From Lady Gaga’s meat dress to a royal tribute, 7 of the VMAs most unforgettable moments

The annual MTV Video Music Awards, one of pop culture’s biggest nights, returns on Sunday. Since its inception in 1984, the show has had a slew of iconic moments which left people talking about them for years. 

This year’s award show, which will be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, is expected to be no different. Nicki Minaj, LL Cool J, and Jack Harlow will host.

Let’s take a look back at some of the VMA’s most memorable moments. 

  • Conor McGregor and Machine Gun Kelly have a fiery red carpet confrontation
2021 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Conor McGregor being held back by several people at the VMAs red carpet.

Kevin Mazur/MTV VMAs 2021

At last year’s VMAs, a heated exchange on the red carpet between Conor McGregor and Machine Gun Kelly broke out before the show even started.

Afterwards, McGregor described the interaction as “absolutely nothing.”

“Nothing happened with me, I only fight real fighters, people that actually fight, you know what I mean,” he told “Entertainment Tonight” backstage. “I certainly don’t fight little vanilla boy rappers. I don’t even know the guy. I don’t know anything about him, except that he’s with Megan Fox.”

Singer Lady Gaga poses in the press room during the MTV Video Music Awards in her meat dress on September 12, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Lady Gaga made headlines at the 2010 VMAs. Not just because she won multiple awards, but because of what she wore: an outfit made of raw meat in hopes of shedding light on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“What I was really trying to say was dead meat is dead meat,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in 2011. “And anyone that’s willing to take their life and die for their country is the same. You’re not gay and dead, straight and dead. You are dead.”  

  • Kanye West announcing presidential bid
LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 30: Recording artist Kanye West accepts the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/MTV1415/FilmMagic)

Kanye West, who performs under the name Ye, took to the stage at the 2015 award show to accept the Video Vanguard Award, while also declaring a bid for president in 2020. It was a moment which spawned memes and t-shirts, and even led to the artist officially adding his name to the ballot. Ultimately, it ended in him conceding the race in 2020, but still eyeing a spot for a future run.

  • Nicki Minaj’s backup dancer bitten by a snake
Nicki Minaj in “Anaconda” video

Nicki Minaj/Cash Money

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was a smash hit in 2014, but what dominated headlines leading up to the VMA show was what happened at a dress rehearsal. During a rehearsal, a backup dancer had been taken to the hospital after being bitten by a six-foot boa constrictor named Rocky. 

  • Beyonce dominates 2016 VMAs
Beyoncé attends the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City.


Taking home eight awards was not enough for Queen B, so it came as no surprise when she shut down the 2016 VMAs with a breathtaking performance of her visual album “Lemonade.” 

  • Taylor Swift calls out Trump administration
2019 MTV Video Music Awards - Roaming Show
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – AUGUST 26: Taylor Swift receives ‘Video of the Year Award’ onstage during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on August 26, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images for MTV)

Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19

In 2019, Taylor Swift took a political turn when she decided to call out the Trump administration for not responding to a petition that urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would protect LGBTQ rights. 

  • VMAs dedicate entire show to Chadwick Boseman
2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards  - Red Carpet
SANTA MONICA, CA – MARCH 03: Actor Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, 2018 in Santa Monica, California.

Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman died on Aug. 28, 2020, just days before the VMAs. His death, following a battle with cancer, came as a shock to millions around the world, and the show announced during its opening that it would be dedicated to the iconic actor.

“He’s a true hero, not just onscreen, but in everything he did. His impact lives forever,” VMA host Keke Palmer said. 

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