EVERYBODY’S A WINNER: As far as fashion events go, the Met Gala has become an institution in and of itself. Testimony to that is the “Mei Gala,” a virtual red-carpet show featuring cosplayers from around the world parading around in their handcrafted Overwatch looks.

Hosted by the professional esports Overwatch League, the new event is named after the Overwatch character “Mei,” who relies on weather-altering devices to slow down opponents and protect locations. Her “Endothermic Blaster” emits icicles and frost streams, and she can “Cryo-Freeze” herself to brace against counterattacks or to obstruct others with an ice wall. Fittingly, Overwatch is produced by Blizzard Entertainment.

Meanwhile, the Met Gala is somewhat frozen in time, at least the times that we live in. Unable to hold the event in person last year due to the pandemic, the museum is planning for a September gala, provided governmental guidelines allow for gatherings. The size of that get-together, which is the Costume Institute’s benefit, will be determined at a later time. Staying ahead of the curve, the Met has set another date for May 2022 for a second Met Gala. The doubleheader approach is in line with the Costume Institute’s upcoming two-part exhibition — “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” bowing Sept. 18 at the Anna Wintour Costume Center and “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” debuting May 5, 2022, in the American Wing period rooms.

In the land of everyone’s-a-critic, there will be a panel of judges from esports, fashion and drag providing live commentary for the Mei Gala. Renaud Galand, the lead character artist, on Overwatch will be among the judges, and Overwatch League commentator Soe Gschwind will host the digital gala. Slated for May 13, the Mei Gala will be available via the Overwatch League’s YouTube channel.

The virtual hoopla is meant to recognize and honor the diversity in gaming and cosplay, which organizers claim have been overlooked in fashion circles. The idea is all three communities — gaming, cosplay and fashion — thrive on self-expression and they will be united under one virtual roof. This year’s theme of “Our Best Is Us” is meant to celebrate the inclusive and diverse community that Overwatch cosplay represents. Artist Jul Adler, gamer Johnny N’ Junkers and game artist Polygon Forge will be among the participants.

Participants won’t just be showing off their attire and the stories behind them. More of an exhibition than a competition, the word “judge” is a loose description for a commentator. “Hence, there will be no winner,” a spokesperson said.

Asked whether anyone at Overwatch ran the concept by the Met or whether the company is concerned about the museum’s response, the Overwatch spokesperson said, “The Mei Gala is a celebration of all things cosplay, fashion and Overwatch. With a theme in that spirit, ‘Our Best Is Us,’ it is meant to be an homage to the Met Gala in that we both celebrate the artistry and beauty of fashion, as personal expression. But the Mei Gala is purposely free and open to the public — much like our community.”

With summer approaching and the pandemic slowing down in different parts of the world, the Overwatch League is planning to gradually bring back live events in Asia starting in China.

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