Madonna! Britney! Kanye! MTV Video Vanguard Winners Through the Years


    The art of making an iconic music video! MTV has honored Madonna, Britney Spears, Kanye West and more legendary artists with the Video Vanguard Award at the Video Music Awards.

    David Bowie was the first artist to receive the top honor at the inaugural VMAs in 1984. Seven years later, the network renamed the award to honor Michael Jackson, who was presented the Moon Person in 1988. While reports surfaced in 2019 that MTV considered changing the name after Jackson came under fire for sexual abuse allegations in HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary, the network seemingly confirmed its decision to keep the name when they announced Missy Elliott as the honoree of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in a press release that year. (Jackson, who died in 2009, denied all allegations against him in the past.)

    Elliott will make history as the first female rap artist to accept the Vanguard Award, which is not presented every year. A year earlier, Jennifer Lopez became the first Latin artist to win the award.

    “I grew up on MTV. This is really like, a tremendous honor for me. It has been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams, and then kind of watching them come true,” the “Waiting For Tonight” singer said during her acceptance speech before gushing over her twins, Max and Emme. “There is so much more to do, and I know in my heart that the future is even brighter than anything I could have accomplished up to now because of you.”

    After thanking several of her past collaborators, Lopez made viewers at home swoon with a sweet shout-out to fiancé Alex Rodriguez.

    “You are like my twin soul. We are like mirror images of each other,” the performer said. “My life is sweeter and better with you in it because you make me realize that every day, the sky is not the limit. The universe is infinite, and so is what we can accomplish together, with love and trust and understanding. There so much more to do and to experience, and there is nobody I would rather do it with, baby. You are my macho, and I love you.”

    Scroll through to revisit some of the most memorable Video Vanguard Award winners over the years.


    David Bowie, The Beatles and director Richard Lester shared the honor at the first-ever VMAs.



    Madonna was the first woman to take home the top honor.

    Paul Hurschmann/AP/Shutterstock


    Three years before the award was renamed in his honor, Michael Jackson was presented the statue. 



    Michael’s sister Janet Jackson made history as the first African American woman to win the Vanguard Award.

    Charles Sykes/Shutterstock


    LL Cool J was the first rapper to accept the iconic Moon Person.

    Emile Wamsteker/AP/Shutterstock


    U2 paid tribute to The Ramones’ Joey Ramone during their acceptance speech. The rocker died weeks before the ceremony.

    Suzanne Plunkett/AP/Shutterstock


    Britney Spears was the third woman to accept the honor. 

    Chris Pizzello/AP/Shutterstock


    Justin Timberlake reunited with his former ‘NSync band members during a greatest hits performance before he was presented with the Moon Person.



    Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, and daughter Blue Ivy were on hand to present her with the special honor. 

    Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock


    Kanye West announced his plans to run for president in 2020 during his acceptance speech.  

    Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock


    Rihanna performed four separate times before she returned to the stage to take home the Vanguard Award.

    Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock


    Pink wowed with a greatest hits medley before sharing a heartbreaking story about her daughter, Willow, being bullied for her looks during her acceptance speech. 

    Rob Latour/Shutterstock


    Jennifer Lopez performed at the VMAs for the first time since 2001 ahead of her big win. 

    Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock


    Missy Elliott made history as the first female rapper to win the Vanguard Award.

    Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

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