In the Name of Cardi B, Let Us Pray

Posted May 9, 2018 7:03 p.m. EDT

Clothed in a 30-pound pearl-encrusted dress the color of cream made of gold, a faintly lustrous silk duchesse satin overskirt that billowed like summer cumulus, gem-covered gloves that stretched to the shoulder, a jeweled halo headpiece, a thick buckle-and-pearl choker and colossal pearl drop earrings that clamped firmly to her ears on the backs of grinning gleaming putti, Cardi B communed with God in her hotel suite for 40 seconds.

Technically, the faintly lustrous silk duchesse satin overskirt was still being affixed to her at the instant of communion by a knelt helper fastening a semicircle of hooks and eyes around her waist. But time was running out (technically, time had run out 30 minutes earlier). And so, even though the Bronx-born rapper and self-identified Catholic might have preferred to be untweaked and unjostled during her devotion, allowances had to be made.

The prayer of thanksgiving was led by her publicist, Patientce Foster.

“Thank you for Jeremy Scott,” said Foster, her voice rushing out with the calm efficiency of a cool brook. Scott, Cardi’s date for the Met Gala on Monday night, and, as the creative director of Moschino, the man responsible for her tulle and wool and buckles and gems, was standing behind Cardi, reverently running the tips of his fingers across the satin overskirt as she shut her eyes in silent prayer.

“We appreciate our friendship with Moschino,” said Foster, to God. “We ask that this night be successful, Lord. That you grace her feet, that you grace her presence, Lord. That she walks the carpet with everything that she has, Lord. That she gives everything that she has. We ask all these blessings in your name. Amen.”

“Amen,” said Cardi B, designing an invisible cross in the air above her slightly sparkling face.

“Okurrr!” added a few members of Cardi’s team, filling the room in the Carlyle Hotel with the sounds of an avian chorus. (“Okurrr,” with a trilled r, is one of Cardi’s signature exclamations. The association of Cardi with “okurrr” has become so strong that the hotel embroidered the interjection on one of her room’s pillowcases.)

One year ago, Cardi’s sensational single “Bodak Yellow” had not yet been released, and she had to watch her more famous boyfriend (now fiancé) Offset, of the rap group Migos, dress for an ultraexclusive event to which she had never been invited. This year, on the 70th anniversary of the gala, she is, in the words of Scott, “obviously the girl that everyone’s after. She’s that new appointed pop princess. Diva, soon to be queen.”

That Cardi’s first Met Gala should fall on a night honoring the Costume Institute’s exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” was serendipitous, given her tremendous affection for God. Her brief to Scott was that her gown be “very religious” and “very luxurious.” She was pleased that the final result reminded her of papal finery.

“Popes wear big things with rubies and gems,” she explained, perhaps picturing less of a Pope Francis than one of those Medici popes, like the profligate Leo X, whose endorsement of the sale of indulgences led Martin Luther to instigate the Protestant Reformation.

Scott, who frequently dresses Cardi in bold retro rainbow colors for performances, said her outfit was “very inspired by Vatican tapestries — the whole, kind of, embroidery of deities.” The dramatic coronal headpiece was meant to evoke the Virgin Mary.

“You know,” Scott said, “like Mary, she is pregnant. But she know who the baby daddy is.”

The dazzling companion suit to Cardi’s outfit, sported by Scott at the Gala, was originally intended to be worn by Offset. Then, after work had begun on the custom wool and pearl motorcycle jacket/tuxedo coat hybrid (with matching trousers), it was decided that all three members of Migos would, in fact, attend the party as guests of Versace, whose chief designer Donatella Versace was one of the Met Gala’s co-chairs. Fortunately, the trim Scott is roughly the same size as Offset. Like the priceless vestments passed down through centuries currently on display in the exhibit, the ensemble was handed down to him.

Although Cardi seemed happy to attend the party as Scott’s date, dismay at the Versace intervention lingered. An hour or so before her official gala entrance, a blend of deep red lipsticks was painstakingly applied to her frown while she sat, robed, in a chair, and worried over Offset’s replacement outfit.

“It’s like, if y’all got so much people going with y’all, y’all could have just let him walk with me and take the two boys,” she said, referring to Versace’s extra-long list of guests (which included Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian West and Tom Brady) and the other two members of Migos, Takeoff and Quavo. The circumstances, she said, had left her “upset.”

“That’s why my baby ain’t never gonna stand out,” she said quietly.

“What do you mean?” asked Foster, who was floating around the room checking on every single element of everything, while simultaneously coordinating Cardi’s schedule for the next day, and occasionally breaking into song. “Like, stand out on his own?”

