The year is 2000, and our story opens with an image: A trio of three women, dressed in coordinating embellished House of Deréon leather catsuits and skirts, smiling over their moon man. It’s Destiny’s Child in their prime, and they’ve just won the MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video, honoring their video for “Say My Name.” Beyoncé is at the center, displaying the statuette; band mate Kelly Rowland gingerly touches its little space-helmeted head, while Michelle Williams simply leans in, smiling. They’d win the award again next year, for “Survivor,” but this is their VMA debut.
In 2001, the trio both received the Best R&B Video award for “Survivor,” and pulled a second shift as presenters that evening. They still coordinated, albeit with multiple costume changes — and not one of them what we would call a subtle nod to their southern roots. Southwestern-inspired details like fringe, turquoise, and denim abounded.
Destiny’s Child disbanded in 2006 — the same year that the VMAs revamped their awards and did away with the genre categories — but Beyoncé remains. She started winning solo VMAs while Destiny’s Child was still technically a group, but after they had hit their peak. In 2003 came the award for “Crazy In Love,” off her solo debut Dangerously In Love; in 2006, “Check On It.” She performed in 2003, too, first in front of a giant crew of backup dancers and then with now-husband Jay Z (looking very early-2000s himself, in oversized blazer and trousers with white sneakers).
2009 was the year of the Kanye West-Taylor Swift incident — Beyoncé won the award for Video of the Year for “Single Ladies,” while Swift won Best Female Video for “You Belong With Me.” When Swift stepped on stage to accept her award, West famously stepped in, declaring (in a statement that has long since ascended into meme-dom) that he would let Swift finish, but “Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” So when Beyoncé won the top prize of the night later in the evening, she pulled Swift on stage to share the spotlight. Because, sportsmanship, guys.
But it wasn’t till 2011 that Beyoncé took full advantage of her platform at the VMAs. She performed “Love On Top” that year, mysteriously dedicating the song to her husband and telling him (slash-the audience) “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me.” Then, the big reveal: Beyoncé pulled back her sparkly Dolce & Gabbana blazer to reveal her baby bump. In one move, she turned the VMAs into a baby shower — for herself.
After the birth of Blue Ivy, Bey laid low for just a bit. But she must have been hard at work all the while, because Beyoncé — the surprise album and accompanying set of videos that would see her triumphant return to the VMA stage — was released, the rare successful surprise album drop, in December 2013. The following year, Beyoncé was awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, the same award that Rihanna will accept this year. But Beyoncé didn’t just stand by to reap her glory; she performed again in 2014, dancing in a custom Tom Ford bodysuit, standing strong in front of a massive screen displaying the word “Feminist.” Iconic. (Then Blue Ivy and Jay Z came out to bestow her award, but at this point it was really Beyoncé’s show.)
On Sunday night, Beyoncé returns with an unparalleled 11 Video Music Award nominations for ‘Lemonade.’ This being Beyoncé, rumors are swirling about what she’ll do to mark the occasion: Some speculate new music (including whispers of a collaborative album with Jay Z); others, a surprise announcement; and of course, there will always be pregnancy rumors. She’ll have to compete with four uncensored minutes of Kanye West, but given how she approached the 2011 awards, we have no doubt she’s up for it.
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