In 2002, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson accidentally hijacked the awards system at the VMAs. The awards ceremony took place the night of Jackson’s birthday. Spears took the stage to present him with a birthday cake. The problem was, nobody seemed to have informed Jackson that this was happening. Misreading the situation, Jackson walked onstage and accepted a prestigious and nonexistent award from Spears.
Britney Spears’ performance with a snake was an iconic moment at the VMAs
In 2001, Spears gave one of the VMAs’ most memorable performances when she sang “I’m a Slave 4 U.” She took the stage with a 7-foot Burmese python draped over her shoulders. While she made this look effortless, snake-wrangler Mike Hano said it was no easy feat.
“Britney Spears is pretty small — and she was going to be dancing with [the python],” Hano told Yahoo! “She had to position the snake on her shoulders by herself and dance around, and then she had to hand it off to a third person … and it’s easy to screw up that kind of thing. You know, it gets wrapped around your arm and doesn’t want to let go. It could have been really risky, because that was a live performance, one take.”
Spears was also very worried about working with a snake. Hano said he worked with her to make her more comfortable.
Britney Spears accidentally gave Michael Jackson a fake award at the VMAs
The following year, Spears introduced Jackson on stage in honor of his 44th birthday. She idolized Jackson, so the moment was an honor for her. During her introductory speech, she referred to Jackson as the “artist of the millennium” before bringing him out to present him with his cake.
Jackson only seemed to have heard the “artist of the millennium” part of Spears’ speech. When he took the stage, he launched into an acceptance speech for the nonexistent award.
“When I was a little boy growing up in Indiana if someone told me I’d be getting the Artist of the Millennium award, I’d never have believed it,” he told the audience, per NME.
Jackson also thanked God, David Blaine, and Diana Ross, among others. At first, the audience was confused by the turn the birthday celebration had taken. By the end, though, they began cheering and gave Jackson a standing ovation.
The Video Vanguard Award was renamed in honor of Michael Jackson
In 1988, Jackson received the Video Vanguard Award. Per MTV, “he award is presented to artists for their outstanding contributions and profound impact on music video and popular culture. Unlike other trophies given at the VMAs, the Vanguard Award is a gold-plated Moon Person rather than a traditional silver one.”
Three years later, in 1991, MTV renamed the award the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in honor of Jackson. Since then, some have raised questions about whether or not the award should still bear his name after allegations that he abused children presented in the HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
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