Ke Huy Quan Became Karl Lagerfeld at the Met Gala 2023
“I’m a little nervous,” Ke Huy Quan tells me.
It’s just past 11 a.m. on the day of the Met Gala, which Quan will be attending for the very first time, and he’s speaking to me over Zoom from an Upper East Side hotel room. Quan is just emerging from a months-long awards season run for Everything Everywhere All At Once, which culminated in him hoisting the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in March. “I still look at that golden statue with wonder,” he says, “and can’t believe it has my name on it.”
He’s spent the weeks since the Oscars celebrating at a handful of major events. In the past week alone, he reunited with his childhood pal and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom costar Drew Barrymore to present that movie’s director, Steven Spielberg, with an award at the Time 100 Gala in New York, and then flew straight down to D.C. for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “Steven, Drew, and I were reminiscing about how the three of us once went to the zoo together,” he says, beaming. “I was about 11, and Drew must’ve been 8 or so. I still have the pictures. And when Steven hugged the both of us [at the Time 100] like we were his children, and to see him so proud of us, that was special.”
But the Met Gala presents a new challenge, and it’s got Quan feeling anxious. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says. “It’s so glamorous.”
For starters, there’s the fashion of it all. “I’m normally quite conservative in terms of my outfits,” he admits. On the awards circuit, that worked to his advantage, with Quan’s stylist Chloe Takayanagi dressing him in a number of classic, strong-lined, leading-man dinner jackets. To fulfill the Met’s Karl Lagerfeld theme, though, Takayanagi worked with Dior Men artistic director Kim Jones to craft a custom ensemble that’s miles outside Quan’s comfort zone. The look is a boldly striped gray suit, complemented by a full suite of iconic Karl signifiers: an enormous shirt collar; gleaming patent Chelsea boots; a gaggle of jewelry by Fred Leighton and Kwiat; and, of course, a pair of fingerless leather gloves.
The thing that’s really got Quan on edge, though? “This is going to be the first event that I’m attending alone,” he says. “Normally, my wife is there with me.”
Later that afternoon, I walk into Quan’s hotel room for a pre-Gala photo shoot, and his mood has completely shifted from our earlier conversation. His hair is coiffed up to movie star perfection, his dramatic outfit is mostly on, and he’s projecting a confidence commensurate with just how damn handsome he looks. Takayanagi finishes adjusting the blinding galaxy of jewels around his neck— “These diamonds are real? Do you have insurance on these?” he asks—and places a very Lagerfeld-esque pair of dark shades on his temples. Then the photographer begins shooting, and Quan goes to another place entirely. Suddenly he is Karl Lagerfeld in all his imposing glory, mean-mugging and strutting about and clutching his lapels with ferocity. “This is the most fun,” Quan says. “It feels like I’m playing a character, really. I actually looked at a lot of Karl Lagerfeld poses, and this one is the most iconic right here.”
Then he starts giggling that familiar Ke Huy Quan giggle, because Echo, his beloved wife, is cracking up in the corner of the room. “Most of Ke’s family is in Houston, and they’re having a big party there to watch the red carpet,” Echo says. “They’re so excited to see what he wears, and when they see him looking like this”—all serious and brooding, she means—“they’re going to laugh so hard.”
Now, all the nervousness has dissipated entirely, and Ke is just eager and ready for the night ahead. He’s excited to get out on the carpet, excited to hopefully meet Anna Wintour, excited to add to his growing collection of exuberant celebrity selfies. “It’s been such a crazy year, and I wanted something to be able to capture these very special moments,” he says of his trademark Instagram photos. “It’ll be nice to have something to look back on years from now.”
Most of all, though, he’s excited to head home and close the book on this meandering, thrilling, exhausting, wholly rewarding chapter of his life. He and Echo will be attending the Gold Gala—a celebration of AAPI talent in Hollywood—next Saturday, and that’ll be the last big event he has on the books for the foreseeable future. Then, at long last, he’ll get to bask in the real gift that Everything Everywhere gave him: a steady career in acting.
“I’m in uncharted territory, you know?” Quan says. “I’m still not accustomed to being in meetings where the producer or the director says, ‘We would love for you to play this role.’ For so long, I was struggling, practically begging for someone to hire me. Now, I’m in a situation where there are a lot more opportunities. I can be selective. It is quite a privilege.”
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