From Crazy Outfits to Big Reveals: 29+ Iconic Moments in MTV History


| LAST UPDATE 10/20/2021

By Manny Ray

MTV Award Shows are filled with unforgettable moments; Some are a little awkward, and others are incredibly special. From bringing animals on stage to wearing raw meat, check out these iconic moments in MTV history.

Madonna Sang From the Top of a Wedding Cake: 1984

In 1984, MTV put on their first Video Music Awards show, and Madonna was one of the musical performers. She insisted on singing her new song, Like a Virgin, and she did so in a wedding gown, on top of a 17-foot tall wedding cake.

Madonna First VMAsMadonna First VMAs
Getty Images via Frank Micelotta Archive

One of Madonna's shoes slipped off mid-performance, "So I thought, 'Well, I'll just pretend I meant to do this,'" she revealed. "And I dove on the floor, and I rolled around." Way to start off the show with a bang, and of course, we can trust Madonna to take care of that.

Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie Presley Cozied Up On Stage: 1994

Back when things were still hot and heavy between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, the couple took the stage, hand in hand, at the 1994 VMAs. But they brought a lot more to the show than fans had expected, as they didn't hesitate to flaunt their romance on stage.

MJ Lisa VMAsMJ Lisa VMAs
Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

Jackson and Presley appeared to be madly in love, as they didn't hold back on the PDA, and many audience members were cheering at the sight of it. However, some viewers also had negative reactions, as not everyone was eager to watch these two smooch their way through the night.

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Eminem Brought an Army of 100 Slim Shadys: 2000

Back in 2000, Eminem, also known as the one and only Slim Shady, managed to arrange an army of 100 other Slim Shadys at the VMAs. The audience was amazed but not necessarily surprised, as Eminem has a history of creating unbelievable music videos, and this just took his performance to the next level.

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Getty Images via Frank Micelotta Archive

"Eminem's personality was so big, so the idea was that we weren't going to be able to do this with five, 10, or even 20 Slim Shadys," explained Dave Sirulnick, former executive producer of MTV News. So, the real Slim Shady and his 100 lookalikes swarmed Radio City Music Hall, and Eminem made history.

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Britney Spears Brought a Snake on Stage: 2001

At the 2001 VMAs, Britney Spears made quite the entrance, sharing the stage with a surprising guest. During her performance of I'm a Slave 4 U, she sang and danced while holding a massive snake, and yes, it was alive. This was an iconic moment in Britney's career and arguably helped give her a new and improved reputation.

Britney Spears Snake VMAsBritney Spears Snake VMAs
Getty Images via Frank Micelotta Archive

Her daring performance with the python helped this artist leave her innocence behind her and transition into the world of adult pop music. Plus, nearly everyone in the audience was shocked at what they were seeing and hoped this reptile wouldn't make a wrong move on stage, of course.

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Madonna & Briney Spears Shared a Kiss: 2003

Britney put on quite a show again at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, taking the stage alongside Madonna and Christina Aguilera. The powerful trio sang a pop medley with some of their most famous songs, and of course, some iconic dance moves. But that wasn't all they brought to the stage.

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Getty Images via Chris Polk

Madonna and Britney began to move closer to one another, and all of a sudden, they surprised fans with a mid-performance kiss. This changed the tone of the entire performance, and many people couldn't help but wonder why Christina had been left out of the smooch session?

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Katy Perry Went Head First Into a Giant Cake: 2008

Katy Perry's no stranger to dancing with desserts and squirting whip cream out of her bra, but at the seventh annual Los Premios MTV Latin America Awards in 2008, she took things to the next level. At the end of her performance, Perry jumped straight into this giant pink cake.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter

And for a moment, it looked like the artist was actually stuck; That must've been some pretty sticky frosting! It's all fun and games until you're stuck on top of a lifesize dessert, if you know what we mean. Thankfully, Katy eventually unglued herself from the cake and got right back on her feet, rocking the stage as always.

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Kanye Interrupted Taylor Swift: 2009

It's almost impossible to forget the very moment when Kanye stole the spotlight from Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, right as she was giving her acceptance speech for Best Video by a Female Artist. Out of nowhere, Kanye came running onto the stage saying, "I'mma let you finish."

Kanye & Taylor VMAsKanye & Taylor VMAs
Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

"But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time," Kanye continued. If you couldn't already tell by the look on her face, Swift was in utter shock, and she wasn't the only one. Most people, including Beyonce herself, couldn't believe that Kanye would pull a move like that.

