It’s been a decade since the MTV Video Music Awards moment that people still can’t stop talking about.
On Wednesday, Billboard published an article documenting what went on behind the scenes during one of the most infamous moments in pop culture history — when Kanye West crashed the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards stage and interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for the Best Female Video award to say that Beyonce had “one of the best videos of all time!” Swift had won the coveted award for her video for “You Belong With Me,” an upset over Beyonce’s now-iconic video for “Single Ladies.”
Insiders reveal that the moment shocked everyone in the room, but it was Pink who went up to West’s face to tell him off.
“The crowd in Radio City just turned on [Kanye] — people were booing and hissing,” James Montgomery, former senior correspondent for MTV News, recalls. “During the commercial break, he went back down to his seat and Pink walked up to him and got in his face. I wasn’t close enough to hear the conversation, but she was pointing in his face and nodding her head back and forth, and giving him her two cents about how f**ked up this was and then stormed off. Then he was sitting there next to [then girlfriend] Amber Rose with his arm around her, and you could feel everyone in Radio City glaring at his back.”
Montgomery says West was later upset when he was asked to leave the awards show. Multiple insiders say West was noticeably drunk before the awards show started, and on the red carpet, the rapper carried a bottle of Hennessey.
“[Kanye] was kind of hunched over, and you could tell he could feel the weight of everyone’s stares,” Montgomery says of the immediate aftermath of the shocking interruption. “Within the next 5-10 minutes, he was ushered out of his seat and I followed behind him — and out in the darkened hallways of Radio City, I saw him going up and having a very long, heated conversation with [producer] Dave Sirulnick about what happened. … Kanye was very upset about this, and he was kind of shocked that he was being asked to leave. I just remember it being a very chaotic moment where everyone was [going], ‘Is this really happening?’ and everyone being very angry.”
Later, former president of Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group Van Toffler said that not only was Swift — who had to perform just moments after West crashed her speech — crying after the incident, but Beyonce was upset too. Toffler then suggested the full-circle moment that happened at the end of the night, when Beyonce invited Swift to take the stage to give her acceptance speech when Beyonce won the award for Video of the Year.
“I see [Big Machine founder] Scott Borchetta and I say, ‘Please have her [Swift] stay, I will figure out a way to deal with this,'” Toffler recalls. “I walk behind the stage — and sure enough there is Beyoncé and her dad, and she is crying. She was like, ‘I didn’t know this was going to happen, I feel so bad for her.’ And that’s when it started to click in my head, and maybe hers, about potentially having the whole arc play out in that one night.”
“It was not easy [to get Kanye to leave],” Toffler adds. “But after [Swift’s] performance, I had to go back to Taylor and Scott and her mom and say, ‘This is what could potentially happen at the end of the evening and you can have your moment to do your speech.’ There was a lot of begging, but fortunately, she agreed to stay, and Beyonce agreed to do a wonderfully gracious thing. So the Shakespearean arc played out over the course of the evening.”
But one thing was certain — Swift was a true professional even after the shocking moment
“I do remember that Taylor was determined to get it right,” director Hamish Hamilton said about Swift’s performance of “You Belong With Me.” “She really dealt with it with true dignity and professionalism. Maybe after the immediate shock and sadness, she pretty quickly channeled that energy into determination.”
Of course, the VMAs moment set off a long feud between Swift and West — that later involved West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West — that’s still being talked about today. But these days, the pop star is focused on the release of her feverishly anticipated seventh album, Lover, which comes out on Friday. Watch the video below to see all the Easter eggs she’s included in her lyrics so far.
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