Entertainment Music Look Back at the MTV VMA Vanguard Award Winners Through the Years The MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award is the most prestigious prize given at the MTV Video Music Awards, and has been awarded to some big names over the years. From the first recipient David Bowie to the most recent recipient Nicki Minaj, take a look back at all the winners through the years By Kelsie Gibson Kelsie Gibson Twitter Kelsie Gibson is the SEO Editor of PEOPLE Digital. Since joining the brand in 2021, she has contributed to a number of different verticals, writing and editing SEO content ranging from relationship timelines to TV and movie explainers. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Kelsie worked at POPSUGAR as the Celebrity and Entertainment editor, where she wrote and edited content and conducted various interviews for online and video at press junkets, red carpets, and events such as Tribeca Film Festival. She was also formerly at Bustle, Tiger Beat, and Her Campus and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on August 28, 2022 09:31 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 26 1984: David Bowie Stephane Cardinale/Sygma/Getty David Bowie (seen at the 1995 MTV Europe Music Awards) took home the very first MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1984 at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards. The ceremony also included a special mention of The Beatles and Richard Lester for their contributions to music videos over the years. 02 of 26 1985: David Byrne LGI Stock/Corbis/VCG/Getty Talking Heads musician David Byrne (pictured in 1984) took home the Vanguard Award in 1985. He shared the honor with rock duo Godley & Creme as well as Russell Mulcahy, who notably directed "Video Killed the Radio Star." 03 of 26 1986: Madonna Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage Madonna, who has had her fair share of memorable MTV VMA moments over the years, made history as the first woman to take home a Vanguard Award in 1986. The singer (pictured at the MTV VMAs in 1995) shared the honor with music video director Zbigniew Rybczyński. 04 of 26 1987: Peter Gabriel Anna Krajec/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel (pictured at the 1992 VMAs) was honored with the award in 1987 alongside British director Julien Temple, who contributed to various music videos by David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and the Sex Pistols. 05 of 26 1988: Michael Jackson Kevin Mazur/WireImage Michael Jackson (seen at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards) was the sole winner of the Vanguard Award in 1988, a year after the release of his seventh studio album Bad. The singer's music videos largely propelled the success of MTV over the course of his career and as a result the award was later renamed the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 1991. 06 of 26 1989: George Michael Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic In 1989, George Michael was presented the Vanguard Award by previous winner Madonna. 07 of 26 1990: Janet Jackson Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG/Getty Following in her famous brother's footsteps, Janet Jackson (pictured at the 1995 MTV VMAs) was awarded her own Vanguard Award in 1990 at just 24 years old. She remains the youngest person to ever receive the honor. 08 of 26 1991: Bon Jovi Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic In 1991, Bon Jovi took home the special award alongside Wayne Isham, who directed a handful of the band's notable music videos. 09 of 26 1992: Guns N' Roses Ke.Mazur/WireImage The hard rock band received the Vanguard Award in 1992, notably making a dig at Jackson during their speech on stage. "This has nothing to do with Michael Jackson. Thank you," frontman Axl Rose added at the end. 10 of 26 1994: The Rolling Stones Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic The Rolling Stones took home the Vanguard Award in 1994, sharing the honor with Tom Petty. 11 of 26 1995: R.E.M Ebet Roberts/Redferns A few years after winning Video of the Year for "Losing My Religion" in 1991, the band took home the show's highest award in 1995. 12 of 26 1997: LL Cool J Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty In 1997, LL Cool J became the first hip hop artist to take home a Vanguard Award. He shared the honor with director Mark Romenek, who notably directed Janet and Michael Jackson video for "Scream." 13 of 26 1998: Beastie Boys Frank Micelotta/Getty Following LL Cool J's historic hip hop win, the Beastie Boys (pictured at the 2004 VMAs) were the next hip hop artists to take home a Vanguard Award in 1998. 14 of 26 2000: Red Hot Chili Peppers Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty The new millennium started with Red Hot Chili Peppers taking home a Vanguard Award in 2000. 15 of 26 2001: U2 George De Sota/Getty U2 took home the noteworthy MTV VMA award in 2001, sharing a poignant moment with the remaining members of the Ramones on stage following the death of their frontman Joey Ramone. 16 of 26 2003: Duran Duran Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic In 2003, Duran Duran took home the Vanguard Award, which was given as a lifetime achievement award. 17 of 26 2006: Hype Williams John Shearer/WireImage The 2006 ceremony honored director Hype Williams with the Vanguard Award for his contributions to music videos such as Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy wit It," TLC's "No Scrubs," and Kanye West's "Gold Digger." 18 of 26 2011: Britney Spears Jason Merritt/Getty In 2011, Britney Spears took home the Vanguard Award, which was presented on stage by Lady Gaga. 19 of 26 2013: Justin Timberlake Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Two years later, Spears' former Mickey Mouse Club costar, Justin Timberlake, was awarded with the 2013 Vanguard Award. The singer was joined by his former NSYNC bandmates and friend Jimmy Fallon as he accepted the award. 20 of 26 2014: Beyoncé Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic After putting on an incredible performance on stage, Beyoncé was presented the 2014 Vanguard Award by her husband Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy. In 2021, the singer's daughter became the youngest MTV VMAs winner at age 9 for her appearance in Beyoncé's "Brown Skin Girl" video. 21 of 26 2015: Kanye West Kevin Mazur/MTV1415/WireImage In 2015, Kanye West took home the prestigious award, which was famously presented by Taylor Swift. During her speech, the "Bad Blood" singer poked fun at their "infamous encounter" at the 2009 MTV VMAs, which started their longtime feud. 22 of 26 2016: Rihanna John Shearer/Getty Before becoming a beauty mogul, Rihanna took home the Vanguard Award in 2016 for her achievements in music. She was notably presented the award by her then-rumored boyfriend Drake, who professed his love for the singer on the stage. 23 of 26 2017: Pink Kevin Winter/Getty At the 2017 MTV VMAs, Pink took home the coveted award after giving a stunning performance of her top hits on stage. 24 of 26 2018: Jennifer Lopez Noam Galai/WireImage Jennifer Lopez, who has made some very fashionable appearances at the MTV VMAs over the years, took home the Vanguard Award in 2018, making her the very first Latin artist to receive the honor. 25 of 26 2019: Missy Elliott JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty In 2019, Missy Elliott took home the Vanguard Award, which included a show-stopping performance that had everyone on their feet during the ceremony. 26 of 26 2022: Nicki Minaj Nicki Minaj. MTV Nicki Minaj took home the coveted award in 2022. Before accepting the Vanguard Award, the rapper also took to the stage for a special medley of her greatest hits, marking her first VMAs performance since 2018.