Every Artist Who's Won the VMAs Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award
The VMAs took a break from presenting its Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award amid the pandemic, but it's back and better than ever in 2022, as Nicki Minaj is set to be given the prestigious honor at the Aug. 28 ceremony. The occasion has got us thinking about all the other musicians to receive the VMA recognition over the years. The Vanguard was created in 1984 and renamed after Jackson in 1991; it recognizes artists' overall achievements in music and film, and there were actually two inaugural winners: David Bowie and The Beatles.
While there has been plenty of debate over who probably should have a Vanguard Award but doesn't, it doesn't get awarded every year and has sometimes been presented as a lifetime achievement award instead. The best thing about the Vanguard Award is seeing how the artists celebrate and accept them. Beyoncé nearly performed her entire self-titled album; Kanye West almost ran for US president; Justin Timberlake basically resurrected *NSYNC from the dead; and Lady Gaga had us throwing wine at the TV when she presented Britney Spears with an award while dressed as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone.
Keep reading to see all the artists who have taken home the coveted Moon Person over the years, then check out even more unforgettable moments from the MTV VMAs.
David Bowie, 1984
The inaugural Vanguard Award went to the incomparable David Bowie.
David Byrne, 1985
Recognized for his work with Talking Heads, Byrne was honored by The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.
The late Robert Palmer presented Madonna with her Vanguard Award in 1986 — can you believe how far she's come since then?
Peter Gabriel, 1987
The Genesis founder won his Vanguard in 1987. Alexa, play "Sledgehammer."
Michael Jackson, 1988
The following year, Gabriel presented Michael Jackson with his Moon Person in person. "I hope this award will rescue this artist from obscurity," Gabriel joked before Michael said his thanks and hit the stage for a live performance of "Bad." The moment was shown via satellite from Wembley Stadium in the UK.
George Michael, 1989
Madonna presented the "Faith" singer with his honor in 1989.
Janet Jackson, 1990
Michael Jackson's younger sister Janet was the woman of the night when she won the coveted award just two years after her brother. Magic Johnson introduced her to the stage after a highlight reel of her amazing videos.
Bon Jovi, 1991
The New Jersey-based band took home the honor in 1991 along with director Wayne Isham, who directed several of their music videos. This was the same year that the award was renamed in honor of Michael Jackson.
Guns N' Roses, 1992
Frontman Axl Rose took a dig at the King of Pop at the end of the band's acceptance speech, telling the crowd, "This has nothing to do with Michael Jackson. Thank you."
Tom Petty, 1994
The late singer-songwriter was awarded in 1994, as were the Rolling Stones, who received a lifetime achievement award.
Drew Barrymore presented Michael Stipe and the guys with their Vanguard trophy.
LL Cool J, 1997
Mariah Carey presented the eternally smooth rapper with a Vanguard Award in 1997, making him the first hip-hop artist to receive the honor. That same year, director Mark Romanek was also recognized for his talents.
Beastie Boys, 1998
After being introduced by Public Enemy's Chuck D, the group took the stage to give an acceptance speech. The late, great MCA used the opportunity to make an impassioned speech about the American military's involvement in the Middle East.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2000
The band received their honor from Chris Rock and Lance Crouther.
During their acceptance speech, the members of U2 pulled a sweet move by inviting the surviving members of the Ramones on stage with them to honor the memory of lead singer Joey Ramone, who had died a few months earlier. "New York City has given us a lot of things, but the best thing it ever gave us was a punk rock group called the Ramones, without whom a lot of people would never have gotten started, certainly us," Bono told the audience.
Britney Spears, 2011
Spears received a tribute performance by young dancers who did choreographed routines to a medley of her hits. Then, Lady Gaga (who was for some reason dressed as her alter ego, Jo Calderone) presented Britney with her Moon Person (after trying to hit on her).
Justin Timberlake, 2013
For his Vanguard Award performance, Timberlake gathered his former *NSYNC bandmates and took over the show like it was 1999.
Let's get something straight: every VMAs should involve Beyoncé. Period. The singer performed a 16-minute medley of her just-released self-titled album, then proceeded to melt our hearts when she joined husband JAY-Z and their daughter Blue Ivy, who presented her with a golden Moon Person.
Kanye West, 2015
MTV surprised us all in 2015 when Taylor Swift presented her on-again, off-again, on-sgsin nemesis Kanye West with his Vanguard Award. It was a full-circle moment from their "infamous encounter" at the show in 2009. Kanye went on to give a long and passionate acceptance speech in which he announced his plans to run for president in 2020 and railed against award shows and the entertainment industry.
After she performed several medleys during the show, it was Rihanna's then-rumored flame Drake who presented her with the Vanguard Award, and his speech was so gushy that many of us were waiting for him to get down on one knee and propose. Rihanna opened up about the "uncomfortable" moment in an interview in June 2018, saying, "I don't like too many compliments; I don't like to be put on blast."
Jennifer Lopez, 2018
J.Lo made history as the first Latinx artist to ever receive the award in 2018. She performed a medley of her greatest hits, including "Waiting For Tonight," "Love Don't Cost a Thing," "Get Right," and "All I Have." Oh, and she also did "Jenny From the Block" and "I'm Real" (with help from Ja Rule!).
Missy Elliot, 2019
Cardi B presented Missy Elliot with her award, making her the first female rapper ever to take home the high honor. She, of course, performed her hit single "Work It" (which previously won the video of the year award in 2003) at the ceremony, and she got a crowd-pleasing assist from an all-grown-up Alyson Stoner, who got their start dancing in the rap star's music videos.
Nicki Minaj, 2022
Nicki Minaj has been in the mainstream spotlight for just over 10 years, but her music career is already one for the books and peppered with iconic MTV VMAs performances. Who can forget her 2014 rendition of "Bang, Bang" with Ariana Grande and Jessie J where she performed right through a wardrobe malfunction without missing a beat, or her 2018 rap medley? Minaj hasn't shied away from calling the VMAs out when she felt she wasn't getting the recognition she was due, either, like when she pointed out their snub her record-breaking music video "Anaconda" for video of the year in 2015. With such a storied history with the VMAs in so little time, it's no wonder she'll receive the award ceremony's prestigious honor at the 2022 ceremony on Aug. 28.