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Beyonce Gave Taylor a Chance to Finish Her Speech: 2009

Even though Kanye had praised her, Beyonce disapproved of what he'd done to Taylor. So, later that same night, Beyonce changed things up in her own speech. "I remember being 17-years-old, up for my first MTV award with Destiny's Child, and it was one of the most exciting moments in my life," she shared.

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Getty Images via Kevin Mazur

"So, I'd like for Taylor to come out and have her moment," Beyonce proudly exclaimed on stage. Swift was shocked yet again, but this time, in the best way possible. The two strong female artists shared a meaningful hug on stage, and Taylor finally had her special moment.

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Lil Mama Crashed Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' Performance: 2009

In 2009, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' song, Empire State of Mind, was at its peak, hence why fans were so excited to watch them perform it live at the VMAs. However, in the middle of the performance, the two artists were joined by an unexpected guest; Lil Mama suddenly climbed onto the stage.

Lil Mama Crashed VMAsLil Mama Crashed VMAs
Getty Images via Kevin Mazur

Jay and Alicia tried their best to ignore Lil Mama and continue performing. She later said that after this stunt, her career took a hit, as "a lot of people felt like they didn't want to take a chance on me with certain things because it might have made Jay-Z or Alicia Keys not want to work with them," Lil Mama revealed.

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Janet Jackson Brought Back the King of Pop: 2009

In 2009, while Janet Jackson and many others were mourning the loss of Michael Jackson, many people couldn't imagine how the VMAs would go on without the King of Pop. It was known that MTV would pay tribute to the legend, and Janet certainly made this an unforgettable event.

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Getty Images via Christopher Polk

During her performance, Janet was accompanied by her late brother's hologram and recreated their iconic duet, Scream, a song they'd worked on together. It was clear to everyone watching that Janet had put her all into this performance, to honor Michael in the best way she knew how. 

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Kristen Stewart Dropped Her Award: 2009

Based on this next event, it seems that the physical MTV awards are relatively slippery, and Kristen Stewart discovered this first hand. At the 2009 MTV Movie Awards, Stewart received the award for Best Female Performance, but once she got a hold of that Golden Popcorn statue, she couldn't keep it in her hands.

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Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

The Twilight actress dropped the award while she was still on stage, doing the best she could to keep her cool. At the end of her acceptance speech, Stewart addressed her little mishap, saying, "I was just as awkward as you thought I would be." And don't worry, she was given a new Golden Popcorn later on.

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Lady Gaga Wore a Dress Made of Meat: 2010

Lady Gaga's never been one to settle for the ordinary, but at the 2010 VMAs, she took her wardrobe to a whole new level. Apparently, an outfit made of fabric was too boring for this extraordinary artist, so she decided to cover her body in raw meat instead.

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Getty Images via Frederick M. Brown

Gaga's dress, headpiece, and even her boots were all made of meaty goodness, and many people couldn't believe what they were seeing. This outfit indeed went down in history; It was preserved in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after the event, rather than being thrown on the grill for dinner.

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Beyonce's Big Reveal: 2011

In 2011, Beyonce brought more than just musical magic to the stage. She performed Love on Top at VMAs and amazed the crowd with her stunning purple sequin jacket, in addition to her iconic dance moves, of course. But suddenly, she moved her blazer to the side and revealed a very special surprise. 

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Getty Images via Kristian Dowling

Underneath that jacket was Beyonce's baby bump, and she proudly shared this news with the world. Little did she know, Blue Ivy would soon follow in her footsteps and bring even more incredible music into this world. What a way to make an entrance; Don't you think?!

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Miley Cyrus & Robin Thicke Twerked the Night Away: 2013

In 2013, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke took the VMAs stage by storm and literally twerked the night away. While performing, We Can't Stop and Blurred Lines, the artists showed off their best twerking, very close to one another. And let's just say not everyone was pleased to watch this performance. 

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Getty Images via Theo Wargo

The media had a field day with this performance, but Thicke seemed to put all of the blame on Miley, as he told Oprah that it was Miley's decision to be on stage half-naked and twerk, not his. However, in an interview, Cyrus claimed that Thicke had encouraged her to be "as naked as possible." So, what's the real story here?

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NSYNC Surprised Fans With a Reunion: 2013

Justin Timberlake was scheduled to perform at the 2013 VMAs, but instead of taking the stage alone, he surprised viewers with an NSYNC reunion set. Before accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, Timberlake brought the entire gang on stage, and many NSYNC fans couldn't believe their eyes.

NSYNC Reunion VMAsNSYNC Reunion VMAs
Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

This was the first time the band had performed at the VMAs since 2001, making it an incredibly historic moment. NSYNC performed two of their iconic songs, Girlfriend and Bye Bye Bye, and Timberlake was proud to have pulled off this incredible surprise.

