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Inside Met Gala, where there’s always someone more famous

(Megan Rapinoe attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibition on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in New York. Photo: Evan Agostini-Invision-AP)

By JOCELYN NOVECK, NEW YORK (AP):- U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe had just gotten her beverage at the bar at the edge of the room. She looked back at the throbbing crowd of celebrities packed into the center of the airy Petrie Court, where the Met Gala was holding its cocktail reception.

Even for a world-renowned athlete, one’s first Met Gala can be a little intimidating — whoever you are, it seems, there’s always someone more famous (unless you’re Rihanna, maybe.) Rapinoe looked for a bit, and suddenly said, “Another athlete! I’m going over.” She headed in the direction of NBA star Russell Westbrook.

Rapinoe, who made a fashionably patriotic statement in her bright red silk Sergio Hudson pantsuit with a royal blue blouse emblazoned with white stars — she’d gotten the memo that the sartorial theme was American independence — had just been noting the preponderance of big athletes at this particular gala. “We’ve infiltrated,” she said with a grin.

Indeed, in the room and nearby were a tournament’s worth of tennis stars — Serena Williams, recent U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, gala host Naomi Osaka, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens, and U.S. Open champ Emma Raducanu, resplendent in Chanel. Westbrook wasn’t the only NBA luminary — there was Steph Curry and his wife, Ayesha. Gymnasts were in the house, too: Simone Biles made a memorable entrance in an 88-pound embroidered gown with a huge train carried up the museum steps by six men. And Nia Dennis did an actual gymnastic routine, to music from the Brooklyn United Marching Band.

ut then, the museum was filled with screen and TV stars, too, and musicians, and luminaries of business and politics. In fact, an evening that had been casually billed as a “mini” gala — with the full-size gala to return in May — hardly felt “mini” at all, with 400 guests instead of the usual 550 or so. The cocktail reception seemed as packed as always, the mingling just as energetic.

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