It's a moment in MTV Video Music Awards history that pop culture fans will never, ever forget.
Back in 2009, moments after Taylor Swift took to the stage to accept her award for Best Female Video, Kanye West decided to voice his disappointment at the end result. "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'm going to let you finish," he shared after interrupting her on stage. "But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time."
It had viewers around the world shouting at their TVs: "What just happened?!"
But more ten years after the pop culture moment, fans got a new perspective into the unscripted moment nobody saw coming. In August 2019, Billboard chatted with journalists, MTV writers, producers, correspondents and executives to find out what really happened at Radio City Musical Hall. The revelations may just surprise you. Keep scrolling to find out what really went down.
Don't Forget the MVPs: Before Kanye had his moment on stage, the show's executive producer was hopeful that the telecast would focus more on the A-list talent delivering unforgettable performances. "It was the summer that Michael Jackson died, so that was a big story going into the show," Jesse Ignjatovic explained to the publication. "Knowing we had Janet [Jackson] there performing with her brother via the synched-up video... Madonna giving that long speech to open the night... I thought those would set the tone and be some of the big moments." Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Taylor herself also all delivered ground-breaking performances. Unfortunately, many only remember the Kanye drama.
Warning Signs: According to the former Vice President of Talent Relations at MTV News, the rapper had a bottle of Hennessey with him before the show even began. "I knew him very well and it seemed very out of character for him to be on the carpet like that," Whitney-Gayle Benta shared with Billboard. "The VMAs are very different from the Grammys, but I'd never seen him in any way with a bottle of liquor."
Pink the Swiftie: Moments after Kanye started to get booed for his behavior, one pop music superstar voiced her outrage directly to Kanye. "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," former MTV News senior correspondent James Montgomery shared. "Then he was sitting there next to Amber Rose with his arm around her, and you could feel everyone in Radio City glaring at his back."
Tears of Bey: For those hoping for some behind-the-scenes information regarding Beyoncé bringing Taylor up on stage during her speech, we got it for you! According to the former president of Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group, people had to think fast before artists started leaving the show. "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," Van Toffler shared with Billboard. "At some point I let [Beyoncé] know that she was probably going to be up on the podium at the end of the show for an award. And wouldn't it be nice to have Taylor come up and have her moment then? I had to indicate to her that she needed to stay, and perhaps this is a way to have this come full circle and let [Taylor] have her moment. I would normally not say anything, but I had two crying artists."
Oprah's Kind Gesture: One day after the MTV VMAs aired, Van personally called Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Big Machine Records, to apologize. His reaction may surprise some. "He's like ‘Van, here's the thing about it: yesterday most of the country had no idea who Taylor Swift was. Today, Oprah Winfrey sent her flowers this morning and asked if she could talk to her.'" (These days, Scott and Taylor have a contentious history.)
The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards air Sunday, September 12 at 8 p.m. ET.
This story was originally published on August 22, 2019 at 2:52 p.m. PT.