Video directed by Ori of @Ori.directs
When asked to cover one of the most prominent social events in the fashion and pop culture realms, you prepare to show up and show out. As photographer extraordinaire Flo Ngala was getting into the zone to capture the 2023 Met Gala, it was crucial that she had a team to make sure she comfortably presented as her best self. With this being her second time attending the gala and hosting an official after party for the glamorous event, she enlisted the help of several Black creatives who would pull her look together as fiercely as possible.
"It is very important as people of color to uplift and share our special God given talents for all to see and inspire. Especially in a unique moment as the Met Gala, where, until recently, we were in the shadows of great fashion photographers and designers."-Darrin Thomas
This band of dope Black creatives, Stylists Wouri Vice and Amiraa Vee, makeup artist Moshoodat, Parfait's head of hairstyling & education Lacey Johnson, designers Darrin Thomas and Anthony Cartwright, and photographer Tyra Mitchell, with their help and numerous others, they helped Flo execute an aesthetically pleasing vision for the evening.
"It is very important as people of color to uplift and share our special God given talents for all to see and inspire. Especially in a unique moment as the Met Gala, where, until recently, we were in the shadows of great fashion photographers and designers. It is so special when you are blessed and talented, then able to share and uplift your peers," said Thomas.
"My contribution to Flo’s main Met Gala look was the accessories. I felt that we needed to tie in jewelry to make sure her look was complete," shared Amiraa Vee, stylist and founder of Maison Vee Mode. "We used jewelry from a Black designer, Sasha Flynn of Adore Adorn. This jewelry was selected because they are thoughtful, bold, statement one-of-a-kind designs that have a deeper meaning and felt in alignment for this special Met moment. I knew Flo felt very connected to what she was wearing and the accessories just complimented that."
Aside from her decorative accessories, Ngala's coif was another accoutrement that complemented her outfit. "When envisioning the look for Flo, we knew we wanted something modern and elegant. The chin-length wavy bob that we chose was inspired by a bob that Rihanna wore at one point, as it exudes confidence, versatility and sophistication. This hairstyle is a mix of classic and modern elements, and it beautifully frames Flo's face, accentuating her natural features," said Isoken Igbinedion & Simone Kendle, the co-founders of Parfait, a company that designs human hair wigs through AI generated technology. "The soft waves add a touch of femininity, while the bold cut is a nod to Rihanna's daring and chic persona."
"My experience in the arts speaks to the melting pot of the diaspora. I’m a New York native from Harlem with West African roots, and I started my career as a hip hop photographer."-Flo Ngala
Following the main festivities, Ngala's team ensured that she would continue to look fierce for the rest of the night, no matter where it leads. In this instance, she held her own after party.
"For the after party look, we wanted to elevate Flo’s vibe as the host of her first Met Gala party. Therefore, I wanted to ensure she was sexy, which is where the sheer material comes in, but also wanted to keep it playful with the hand-beaded fringe long top, which emphasizes her slim physique. She also loves to dance so the piece would create some drama, and we paired it with velvet pants for more movement and mobility," said Vee.
"This look was a hit if you ask me," Vee added. "I’ve never seen Flo look this sophisticated and grand in this way. A huge thank you to the amazing Haitian designer, Jovana Louis, for this impeccable clothing design. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the best look for this monumental occasion. The look was paired with Swarovski jewelry, a Brandon Blackwood black bamboo bag and Jessica Rich platform heels."
Ngala spoke with EBONY about being commissioned by Vogue to photograph the most breathtaking moments from this year's Met Gala and collaborating with the Black creatives that helped craft her dynamic ensemble.
EBONY: As a young Black creative, what gift do you have that makes you stand out from anybody else?
Flo Ngala: I think the answer is in the question! What makes me (and all of us) stand out is our gift—I’d say mine includes having “a good eye,” as they say in photography. I am obsessed with the technical, and actual skill of “getting the shot,” and I hope that speaks in my work. The next gift is definitely my interpersonal skills. The way I ask for photos and approach people is very natural to me as a “people person” and a public speaker. I enjoy the conversations that happen around getting the shot, and I remember every single interaction behind an image. Especially when working with high profile talent, it’s so important to make sure people feel comfortable, so they can open up or let loose in front of the camera.
As a photographer, what goes into preparing to shoot for an event of this magnitude?
Definitely the mental prep of not psyching myself out. The Vogue team is so cool and organized, they make it easy to go into the evening ready to work and focus. But at the same time, even with my experience with celebrity talent, it’s still the Met Gala and can be a little nerve wracking.
What was your favorite element of the 2023 Met Gala?
Trevor Noah literally taking my camera and asking to take a picture of me because he thought my look was so good (Trevor, if you’re reading this, thank you!). Also, Usher and I had a moment walking through the hallway together where he gassed me up. Of course, the Kardashian/Jenner bathroom pics were insane. Lastly, I think it was me ending up in a viral TikTok of Jimmy Fallon jumping over the Met gate to run across the street and greet fans. So overall, it was a great night with so many wonderful moments!
What do you enjoy most about photography as an art form?
I could write a book alone on this answer! But in short, I’d say with the kind of photography I get to do inside the Met Gala, I enjoy seeing the power of event photography and curated community. People react so strongly to certain pairings of talent and stars in the same room. For me, moments like Letitia Wright photobombing Stormzy and Kendrick Lamar or Serena Williams and Karlie Kloss rubbing baby bellies reminds me of the phrase “art imitates life.” It really is real life, but then it also becomes art once you capture it!
How do you move Black forward?
I move Black forward by representing myself in the best way I can. When people see me, I hope they see Black Excellence embodied in my own way. My experience in the arts speaks to the melting pot of the diaspora. I’m a New York native from Harlem with West African roots, and I started my career as a hip hop photographer. I’m just so happy that when talent looks at the person asking for a picture, they see a melanated human and a woman behind the camera, but also understanding what that represents and how much that representation matters.
Take a closer look at Flo's MET Gala style below.