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Nicki Minaj Couldn't Close Her Dress: 2014

Wardrobe malfunctions happen all the time, but in many cases, our beloved stars can get some assistance from someone behind the scenes before anyone notices. However, at the 2014 VMAs, Nicki Minaj showed a little more skin than she'd anticipated on stage.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter/MTV1415

While changing from one outfit to the other, Nicki suddenly decided to switch her wardrobe, to match Ariana Grande and Jessie J, who she'd be singing with, but there was no time to fasten it properly. So, Nicki strutted her stuff proudly while holding her dress together with one hand, hoping the crowd wouldn't see too much.

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Justin Bieber Broke Down Crying: 2015

Justin Bieber's no stranger to performing in front of large crowds, but while on stage singing What Do You Mean at the 2015 VMAs, we suddenly saw a whole new side of Biebs. One minute he was serenading the audience, and the next, he'd broken down in tears.

Justin Bieber Crying VMAsJustin Bieber Crying VMAs
Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

Bieber's fans couldn't imagine what might've happened mid-performance to make him so upset. During a later appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Bieber revealed that he'd cried because he desperately wanted the audience to like him, and he was nervous about being judged.

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Kanye & Taylor Swift Hugged It Out: 2015

This might be hard to believe, but in 2015, years after Kanye's infamous interruption during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech, these two hit a turning point. At the 2015 VMAs, Swift was chosen to present Kanye with his Video Vanguard Award; Many sensed there might be some awkward tension.

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Getty Images via Kevin Winter/MTV1415

"I first met Kanye West six years ago - at this show, actually," Taylor shared. "Since then, it seemed like everybody in the world knew about our infamous encounter at the VMAs." However, it appeared that these two were able to put their past behind them, and they hugged it out on stage.

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Nicki Minaj Threw Shade at Miley: 2015

The feud between Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus all started leading up to the 2015 VMAs when Nicki's song Anaconda wasn't nominated for video of the year. So, she tweeted, "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year." This offended Taylor Swift, who'd received a nomination.

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Getty Images via Christopher Polk

Miley then said that Nicki was "not too kind," and this set the rapper off. At the award show, Minaj called Cyrus out, saying, "And now back to this b**** that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press - Miley, what's good?" Clearly, these ladies had a lot to get off their chest; Do you think they'll ever be friends?

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Drake Confessed His Love for Rihanna: 2016

When Drake presented the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award to Rihanna at the 2016 VMAs, let's just say he didn't stick to the script. "She's someone I've been in love with since I was 22-years-old," said Drake. "She's one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I've looked up to her even though she's younger than me."

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Getty Images via Michael Loccisano

But apparently, Rihanna wasn't feeling the love. "Waiting through that speech was probably the most uncomfortable part," she revealed. "I don't like too many compliments." During an interview in 2018, Rihanna shared where she and Drake stood; "We don't have a friendship now, but we're not enemies. It is what it is."

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Beyonce Surpassed Madonna's Record Number of Awards: 2016

Beyonce never fails to amaze us, and in 2016, she made history at the VMAs, winning more awards than one could imagine. Until then, Madonna held the record of receiving the most awards, 20 to be exact. Well, Beyonce took home eight awards that night, giving her a total of 26 over the years.

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Getty Images via Larry Busacca/MTV1617

That meant that she had surpassed Madonna's record and took her career to the next level. But that wasn't all that Beyonce did at the 2016 VMAs; She also put on an incredible five-song medley performance from her album Lemonade, and the crowd was certainly going wild.

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Pink's Heartwarming Speech About Her Daughter: 2017

At the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, Pink filled the venue with emotions as she explained a significant moment she'd previously shared with her daughter. After receiving the Video Vanguard Award, the artist revealed that her daughter had said, "I'm the ugliest girl I know… I look like a boy with long hair."

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Getty Images via Frazer Harrison

Pink said that she created a PowerPoint presentation for her daughter with "androgynous rockstars and artists that live their truth," who might've been made fun of in the past. To conclude her speech, Pink thanked all of her fellow artists for being their true selves and inspiring others, and many people were touched by this.

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Lorde Didn't Sing During Her Performance: 2017

Famous for her first hit single, Royals, released in 2013, Lorde has made her way to the top of the charts ever since. With her one of a kind voice, fans were eager to see her perform at the 2017 Video Music Awards, but she surprised the audience with a rather unexpected performance. 

