosses and tassels over a white suit and gold sparkling shoes. Van Bramer said that he complimented the Marvel superhero on his get-up.
“He was dressed in an amazing themed outfit,” said Van Bramer. “So, I sort of dorked out a little. I told him I loved his outfit and he said, ‘Thank you.’”
Van Bramer said that his only moment of “chickening out” during the event was when he spotted Michael B. Jordan, also of Black Panther.
Although Van Bramer is a councilman for Queens, he said that he merely introduced himself as “Jimmy” when making introductions at the gala.
“I don’t always say I’m the councilmember because, quite frankly, if they’re not from New York City, they’re not impressed and some might not even know what a councilman is or don’t care,” said Van Bramer.
Van Bramer said he only introduces himself as the councilman when he knows a celebrity has a tie to Queens.
Overall, Van Bramer said that he greatly enjoyed the experience of attending another Met Gala. He noted that such events are important because they raise funds for the city’s cultural institutions.
The only disappointment Van Bramer expressed was his inability to bring his mother to the event. Luckily, she will be able to enjoy all the pictures the Councilman intends to post on social media.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400, ext. 144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.