The MTV Video Music Awards have had extremely memorable moments over the years, from a young Britney Spears with a snake wrapped around her to introducing the world to the memorable line, “I’ma let you finish but.”
When Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift to announce that his good friend Beyonce should have won because she had “one of the best videos of all time” it created a feud that lasted for almost a decade. He and Swift went back and forth, trading bars in lyrics and savage social media posts. Eventually, Swift build an entire tour aesthetic around being called a “snake” by West and his wife’s fans in her Instagram comments.
Now, Billboard has published an oral history of that fateful night, thoughtfully detailing how, exactly, it all went down.
According to a former VP at MTV News, she knew the night was off to an odd start when she saw Kanye with a bottle of Hennessy on the red carpet alongside his date, Amber Rose (these were the days before he was a bonafide Kardashian). “I remember being like, ‘Are you okay?’ Because I knew him very well and it seemed very out of character for him to be on the carpet like that,” she said. Later in the night, he started passing the bottle to other celebrities – some in the crowd worried he’d offer it up to an underage Justin Bieber, who was nearby.
At first, some people thought it was a set up after the previous year’s Eminem/Sacha Baron Cohen as Bruno moment that was staged, but after seeing Beyonce and Swift’s faces they quickly realized the whole scenario was entirely unscripted.
Apparently, after Kanye stormed the stage and said that Beyonce deserved to win, there was mass confusion. Then, when he returned to his seat, Pink confronted him about it, with some reports saying that she had to be restrained by security. Pink later tweeted, “Kanye west is the biggest piece of s**t on earth. Quote me.”
Swift had to perform right after, but she and her mom were both crying – but they weren’t the only ones.
Beyonce was also crying but not because she lost. She reportedly said, “I didn’t know this was going to happen, I feel so bad for her.”
Van Toffler, the former president of Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group had to convince Kanye to leave and Swift to stay. “There was a lot of begging, but fortunately she agreed to stay, and Beyoncé agreed to do a wonderfully gracious thing. So the Shakespearean arc played out over the course of the evening,” Toffler said.
Of course, despite Kanye interrupting Swift’s original acceptance speech, Beyoncé gave her a do-over – and thanks to Twitter, by the next day Swift was bigger than ever.
The upcoming MTV Video Music Awards are taking place on Monday night, with Taylor Swift performing. We can only hope for another Kanye-inspired moment.