12 Times the MTV VMAs Was the Shadiest Awards Show Ever -- and We Love It!
By Sophie Schillaci
Grab your sunnies and a bowl of popcorn, because the shadiest awards show on TV is back: the MTV Video Music Awards.
The VMAs air live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, and if history has taught us anything, it's that the celebrity claws come out around those Moonmen -- and we love it! We may not remember who stood at the podium to accept awards at the 1995 ceremony, but that look on Madonna's face when Courtney Love crashed her live interview that year is forever seared in our memory.
In celebration of our favorite history-making VMA moments, we're looking back at the 12 shadiest ceremonies of all time. Full disclosure: a few of these moments lack the subtlety of true, delicately-delivered shade -- crossing over into painfully obvious feud territory -- but you get the point. These celebrities had just about enough of each other, and they weren't afraid who knew it!
Case in point, our first example...
1993: RuPaul & Milton Berle
In one of the most uncomfortable VMA moments ever, RuPaul and Milton Berle went way off script, with RuPaul calling Milton a "queen" and quipping, "So you used to wear gowns, but now you’re wearing diapers." Uncle Miltie clapped back by grabbing his co-presenter's breasts and declaring, "Shut up! Let him, her read [the winner's name]. She-he. Go ahead." Major miscalculation on that one.
It appears as though any video evidence of the cringe-worthy moment has been scrubbed from YouTube, but RuPaul definitely had a lot to say about it backstage.
1995: Madonna & Courtney Love
An instant classic! While chatting with Kurt Loder ahead of the 1995 VMAs, Madonna found herself on the receiving end of a flying compact from Courtney Love.
"Should we let her come up? No, don't. Please," Madge deadpanned. "Courtney Love is in dire need of attention right now."
1997: Fiona Apple & The VMAs
Fiona Apple took a bite out of the hand that was feeding her in the very best way during her 1997 Best New Artist acceptance speech, calling out to the viewers at home. "Everybody that's watching this world, this world is bulls**t," she said. "And you shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool, and what we're wearing and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself."
1998: Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston
Staged shade! This moment was quite obviously rehearsed, but nonetheless delightful. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston faced off onstage for a classic "Who wore it best?" battle. Wearing the same chocolate-colored gown, the divas stared each other down before coming to an amicable agreement.
2002: Christina Aguilera & Eminem, Eminem & Moby
An Eminem two-fer!
Christina Aguilera showed us the true meaning of shaaaaade when she offered a polite chuckle and muttered "Interesting..." before presenting Eminem with his Moonman in 2002. Of course, this was just one tiny chapter of the pair's long-running, well documented feud, but according to MTV, Em and Xtina appeared to bury the hatchet backstage.
"Eminem was engaging in a spirited conversation with award presenter Christina Aguilera that at initial glance could have easily been construed as an argument," the report stated. "However, once the rapper said his peace and Christina voiced on her opinions, Em, who was nodding his head and looked to be agreeing with the singer, opened his arms just as she was about to walk away and the two actually briefly embraced."
But back to the shade...
Em took Christina's dig in stride at the podium, politely thanking her, but things took a turn for the worse when he set his sights on Moby in the audience.
"That little Moby girl threw me out of my zone for a minute," he told the crowd. "Keep booing, little girl! I will hit a man with glasses." Yikes!
2003: Madonna & Christina Aguilera
We're gonna go ahead and file this one under "unintentional shade." Madonna swapped some serious saliva with Britney Spears during a group performance on the 2003 show, only to turn around and offer a quick peck to Christina Aguilera. (Not to mention, half of Christina’s screen time was hijacked by an audience shot of Britney’s ex, Justin Timberlake.) Guess which pop princess walked away with the photo op?
2009: Kanye West & Taylor Swift
It’s the shade that keeps on giving!
Kanye West and Taylor Swift's complicated relationship began at the 2009 VMAs, when Yeezy infamously crashed the country darling's acceptance speech. Say it with us, now: "I'm really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!"
Years later -- in 2015, to be exact -- Kanye and Taylor appeared to put up a united front, with the "Shake It Off" singer presenting 'Ye with the VMAs' Video Vanguard Award and calling him her “friend.” But, alas, that peace was incredibly short-lived.
2010: Taylor Swift & Kanye West
Before Taylor and Kanye's eventual reconciliation and estrangement (again), there was her 2010 VMAs comeback. Performing "Innocent" for the first time, Taylor delivered her own subtle revenge on the rapper. "32 and still growing up now," was among the song's memorable, targeted lyrics.
2013: Taylor Swift & Harry Styles, The Audience & Miley Cyrus
Taylor with even more VMAs shade! Yas, girl! But this time, it was from her seemingly safe seat in the crowd.
As ex-boyfriend Harry Styles took the stage with his band, One Direction, Tay Tay was caught by audience cameras, undeniably muttering: "Shut the f**k up" in his direction. Hey, at least pal Selena Gomez got a giggle out of it!
Meanwhile, not everyone was impressed with Miley Cyrus' twerk-a-thon at the 2013 VMAs. Rihanna was among the celebs that maintained hilariously stone-faced expressions while watching her performance, while the guys of One Direction appeared to just be confused all around.
2014: Katy Perry, Sam Smith & Everybody Else
All hail the King and Queen of VMAs shade! Sam Smith and Katy Perry were the epitome of IDGAF at the 2014 ceremony. They delivered flawlessly synchronized side-eye as Miley wept nearby...
Pretty much wanted nothing to do with Katy's date, Riff Raff...
Wondered who Fifth Harmony was...
And paid very little mind to what was happening onstage.
Long may they reign!
2015: Nicki Minaj & Miley Cyrus
Miley returned to the VMAs in 2015 as the master of ceremonies, but nothing could have prepared her for the thundercloud of shade that was about to roll through, courtesy of Nicki Minaj.
The rapper blasted Miley under no uncertain terms while accepting her award, calling her: "This b***h that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what's good?!" And with THAT. STARE. Nicki dropped the mic on the VMA shade game.
2017: Fifth Harmony & Camila Cabello, Taylor Swift & Everyone
2016 was a pretty shade-less awards show, but 2017 made up for that in spades, when Fifth Harmony dissed former member Camila Cabello during their performance of "Down." The girl group, now a foursome, began their number with five women on the stage -- before the fifth member, seemingly meant to represent Cabello, was thrown backward.
The group, who announced their hiatus in March 2018, later insisted they didn't mean to pick on Cabello, but were rather trying to make an artistic statement. “We get asked all the time if we’re getting a fifth member,” Brooke, 24, told Good Morning America. “And we wanted to show the world in an artistic way that, ‘Hey, the four of us are Fifth Harmony. We are stronger and better than we’ve ever been.'”