It was a moment that changed awards shows forever: Taylor Swift, then only three years into her career, stepped on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 2009 to accept Best Female Video for “You Belong With Me.” She had won over industry mainstays Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson and Pink as well as fellow newcomers Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. But just 18 seconds into Swift’s acceptance speech, Kanye West stole the microphone from her hands and took over what was supposed to be her shining moment.
“Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all times! One of the best videos of all time!” the rapper shouted, referencing “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
MTV producers then cut the cameras to Beyoncé, whose jaw literally dropped before mouthing, “Oh, Kanye!” The audience inside Radio City Music Hall in New York City booed West, who walked the red carpet with a Hennessy bottle in hand earlier in the night, as he handed the mic back to Swift and walked off stage. Standing in silence, the country singer looked confused and heartbroken about what had just happened. In an attempt to cheer her up, some people in the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
“During the commercial break, [West] went back down to his seat and Pink walked up to him and got in his face,” former MTV News senior correspondent James Montgomery recalled to Billboard earlier this year. “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.”
Moments later, Swift returned to the stage to perform “You Belong With Me.”
“I do remember that Taylor was determined to get it right,” VMA director Hamish Hamilton told Billboard. “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.”
In August 2015, Swift and West came together again on the VMA stage when she presented her “friend” with the Video Vanguard Award.
“So I guess I have to say to all the other winners tonight … I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the best careers of all time,” she joked, making the crowd crack up.