“Not even on his own,” Cardi said. “It’s just like, I know how he wants to be.” One baby that would stand out at the Met Gala was the fetus currently gestating inside Cardi. Scott said he designed her dress to “gloss over her, which is what I thought would be best for her figure.” The snug fit and high belt emphasized her round stomach, even if the individual hand beading proved a little cumbersome for an expectant woman.

“Extremely heavy,” is how Cardi characterized her outfit. “The beading is just crazy, and then,” she said, cradling her midsection, “shorty weighs 3 1/2 pounds.” This news was met with laughs of delight from those assembled. “She do,” said Cardi. “She do weigh 3 1/2 pounds. That’s pretty good for 7 months, right?” she asked, looking around. “Because I was born 5 pounds.”

The atmosphere inside the hotel suite cycled quickly between rapture and rupture. Foster and Cardi’s warm, lanky stylist, Kollin Carter, led goofy Champagne toasts (in which the pregnant rapper did not partake). Cardi excitedly recounted past Met Gala themes, recalling their chronology better than anyone in the room.

But her mood plummeted when she was alerted to the fact that a fan-run Instagram account had posted a video of a recent confrontation involving herself, a member of her security team and a fan in Las Vegas. She expressed her frustration with a torrent of harsh words, many of them criticizing the security guard who, she argued, had inflamed the situation. She watched the video multiple times on her phone, becoming increasingly irritated with every replay. She asked Foster to contact the fan account and request its owner remove the video.

The bustling room fell silent, save for the furious clicks of Cardi’s nails against iPhone glass, as, amid this social media Sturm und Drang, Scott’s towering headpiece was gently positioned atop her head. There was nervous speculation about the best way to fasten it in place using the provided set of combs and ribbon ties. People half-joked about being afraid to hold the fragile object. It was a jeweled retaining wall barely holding back cascading black waves of hair.

“I feel like that’s perfect,” said Foster, after a series of minute adjustments.

Immediately, the crown fell.

For a moment, Cardi said nothing. She could say nothing, for the incredibly delicate and expensive headpiece was smushed up against her carefully painted lips. As it was lifted, she declared to the room with cold, quiet fury, “This is why I said matte lipstick. ‘Cause it smudge.”

She was correct: Her lipstick had smudged. None of the beadwork had broken, but a few perfectly white pearls had been stained pink. Foster began individually swabbing them clean with Q-Tips.

A judiciously placed FaceTime call from Cardi’s younger sister, Hennessy, lifted her mood tremendously. “Slay!” Hennessy screamed through the speaker as she admired Cardi’s gown. “Slay!” The effect was of air whipped into a meringue.

“I wanna cry!” exclaimed Cardi giddily a few moments later, as holes were snipped in her jeweled gloves so that her jeweled nails could poke through. A handshake with her at this point felt like a handshake with a very expensive lizard. She turned to Foster. “You don’t wanna cry?”

“I wanna drink,” said Foster. She poured herself a glass of Champagne. (Celebratory.)

Cardi’s voluminous skirt took up most of the cramped hotel elevator. It took up most of wherever she was, in fact. After wading through a crowd of screaming onlookers gathered outside the hotel to see a celebrity, any celebrity, she was forced to stand in the extra-large van hired to transport her the few blocks from the hotel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When a member of the Moschino team asked “How you doin’, Mama?” Cardi responded “Ah?” She was unable to turn her body around, or swivel her head to see past her mass of hair, to determine the source of the question.

“Who’s talking to me right now?” she asked with a laugh.

Cardi practiced her pose, which was: hands at sides. As the automobile crawled slowly forward, she was able, by a series of very meticulous adjustments, to position herself so that she was kneeling on the first row of back seats, facing out the rear window. Through careful manipulation of her embellished gloves and dagger sharp acrylic nails bearing more jewels than the earth’s crust, she entered her iPhone’s passcode. She began refreshing the hashtag #CardiB on Instagram, anxious to see how her dress had looked on the seconds-long walk from the hotel to the van, and to glean people’s reactions to it.

“You don’t want,” she began, and cut herself off, scrolling nervously through search results. (As well as countless posts recycling the same few images from her short stroll, the hashtag also revealed occasional spam of nude strangers.) “The first picture goes viral. Always. And you don’t want the first picture to be terrible.”

Mercifully, Cardi had only a few minutes to stress about the quality of the first frantic photos of herself and Scott. Less than half a mile later, it was time for her real trial: Getting her dress out of the van.