The Most Outrageous MTV Video Music Awards Moments Ever
Feuds, pythons, cakes — the VMAs have it all
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Kanye interrupts Taylor (2009)
It was the “I’mma let you finish” heard ‘round the world when Kanye West rushed the stage in the middle of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video. West’s objection to Swift’s win (“Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!") kicked off nearly a decade of truces and disputes between the two artists, who both channeled the moment into art.
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Madonna performs “Like a Virgin” (1984)
Madonna made history at the first VMAs with her risqué performance of new single “Like a Virgin.” Wearing a wedding dress, she began the number on top of a cake before launching into some provocative floor moves. (Later, she revealed that her writhing was actually improvised after her shoe fell off.) Madonna's original plan — to sing to a full-grown Bengal tiger — almost seems tame by comparison.
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Madonna kisses Britney and Christina (2003)
Nineteen years after her iconic 1984 performance, Madonna paid homage to her own legacy when she popped out of a cake to sing “Like a Virgin” with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera — but the singer really got people talking when she kissed each of the young pop starlets on the lips. Spears and Madonna went on to tease fans with the memory of the steamy lip-lock in the music video for their collaboration “Me Against the Music.”
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Britney dances with a python (2001)
Spears’ slinky “I’m a Slave 4 U” debut already featured a live tiger, but it became part of VMA history the moment a python was draped over her shoulders. In 2016, MTV confirmed that the snake (named Banana) was still alive, bigger than ever, and living with a friend. That same year, Spears told E! that she regretted the performance, which she called “so dumb.”
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Miley twerks (2013)
Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke were already lightning rods for controversy — and then they took the stage for a chaotic, provocative joint performance of Cyrus’ “We Don’t Stop” and Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Whether it was the twerking, the duo’s age difference, or just Cyrus’ tongue-out attitude, everyone at home found something to point the foam finger at in this spectacle.
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“Miley, what’s good?” (2015)
While accepting an award for Best Hip-Hop Video, Nicki Minaj took the opportunity to confront host Cyrus for comments she made about the rapper in a New York Times interview. “Back to this bitch who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press,” Minaj said. “Miley, what’s good?” Cyrus defended herself by claiming the press had “manipulated” her quotes.
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Michael Jackson accepts an award that doesn’t exist (2002)
Because the 2002 VMAs lined up with Jackson’s 44th birthday, MTV arranged to celebrate — complete with cake and a gift that just so happened to look like a trophy. So when Britney Spears called him the “artist of the millennium” in her introduction, Jackson assumed he’d won a new award and gave an acceptance speech. By the end, the crowd was on its feet.
Michael Jackson kisses Lisa Marie Presley (1994)
During their brief marriage, the King of Pop and the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll shared a memorably awkward kiss at the VMAs. "Just think: Nobody thought this would last,” Jackson said before the lip-lock, which probably didn’t win over any doubters.
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Fiona Apple doesn’t hold back (1997)
Apple didn’t bother playing nice after she won Best New Artist, launching into a memorably honest speech that torched the idea of worshiping pop stars. "This world is bulls---," Apple said. "You shouldn't model your life on what we think is cool, and what we're wearing and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself."
Kanye accepts the Vanguard Award (2015)
After six years, the saga of Kanye and Taylor seemed like it was coming to a close when Swift herself presented West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. West went on to give a wild 10-minute acceptance speech that ended with a twist: He declared that he was running for president in 2020.
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Diana Ross meets Lil' Kim (1999)
Lil’ Kim’s buzzy outfit — a jumpsuit that exposed her left breast, which was covered only by a pastie — caught the attention of Diana Ross herself. When Ross walked onstage to present an award, she hugged Mary J. Blige, then went straight for Lil’ Kim’s cleavage, jiggling her breast as the rapper laughed.
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Lady Gaga wears a meat dress (2010)
“I never thought I’d be asking Cher to hold my meat purse,” Lady Gaga joked as she accepted the Video of the Year award wrapped in meat. But her infamous outfit, assembled by L.A. designer Franc Fernandez, was about more than grabbing attention. "If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones," Gaga later told Ellen DeGeneres. "And I am not a piece of meat."
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Macy Gray plugs her album (2001)
Gray used fashion to send a different kind of message in 2001, but even a fun dress couldn’t help her second studio album, The Id, live up to the success of her debut.
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