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Getty Images via Christopher Polk/MTV1617

Lorde didn't sing a single lyric during the performance and surprised fans with an interpretive dance instead. But why was the artist not singing one of her hit songs? Apparently, Lorde had been sick for days leading up to the show but didn't want to cancel. So, she let her vocal cords rest and gave the crowd a dance to remember.

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Cardi B Fooled Fans With Her Fake Baby: 2018

Cardi B shocked nearly everyone at the 2018 VMAs, as she entered the stage carrying what appeared to be her newborn baby. Her face was filled with joy as she held that little pink bundle, and fans were dying to get a closer look at baby Kulture. However, something tells us newborn babies don't belong on the stage.

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Getty Images via Noam Galai

But when Cardi went to unwrap the perfectly pink blanket in her arms, she revealed what was really inside the bundle. Voila, it was a glistening trophy. And she had Offset fooled; "Set said, 'I was sooo mad, when I saw you on stage with that blanket. I thought you was going to show Kulture,'" Cardi revealed.

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J.Lo Came Full Circle: 2018

Jennifer Lopez has proven to be the ultimate triple threat, with her hit songs, countless movie roles, and impressive dance moves, even after having kids. And at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, J.Lo received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and topped off the night with an epic performance.

Getty Images via Kevin Mazur

She performed a medley of some of her most famous songs and reminisced on her unbelievable career upon accepting the award. "I grew up on MTV, and this is a tremendous honor for me," Lopez shared. "It has been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams and watching them come true."

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Tiffany Haddish Mocked Fifth Harmony: 2018

While presenting an award at the 2018 VMAs, Tiffany Haddish threw some shade at Fifth Harmony after Camila Cabello left the group in 2016. Since pursuing a solo career, Cabello's been an incredibly successful artist, and during the show, Haddish emphasized Cabello's accomplishments on her own.

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Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz

Haddish essentially told the audience that Camila was better without the group. "Camila Cabello is here nominated for five awards. I'm super proud of her," said Haddish. "So, those of you watching at home, hi Fifth Harmony." Evidently, members of Fifth Harmony weren't pleased and fired back on social media later on.

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Lizzo Gave an Inspirational Speech Mid-Performance: 2019

Ever since she rose to fame with her hit single Truth Hurts, Lizzo has been a musical inspiration to many. Besides creating unbelievable music, Lizzo has also emphasized the importance of self-love, hoping to get this message across in her songs. While performing at the 2019 VMAs, the artist gave an emotional speech. 

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Getty Images via John Shearer

"It's so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn't love you back," she said on stage. Lizzo also said that she wanted to make everyone watching the show felt "good as hell." Fans were raving about Lizzo's speech on social media, saying things like, "Lizzo deserves all the awards and success."

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Maluma Managed to Get a Live Audience During a Pandemic: 2020

At the 2020 VMAs, Maluma somehow accomplished what seemed like an impossible task; Gather a live audience without breaking safety protocol. Before the event, Maluma searched for fans who were interested in watching a live outdoor performance from their cars, and he found them.

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Getty Images via Jeff Kravitz/MTV VMAs 2020

Maluma absolutely crushed it and was incredibly thankful for the support of his fans. He even received the award for Best Latin Music Video. "Thank you very much, guys this is for you," he said to fans in his acceptance speech. Maluma certainly wowed the crowd during such a crazy year.

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Meghan Thee Stallion's Comeback: 2020

Megan Thee Stallion instantly rose to fame after she collaborated with Cardi B on the song WAP. However, things took a turn for the worse during the summer of 2020. The rapper was shot and spent some time in the hospital. So, when Megan appeared at the virtual VMAs, fans were amazed. 

Megan Thee Stallion VMAsMegan Thee Stallion VMAs
Getty Images via John Sciulli

Even after experiencing such a traumatic event, the artist was back and better than ever and proudly accepted the award for Best Hip Hop for her song Savage. "This is my second Moonman - definitely not my last," she exclaimed. Megan received incredible support and praise from her fans.

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Lady Gaga Won the Tricon Award & Followed Safety Protocol: 2020

Lady Gaga frequently makes a statement with her wardrobe, hence the meat dress back in 2010, but at the 2020 VMAs, she sent a relevant message to everyone watching. Gaga proudly showed off nine different outfits throughout the night, and each one included an extraordinary mask, reminding fans to stay safe during this time.

Lady Gaga Mask VMAsLady Gaga Mask VMAs
Getty Images via Kevin Winter

Gaga also made history, winning the first-ever MTV Tricon Award for Song, Artist, and Video of the Year. She was incredibly grateful to be honored with the award while making yet another iconic fashion statement. If Lady Gaga can rock a fashionable mask and even upgrade her wardrobe with it, then it seems like we can too!

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