74 of the Most Unforgettable Moments From the MTV VMAs
The MTV VMAs is considered one of music's biggest (and most unpredictable) nights of the year, and ever since the first show kicked off in 1984, the award ceremony has been the source of some of the most jaw-dropping moments in pop culture history. Surprise reunions, shocking feuds, political/fashion statements, and, yes, even shocking kisses go down at the VMAs — nothing is off limits. From Kanye West's infamous mic grab in 2009 to Beyoncé's baby-bump reveal in 2011, there's always something exciting going on both on and off the stage.
In an August interview with POPSUGAR, Alex Coletti, who was one of the show's producers at the time of Britney Spears and Madonna's infamous 2003 kiss, recalled the powerful creative synergy that helped launch some of the iconic moments the show has become known for. "It was a time where that show in particular was taking all of pop culture, throwing it in the blender, and coming up with some crazy cocktail that no one else has," he said. "Everyone at MTV was creative, no matter what department they were in. It was never pressure, at least for me, because we were in such a great time for music, for staging."
Of course, the VMAs isn't just reserved for incredible musical performances and memorable onstage stunts — it's also the place responsible for gathering all our favorite stars under one roof for an evening of epic fun. Not to mention, it's where well-deserved awards are given for the best music across pop, hip-hop, R&B, rock, K-pop, and more. Some stars have been born right on the VMAs stage, while other have returned to remind of their icon status.
In honor of the upcoming award show, which takes place on Sept. 12, take a look at all the memorable moments in VMAs history.
Madonna Performing at the First-Ever MTV VMAs (1984)
Madonna performed "Like a Virgin" in 1984 at Radio City Music Hall during the first Video Music Awards.
Paula Abdul Being Carried by Her Dancers During Her Performance (1991)
Paula Abdul hitched a ride on the hands of her dancers during the 1991 show.
RuPaul Backstage With Nirvana at the MTV VMAs (1993)
RuPaul met up with Nirvana backstage at the 1993 VMAs.
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain With Their Infant Daughter, Frances Bean (1993)
Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain brought their young daughter, Frances Bean, to the red carpet in 1993.
Michael Jackson and Slash's Electric "Black and White" Performance (1995)
Slash played the guitar while Michael Jackson sang "Black or White" in 1995.
Drew Barrymore, Courtney Love, and Eric Erlandson Hanging Out at the Ceremony (1995)
Drew Barrymore, Love, and Love's Hole bandmate Eric Erlandson were quite the sight in 1995.
TLC Racking Up Awards For "Waterfalls" (1995)
TLC won four awards for their "Waterfalls" video in 1995.
Snoop Dogg and Tupac Suited Up at the MTV VMAs (1996)
Snoop Dogg and Tupac threw up their West Coast hand signs on Sept. 4, 1996, just nine days before Tupac was killed.
The Spice Girls' Tribute to Princess Diana (1997)
The Spice Girls won best video for "Wannabe" in 1997. During the show, all five members wore black arm bands as a symbol of their sadness over the death of Princess Diana just days earlier.
Diddy Paying Tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
Diddy, who went by Puff Daddy at the time, had the help of Sting, Faith Evans, and 112 to perform his hit "I'll Be Missing You," a tribute to his recently deceased friend The Notorious B.I.G. in 1997.
Green Day's Casual Punk Style on the Red Carpet (1998)
Green Day brought their punk style to the red carpet in 1998.
Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston Poking Fun at Their Feud While Dressed Alike (1998)
Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston made light of their alleged feud by wearing the same dress to present in 1998.
Fred Durst Joining Christina Aguilera on the MTV VMAs Stage (2000)
Fred Durst came on stage to join Christina Aguilera during her 2000 performance.
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake Showing PDA at the MTV VMAs (2000)
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake cuddled in their seats during the show in 2000.
Destiny's Child and Jessica Simpson's Backstage Photo Op (2000)
Beyoncé, Jessica Simpson, and Kelly Rowland posed together backstage in 2000.
Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock's Backstage Kiss (2001)
Pamela Anderson planted a kiss on Kid Rock backstage at the VMAs in 2001.
Gwen Stefani and Eve Presenting With Moby at the MTV VMAs (2001)
The "Let Me Blow Your Mind" collaborators presented with Moby in 2001.
Michael Jackson's Surprise Appearance With *NSYNC During Their Performance (2001)
Jackson surprised the crowd by coming on stage at the end of the *NSYNC performance of their single "Pop" in 2001.
Eminem's Shirtless Performance at the MTV VMAs (2002)
Eminem stripped down to show off his shirtless body in 2002.
