Fact check: Image of bleeding Indigenous person at Met Gala is altered

·3 min read

The claim: A photo shows a person dressed at the Met Gala as a Native American

The annual Met Gala is known for its splashy fashion statements. But one widely shared look on social media didn't actually make an appearance on the red carpet.

A photo published Sept. 14 on Facebook shows the back of someone in Indigenous apparel, dripping with blood.

“Meet Sebastian Hernandez as cultural icon’s Met Gala outfit turns heads,” reads the post. “Sebastian rather chose to make a statement by only wearing a long braid styled with feathers while bearing the rest of their body with only the privates covered, resembling the appearance of Indigenous tribals.”

Other Facebook users said the look nailed the gala’s theme: “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.”

“The Met Gala theme was ‘AmeriKKKan Independence’ btw,” reads another Sept. 14 post. “AmeriKKKa has Indigenous blood on their hands, nobody should be proud to be AmeriKKKan. Why is no one talking about this.”

The second post accumulated more than 10,000 shares within one week. But the image isn't real – it was altered using photos from a 2019 performance art show and the 2018 Met Gala.

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"It certainly created a lot of buzz and controversy with people trying to verify whether or not it was real or a photoshop," Stephanie Ambroise, the Facebook user who shared the second post, told USA TODAY over Facebook Messenger. "But given the theme of the event, I think it was a very powerful image. In my opinion it did not need to be real in order to be effective in terms of messaging."

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the other post for comment.

Image manipulated using old photos

Some users who commented on the Facebook posts expressed confusion as to whether the image was authentic. It's not.

The picture first appeared online Sept. 14 on the Instagram account of Sebastian Hernandez, who describes themself as an artist, DJ and "mover."

“Made an AMERIKKKAN appearance or wtvr. #metgala,” reads the caption on the image.

The red carpet depicted in the post is from the Met Gala, but not this year’s event.

The original image, which shows empty stairs and several photographers, was taken at the 2018 Met Gala and quickly turned into a meme. The gala's theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” and social media users claimed the image showed Beyoncé, who skipped the event that year, dressed as the Holy Ghost.

The picture of Hernandez dressed in Indigenous apparel was taken at the 2019 BOFFO Performance Festival Fire Island in New York.

Their performance, titled "Advent East," aimed to “re-appropriate and use the seminal American Western painting, ‘American Progress’ created by John Ghast in 1872, as a reference point to contest colonial ideas of American westward expansion,” according to the event’s website. More images of the performance are on Hernandez’s website.

USA TODAY reached out to Hernandez for comment.

Our rating: Altered

Based on our research, we rate ALTERED a photo that claims to show a person dressed at the Met Gala as a Native American. The image has been photoshopped using photos from a 2019 performance art show and the 2018 Met Gala.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Image of bleeding Indigenous person at Met Gala isn't real

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