Getting Ready With

Getting Ready with Kelsea Ballerini For Her First Met Gala: “It Feels Like Christmas”

The country star’s Met prep involved tequila shots and manifesting a bathroom selfie with SZA.

At 2 p.m. the afternoon of the Met Gala, Kelsea Ballerini is running perfectly on time. In fact, she’s ahead of schedule. “Hey friend!” she greets me at 1:59 p.m. “Happy Met Monday!”

My first question — “how are you feeling?” — immediately goes out the window. Ballerini, clearly, is feeling good. “I feel like it's Christmas,” she says. “I woke up just so giddy.” It’s an apt feeling: in just a few hours, she’ll make her Met Gala debut in custom Michael Kors. “[The anxiousness],” she says, “will happen. I'm just trying to keep it to the very last minute.”

She’s certainly set herself up for success: the day prior, she did a full test run of the final look — a sheer, floral covered gown that 8 artisans spent over 3,550 hours hand-sewing and custom jewels by Simon G, complete with hair by Peter Lux, using Pantene and glam by Kelsey Deenihan, using COVERGIRL (some inside scoop: no eyelash curler was involved in the evening’s look, just the brand’s new Eye Enhancer 3D Mascara)— and a shot of tequila with Kors, for good luck. It was Cinco de Mayo, after all. “Now, we have a roadmap, and we have all the time in the world,” she says. “There's no rush, which I really love.”

When we catch up, she’s done with hair and about to head into makeup. Her other ingredient for success, boyfriend Chase Stokes, also attending with Kors, is somewhere upstairs. “He’ll start getting ready in about an hour,” she laughs.

Ahead of her first ever Met Gala, Ballerini speaks exclusively with NYLON about the getting ready process, going naked-ish on the red carpet, and who she is hoping to snag a bathroom selfie with.

Okay, first of all: When did you find out that you were potentially going?

We got the invite ... Golly, like a month and a half ago. Maybe two months ago now. I can't remember. I was in the car, and my agent called me, and he was like, "You have the official invite to go to the Met Gala with Michael Kors." It's full-circle, because Michael was my first-ever New York Fashion Week show. He's the first designer that I got to meet in that capacity, so it feels special, and I told him yesterday, I'm like, "You're just my fashion first.” He's just lovely, and so down-to-earth, and fun.

I hear the Michael Kors table is always one of the most fun tables inside.

That's what he was saying. He was like, "It doesn't matter who performs. We stand up. We have fun.”

Who else is part of the Kors crew tonight?

We have Meg Ryan, which is iconic. Gabrielle Union, and her husband. We have Rachel Zegler, who is so sweet. We sat near each other at the Kors show. Allison Williams, and her husband. Then me and Chase.

It’s so awesome that you both get to go together.

It'll be nice. Also, just because we both get a little bit overstimulated when there's a lot going on, and so to be able to just have your person to zone out with is nice.

Tell me about the dress. Did they come to you with a sketch?

Michael sent over two sketches, and, immediately, I saw the one, and I was like, "This is something that I would wear to a carpet," and it has just the right amount of drama for the Met carpet, because I do feel like you really want to up your fashion game. It's very on theme, Garden of Time, it's floral. He said he got inspiration from American Beauty, which I thought was really cool.

I saw you posted the movie poster on your story earlier!

It feels archival, in that way but also feels very spring in New York, and it's held me accountable to keep doing my Pilates. There's not a lot left to the imagination in this dress.

I did clock that you posted from SLT yesterday, on a rainy Sunday no less.

I've been really doing my best to feel good going into this, because I've had the time, I've known it's coming up, and you only get your first Met once, so I really wanted to just feel like mind, body, 100% going into it.

When did you first try on the dress?

We went to Kors on Saturday, and had first fitting, and then he came to the hotel yesterday. So I had not seen the dress until Saturday. And you know me, I'm a Virgo, I like to know everything. So, I was like, "Please God, let this fit right," but it was perfect. Then yesterday, Michael came to the hotel, and we had a little tequila for Cinco de Mayo and had our other fitting.

Funny enough, I'm such a ring girl, so I always just have tons of rings on, and for the fitting, I had to take them off. Michael was like, "I'll hold them for you," and he put them in his pocket, and now he has all of my rings. I'm like, "Michael, you better not bail out tonight. I need those rings back."

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How did we land on the final glam for tonight?

It's a high neck, and it's the most concentrated amount of flowers up top at the neckline, so we wanted to keep the hair back, but also continue the flowers up into the hair. So, it's this really beautiful kind of messy, updo, with a little bit of a rock edge, because Chase's look is very Jim Morrison. Then the flowers continue up into the hair, which, again, for a normal red carpet, I probably wouldn't go this dramatic, but for the Met.

From the sketch I saw, it looks like it has a jacket that goes over it as well?

There’s this beautiful, oversized, dramatic jacket that I'm only going to wear for the first few minutes, and then Michael wants me to take it off, and almost drag it as part of the train.

What happens right before you hit the carpet? Will you do a shot?

100%. I do that before every carpet, probably not my healthiest habit, but it loosens me up to get out of my head. A good shot of 42, and I'll be ready to go.

Do you have any other friends going tonight?

I really don't know. I'm very excited to hopefully run into people I know. I heard SZA is going. And we all know how I feel about that, so my personal goals of the night are, A, do not trip on those stairs. Goal B is to interact with SZA. Preferably, I would love to somehow end up in the infamous bathroom selfie with her. Then C, just slow my ass down, because I always just rush through things and I always feel like, "Kelsea, don't be in the way. Kelsea, don't take someone else's spot," and I just don't want to feel that. I just want to be like, "Oh, I'm here. We're all here. Just take it slow."

Who is Chase excited to see?

Oh, he knows more people than I do at these kind of things.

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Has he been to the Met before?

He hasn't. We're both first timers. It's so fun. But I'm only the third country artist to ever go to the Met. So I’m definitely the new kid.

No way, is that true?

Just Taylor [Swift] and Kacey [Musgraves]. And Keith [Urban]. Keith has gone with Nicole.

What’s the after party plan?

I think we're going to come back to the hotel, eat some New York pizza. That's very much first on the agenda, and then I think there's three parties that we're going to go to.

Are you changing into a second look?

I am. The dress is so hyper-feminine that we wanted to do a bit of a juxtaposition, so I'm just wearing this beautiful neutral tan blazer open with a neutral Kors bra and underwear. We're going to show off the Pilates tonight.

The abs need their moment.

I’m trying!

Photographs by OK McCausland