In true VMA form, the MTV awards show did not stick to the script.
The first winner of the night, Taylor Swift for best female video, was victim to this when she was rudely and quickly interrupted by Kanye West, who cut off her acceptance speech. He stole the microphone to announce that fellow nominee Beyoncé had “one of the greatest videos of all time,” in “Single Ladies.”
“I was standing on stage and I was really excited because I’d just won the award and then I was really excited because Kanye West was on stage,” Swift recalled after the show. “And then I wasn’t excited anymore after that.”
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For her part, Beyoncé appeared shocked by the outburst and the crowd booed the rapper. Off-camera, when West returned to his seat, audience members gave a still-stunned Swift (who was ushered off the stage before finishing her speech) a standing ovation.
After the incident, West, who was photographed drinking what looked like liquor on the red carpet, was not in his seat at Radio City Music Hall. A security guard tells PEOPLE the rapper left the venue and would not be allowed to come back inside.
“I don’t want to start anything,” Swift said after the show when asked about hard feelings. “I had a great day tonight. I’ve been sent so many text messages and everyone’s been really nice. I’ve had a really, really fun night.”
Stars watching the show and tweeting immediately posted their thoughts on the incident. “Kanye needs to learn how to wait his turn,” Zac Hanson wrote. “I am sure he will get plenty of mic time to say something stupid later in the show.”
Country singer John Rich went even further with his tweet: KanyeWest is a lowlife. He needs to have his @@@ kicked in the middle of the stage right now! What a piece of @@@@!!! Go TAYLOR SWIFT.
Pink, who was also nominated for best female video, tweeted: Kanye west is the biggest piece of s– on earth. Quote me.
And Katy Perry followed suit: F– U KANYE. IT’S LIKE U STEPPED 0N A KITTEN.
Later, when Diddy and Jamie-Lynn Sigler took the stage to announce the best male video winner (rapper TI took it), they mentioned each of the nominees, including West, who was loudly booed by the crowd.
The show, however, got off to a more respectful start, with a heartfelt tribute to Michael Jackson in which Madonna called him, “so unique, so original, so rare. He was a king.” And, she added, he’s got a loyal following of royal subjects.
“My sons, age 9 and 4, are obsessed with [him]. There’s a whole lot of crotch-grabbing and moonwalking going on in my house.”
After her speech, Janet took the stage at the end of a Michael Jackson medley. Performing in front of the brother and sister’s “Scream” video, Janet channeled her late brother’s dance moves.