Lydia Moynihan

Lydia Moynihan

Celebrities

Secrets of how Anna Wintour woos tech industry’s big bucks for the Met Gala

The guest list for Monday’s Met Gala is like Vogue magazine come to life: Sydney Sweeney, Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Gisele Bündchen, Kendall Jenner, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift are all expected for the photo call on the Metropolitan Museum’s iconic stairs.

But one star is bigger than all the others

For it is queen Anna Wintour who wields the real power Monday and who will hold all those A-listers, not to mention the world’s biggest business movers and shakers, in her thrall.

Anna Wintour, who wields the real power at the Met Ball, approves every name on the 600-person guest list as well as the seating arrangement. GC Images

Over the past 30 years, the editor-in-chief of Vogue and Global Chief Content Officer of Condé Nast, has transformed the event from a relatively humble fundraiser for the Met’s costume exhibit — with tickets once costing around $1,000 — to New York City’s most important event of the season.

“It’s through her hustle that she made this happen,” one attendee who has gone for decades told The Post. “If she didn’t do it no one could make it happen.” As with other well-placed sources for this story, he asked to withhold his name lest he fall from Wintour’s good graces.

It is because of Wintour that billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg and Steve Schwarzman are eager to shell out $350,000 to buy a table.

Zendaya — who is a co-host of this year’s Met Ball — attended the 2019 ball as Cinderella while her stylist Law Roach accompanied her as the fairy godmother. WireImage

And she spends a good deal of the entire year courting them.

While Wintour is integrally involved in the planning — she approves every name on the approximately 600-person guest list and the seating arrangement — she has a coterie of assistants and associates to do initial rounds of outreach.

Wintour’s own presence is said to be reserved for closing deals and reeling in the big fish — which, over the past few years, has meant tech. The cornerstone for every Met Ball is finding a sponsor who will write a big check, and tech is where the money is.

Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and his longtime partner Diana Taylor attended the gala together in 2022. Bloomberg, worth $106 billion, regularly attends the event. David Fisher/Shutterstock

This year’s primary sponsor is TikTok, along with the luxury fashion brand Loewe, and sources say the social media company spent “in the high seven figures” to make it happen.

CEO Shou Zi Chew and his wife, Vivian Kao, attended the 2022 Met Gala — which may have been the beginning of Wintour’s courting him. Two sources familiar with the inner workings of the event told The Post that sponsorship is usually finalized a year in advance.

But the choice of TikTok has come under scrutiny after President Biden signed a bill into law to either ban the Chinese social media platform or force its sale.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and his wife, Vivian Kao, attended the 2022 Met Gala. Sources told The Post that the popular video app likely paid in the “high seven figures” to sponsor the gala this year. WireImage

“It’s true that the deal was cut way before this bill passed, but this is a PR disaster,” one Met Gala source previously told Page Six.

“I’m sure they could probably find other sponsors… but it would be a struggle to find someone who can spend the kinds of money TikTok spends,” one media executive said.

Indeed, Wintour has made a smart, but vital pivot toward deep-pocketed tech companies to underwrite the event.

Jennifer Lopez — who first attended the Met Gala in 1999 — will serve as a co-host this year. Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

“She and her team have the knowledge of how to embrace the start of the moment and see how the culture is changing,” a source who has known Wintour for years told The Post. “She knows how to read the tea leaves.”

Wintour’s decision to have Amazon sponsor the event in 2012 was the beginning of a new era both for Vogue and for Amazon.

“It was the first time someone legitimized Amazon in the fashion space,” the longtime attendee added.“For them it was hugely important.” 

Jeff Bezos and his then wife Mackenzie Bezos attended the 2012 Met Gala together. Amazon’s sponsorship that year “legitimized” Amazon in the fashion space, a source told The Post. Getty Images

It’s also proved to be a lasting relationship.

Page Six reported last month that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — who attended in 2012 with his then wife Mackenzie — will be back this year with fiancée Lauren Sánchez, who landed a splashy Vogue fashion story in December 2023.

Fashion journalist Amy O’Dell, who wrote 2022’s “Anna: The Biography,” reported that Wintour has weighed in on Sánchez’s gown, “choosing between custom looks by Oscar de la Renta and two other designers.”

Kendall Jenner, Jeff Bezos, and Jared Leto posed for a photo together in 2019. The former Amazon CEO will be attending this year with his fiancée Lauren Sánchez. Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

In 2021 and 2022, Wintour brought in Instagram — which has become a key advertising platform for fashion brands — as a sponsor. Eva Chen, the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, is a Wintour protégé who was hand-picked to be the editor of Condé’s Lucky magazine from 2013 to 2015.

It also provided a natural partnership for Vogue, which began streaming red carpet coverage on Instagram in 2021 to 16.5 million viewers that year, according to a report.

Vogue’s ability to embrace new distribution platforms like Instagram and TikTok to amplify their content is a key to Wintour’s relevance, a source added.

CEO of Instagram Adam Mosseri and his wife, Monica Mosseri, began attending the Met Gala when Instagram first sponsored the event in 2021. Getty Images

“She always wants to remain current,” the source who has known Wintour for years said. “She can find an angle for everyone.”