Madonna and Britney Spears's Infamous Kiss (2003)
Madonna and Spears shared a very famous kiss during a medley performance of "Like a Virgin" with Aguilera in 2003.
Beyoncé's Solo Debut Performance at the MTV VMAs (2003)
Beyoncé made her debut as a solo artist during the show in 2003 where she performed "Baby Boy," and JAY-Z later joined her on stage to perform "Crazy in Love."
Chris Martin's Fair-Trade Performance (2003)
Chris Martin's piano spread his fair-trade message during a performance in 2003.
Gwyneth Paltrow and André 3000 Posing For a Photo Together (2004)
Gwyneth Paltrow posed with André 3000 backstage at the 2004 VMAs.
Kelly Clarkson's Wet Performance of "Since U Been Gone" (2005)
Kelly Clarkson wowed with a wet and wild rendition of "Since U Been Gone" in 2005.
Chace Crawford and Lauren Conrad Presenting Together at the MTV VMAs (2008)
Chace Crawford and Lauren Conrad presented together in 2008.
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart's Pre-"Twilight" Red Carpet Appearance (2008)
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart walked the red carpet together in 2008, two months before "Twilight" came out and they skyrocketed to superstardom.
The Twilight Stars Presenting at the MTV VMAs (2009)
In 2009, Stewart sported a short bob when she took the stage with Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.
Kanye West Interrupting Taylor Swift's Acceptance Speech (2009)
West infamously interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 show.
Pink's Acrobatic Performance (2009)
Pink showed off her acrobatic skills during a 2009 performance.
JAY-Z and Alicia Keys's Musical Ode to New York City (2009)
JAY-Z and Alicia Keys performed "Empire State of Mind" together in 2009.
Lady Gaga Accepting an Award From Cher in Her Famous Meat Dress (2010)
In 2010, Lady Gaga, in her infamous meat dress, accepted one of her many awards of the night from Cher.
Beyoncé's Surprise Pregnancy Reveal During Her MTV VMAs Performance (2011)
Beyoncé revealed she was pregnant during her performance at the 2011 show.
Adele Serenading the MTV VMAs Crowd (2011)
Adele belted a memorable performance at the 2011 VMAs after receiving surgery on her vocal cords.
Lady Gaga's Alter Ego Presenting With Britney Spears at the MTV VMAs (2011)
Lady Gaga, dressed as her alter ego, presented Spears with an award at the 2011 show.
Kevin Hart and Psy Doing "Gangnam Style" at the MTV VMAs (2012)
Kevin Hart and Psy danced on stage at the 2012 VMAs.
Rebel Wilson's Half-Naked T-Shirt at the MTV VMAs (2012)
Rebel Wilson wore a cheeky T-shirt at the 2012 VMAs when she took to the stage with The Wanted.
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus's Racy "Blurred Lines" Performance (2013)
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus gave a raunchy rendition of "Blurred Lines" at the 2013 show.
Katy Perry and Riff Raff Paying Homage to Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears's Denim (2014)
Katy Perry and Riff Raff paid homage to Timberlake and Spears at the 2014 VMAs.
Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC's Reunion (2013)
Timberlake reunited with his *NSYNC bandmates on stage in 2013.
JAY-Z and Blue Ivy Carter Presenting Beyoncé Her Video Vanguard Award (2014)
In 2014, JAY-Z and Blue Ivy Carter presented Beyoncé with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
Amber Rose's Barely There Dress on the MTV VMAs Red Carpet (2014)
Amber Rose left little to the imagination when she showed up to the VMAs in 2014.
The Kardashian-Jenner Clan at the MTV VMAs (2014)
In 2014, the Kardashian-Jenner sisters turned the show into a family affair.
Miley Cyrus's Friend Jesse Helt Accepting an Award on Her Behalf (2014)
In 2014, Miley Cyrus had My Friend's Place representative and former homeless man Jesse Helt accept her award.
Jennifer Lopez and Taylor Swift's Backstage Link Up (2014)
In 2014, Jennifer Lopez linked up with Swift backstage.
Nicki Minaj Overcoming Her Wardrobe Malfunction on Stage (2014)
Nicki Minaj suffered a wardrobe malfunction during her performance in 2014, but managed to hold it together (literally).
Britney Spears's Stunning Appearance on the MTV VMAs Stage (2015)
Spears made a dazzling appearance in 2015 and reminded us all of her icon status.
Miley Cyrus's Cheeky Outfit on the Red Carpet (2015)
Cyrus got cheeky on the red carpet in 2015.
Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift Performing Together After Their Feud (2015)
In 2015, Minaj brought Swift into her opening number and put an end to their feud.
Taylor Swift and Kanye West Making Up After Their Feud (2015)
Swift presented West with the Video Vanguard Award, and after her speech, the two shared a hug on stage in 2015.
Chrissy Teigen and Kim Kardashian's Audience Selfies at the MTV VMAs (2015)
Chrissy Teigen and Kim Kardashian snapped selfies in the audience in 2015.
Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter Walking the Red Carpet (2016)
In 2016, Beyoncé walked the red carpet with daughter Blue Ivy.
Beyoncé's "Lemonade" Takeover at the MTV VMAs (2016)
Beyoncé performed part of her iconic "Lemonade" album in 2016.
Drake and Rihanna Sharing a Kiss While She Accepted Her Video Vanguard Award (2016)
Drake and Rihanna shared a kiss after he presented her with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2016.
The Cyrus Clan United at the MTV VMAs (2017)
It was a family affair for the Cyrus brood at the 2017 ceremony.
Pink and Her Family Posing on the Red Carpet (2017)
Pink hit the red carpet at the 2017 ceremony with husband Carey Hart and their adorable daughter, Willow.
Katy Perry Serving as Host of the MTV VMAs (2017)
Perry hosted the ceremony in 2017.
Ariana Grande's Family Joining Her During Her Performance (2018)
During her 2018 performance of "God Is a Woman," Ariana Grande was joined on stage by her grandmother Marjorie Grande; her mother, Joan Grande; and her cousin Lani Grande.
Jennifer Lopez Receiving Her Video Vanguard Award (2018)
Lopez was honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2018.
Cardi B Bringing Baby Kulture on the MTV VMAs Stage (2018)
Cardi B made her first appearance as a mom at the 2018 ceremony.
Logic's Moving Performance Aimed at the Trump Administration (2018)
Logic used his 2018 performance to take aim at the Trump administration's family-separation policy by inviting immigrant parents and children who had been impacted by immigration issues on stage.
Maluma Making History During His MTV VMAs Performance (2018)
Maluma made history as the first solo artist to perform a full song in Spanish at the 2018 VMAs.
Shawn Mendes's Wet and Wild Performance (2018)
In 2018, Shawn Mendes opened the VMAs with a performance that was basically a wet-T-shirt contest.
Normani's Throwback-Style Solo Performance (2019)
Normani brought all the moves during her first-ever solo performance at the 2019 show.
The Jonas Brothers' Onstage Reunion at the MTV VMAs (2019)
In 2019, the Jonas Brothers had us dancing in our living rooms as they performed "Sucker" and "Only Human" live from New Jersey, marking their first performance at the ceremony in 11 years.
Lil Nas X Performing "Old Town Road" (2019)
On top of becoming a first-time VMAs winner, Lil Nas X took us to the old town road with his energetic performance in 2019.
Taylor Swift's Shout-Out to the Equality Act During Her MTV VMAs Performance (2019)
Swift opened the 2019 MTV VMAs with a colorful performance of "You Need to Calm Down," which featured a shout-out to the Equality Act.
Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes's Steamy Performance (2019)
You could almost feel the heat between Camila Cabello and Mendes during their 2019 VMAs performance.
Missy Elliott Receiving Her Video Vanguard Award (2019)
Missy Elliott was the real winner of the 2019 ceremony, as she was honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
Lizzo's Stunning Performance at the MTV VMAs (2019)
Lizzo delivered a booty-full performance at the 2019 ceremony.
Lady Gaga Accepting the First-Ever Tricon Award (2020)
During the award show's virtual ceremony in 2020, the powerhouse star took home the first-ever MTV Tricon Award to honor her astounding achievements across music, fashion, and Hollywood.
Cyndi Lauper Speaking Out For Women's Rights (2021)
Before Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States, the legendary pop singer advocated for women's rights (including equal pay) before she presented Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar, and Giveon with the best pop award for their "Peaches" collaboration at the 2021 MTV VMAs.
Nick Cannon Fake Proposing to Ashanti on the Red Carpet (2021)
The father of eight, dressed as his alter-ego Murda Count Harlem, jokingly got on one knee and pretended to propose to the R&B singer on the 2021 MTV VMAs red carpet.
Taylor Swift Announcing "Midnights" After Winning Video of the Year (2022)
In her acceptance speech after winning video of the year for "All Too Well: The Short Film," Swift revealed that her next studio album, "Midnights," was on the way.