But not even Wintour can control the mercurial foibles of the tech world.

In 2022, she allegedly hopped on a Zoom call with FTX founder and then billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried — months before his crypto exchange collapsed and he was arrested for fraud — to invite him to the gala and ask for for big donation. SBF was worth a reported $26.5 billion at the time.

Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, previously worked under Wintour. She was the editor of Condé Nast’s Lucky Magazine from 2013 to 2015. Getty Images

According to the book “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon,” by Michael Lewis, the crypto bro continued playing a video game, Storybook Brawl, while Wintour successfully pitched him.

SBF, according to the book, canceled the day before the big event. Wintour’s team “called and shouted and said Sam will never set foot in fashion again!” FTX’s head of public relations Natalie Tien told Lewis. A Vogue spokesperson previously told The Post this was not accurate.

Wintour allegedly approached then billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried about attending the Met Gala just months before his fraudulent cryptocurrency exchange collapsed. JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Wintour’s business strategy for the event is twofold, sources told The Post.

The obvious purpose is to make sure the Anna Wintour Costume Center, which hosts the gala’s accompanying annual fashion exhibit, is generously funded. It was renamed for Wintour in 2014 and has received some $223 million since she began chairing the event.

“The Met Gala has always been about Anna, but [with the center named for her] it’s another level,” the longtime attendee added.

The Met Gala — which raises money for the Anna Wintour Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — often features celebrities in unusual outfits. In 2019, Katy Perry wore a chandelier-inspired dress. Getty Images for The Met Museum/

A second purpose is to make sure that Vogue, the magazine with which her brand has been intertwined since 1988, protects its cache — and its advertisers, as other media brands hemorrhage money.

“If you are not in her good graces, people are afraid they’ll get punished,” a former attendee and industry insider said.

Another key revenue stream for the event is tickets, which jumped in price this year to $75,000 a pop — up from $50,000 last year.

Page Six reports that Taylor Swift is expected to attend this year although it’s unclear if her boyfriend Travis Kelce will join her. In 2016, she wore a futuristic outfit in honor of the ball’s technology focused theme that year. Getty Images

Over recent years, as celebrities have become the focus of the event, the wealthy attendees who can afford to shell out hundreds of thousands are expected to essentially subsidize the beautiful people who show up for free.

“They’ve tried to make it less about rich people and more about pop culture,” a source familiar with the inner workings of the event said. “The bar for anyone in business to attend has gotten higher since celebrities have taken over the event the last decade.”  

This year, with a legion of TikTok stars showing up, there will likely be even fewer seats available for the suits, the source added.

Disney CEO Bob Iger and his wife, Willow Bay, attended the 2023 Met Ball honoring late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld. Disney and Lagerfeld collaborated on a collection of clothing and shoes that featured iconic Disney characters like Donald Duck. Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

And it’s not enough to simply be rich.

Every business titan who attends — like Disney CEO Bob Iger, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel — is plugged into media, tech or fashion and can be helpful to Wintour in some way.

These uber-wealthy people typically buy an entire table with 10 seats, but it’s Wintour who decides who else will sit with them. 

CEO of Snap Evan Spiegel is married to supermodel and Kora Organics founder Miranda Kerr. The couple attended the gala together in 2022, where Kerr wore a Grace Kelly-inspired gown created by Oscar de la Renta. Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

“She either uses your Rolodex to invite your coolest friends or just seats whoever she wants to there,”the source familiar with the event added. “Even though The Met advertises it as a selective event, it’s still commercial because they have to get people to pay for the A-Listers.” 

Every attendee is allowed to walk the red carpet but they aren’t allowed to decide where they sit. Per Wintour’s direction, the prime real estate in the dining room — near the front of the stage — is given to the crème de la crème.

“When you’re on the business side of a beauty company or are a wealthy person buying your way in, you feel like a poor relative because you’re in the nosebleed section in the back,” the longtime attendee said. 

Sydney Sweeney, who has starred in Miu Miu campaigns, wore the designer last year for her second appearance at the Met Gala. AbacaPress / SplashNews.com

“It’s a dreadful night for anyone who isn’t an influencer,” the former attendee and industry insider said. “You’re way up in the bleachers … it is humiliating and tiresome.”

A spokesperson for Condé Nast declined to comment. A representative for The Met did not respond to requests for comment.

While every dollar raised goes to The Met, Wintour ensures Vogue benefits from the event in more subtle ways. 

According to sources,some fashion and beauty brands spend a chunk of their marketing budget on advertisements with Vogue throughout the year in the hopes of getting approved to attend the Met Gala.

Last year Gisele Bündchen, who previously hosted the event, attended solo. It is unclear if Bündchen will bring a date this year. Getty Images

One industry executive told The Post that some CEOS have wondered if they weren’t invited this year because they didn’t buy enough ads, adding: “[Wintour] cares about advertising in print and digital — and she wants it all year long.”

Many say that Wintour’s work on the gala is not just a boon for the Met — but for the whole city.

“It’s a global event that attracts celebrities from all over the world and they descend on New York in what has become a tentpole event for the city,” one longtime New Yorker and attendee told The Post. “There is no event in NYC that has this much fire power.”