Lil Nas X thanks “the gay agenda” as he takes top trophy at the VMAs

Lil Nas X accepting the Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards 202
Lil Nas X accepting the Video of the Year Award at the MTV Video Music Awards 2021 Photo: Screenshot/MTV

Out rapper Lil Nas X was one of the night’s most celebrated artists at MTV’s 37th Video Music Awards (VMA) ceremony in Brooklyn last night. Alongside pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo and K-pop band BTS, Nas took home three Moon Person trophies.

In a night lined with nostalgia, off-screen chaos, and controversy, the flamboyant rapper was easily the show’s bright spot, with only a few other out personalities in attendance, such as Billy Porter, Bretman Rock, and Megan Fox.

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Lil Nas X’s world-shaking video for “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” earned three awards on the night — one for Best Direction, given to Nas alongside video co-director Tanu Muino, one for Visual Effects awarded to Mathematic, and the Video of the Year Award, the ceremony’s top honors.

“First I wanna say thank you to the gay agenda,” Lil Nas X said while accepting the latter award. “Let’s go gay agenda!” He then asked everyone to prepare to buy or stream his debut album, Montero, which is released this Friday on September 17.

“I do not take this for granted,” he concluded.

For his performance, Nas was introduced by Pose and Cinderella star Billy Porter in a touching handoff.

“When I was first coming up in this industry,” Porter began, “let me just say that the people were not ready for all this Black boy joy.”

“But children, it’s a new day. And I am so thankful to have lived long enough to witness it,” he boomed.

Then he introduced Nas’s performance as “the slayage we’ve all been waiting for.”

Nas performed “Industry Baby” with featured rapper Jack Harlow, before segueing into “MONTERO.”

Much of his and his background performers’ attires were styled after a marching band, believed to pay homage to the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants, where the titular character formed a band in one episode.

During his performance, one of his background performers was Mardrequs Harris, the Southern AIDS Coalition’s Director of Community Investments. Harris participated onstage during the performance by wearing a black jacket that donned “433,816” on the back in red.

GLAAD states that the number represents the amount of people living with HIV in South as of 2015, with the red representing the universal color for awareness and support for HIV.

“Lil Nas X continues to make music and LGBTQ history, this time by using the iconic VMAs stage to highlight HIV in the U.S. South, where HIV rates and HIV stigma continues to impact our community,” stated DaShawn Usher, the associate director of communities of color for GLAAD, “despite advances in prevention and the fact that people with HIV today lead long, healthy lives and, when on proper medication, cannot transmit the virus.”

But outside of Lil Nas X, only a few other entertainers were featured throughout the show, and the night’s host, Doja Cat, has previously dealt with controversy over her past use of anti-LGBTQ slurs online.

The show also celebrated the fact that this year is MTV’s 40th year on the air, and many of the night’s performances and stars paid tribute to past iconic moments in the award show’s 37-year history.

For example, Nas’s red carpet look, a purple Atelier Versace suit with a train stemming from the outfit’s top, being found reminiscent of Lil Kim’s 1999 VMA outfit. Elle Magazine named him the best dressed star on the red carpet.

Pop icon Madonna, who performed at the first ever VMAs in 1984, opened the show with a video montage. Then she appeared on-stage as the ceremony came on-air live.

“They say we wouldn’t last,” she said to the crowd, “but we’re still here, motherfuckers.”

Similarly, Cyndi Lauper arrived on stage to present the Best Pop Award and went on an appropriately feminist tangent.

Remembering her hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” she remarked, “Girls still want to have fun, but we also want to have funds, equal pay and control over our bodies — you know, fundamental rights!”

“Motivation” singer and former Fifth Harmony bandmember Normani performed her new song “Wild Side,” which features bisexual rapper Cardi B, although the latter was not present, likely due to the fact she just gave birth to her second child last week. The song and its music video led to suggestions that Normani was “queerbaiting” consumers for increased success, a notion that Cardi denounced.

Normani closed the performance with a homage to Janet Jackson, who once bought a fan on stage, tied him to a metal board and gave him an erotic dance in front of a crowd.

In Normani’s rendition, however, she gave entertainer Teyana Taylor the dance instead.

LGBTQ-friendly band Foo Fighters received the Global Icon Award for their 26 years of music success, although the show’s staple honorary award, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, was not delivered for the second year in a row.

Prior to receiving the award, they performed a melody at the VMAs for the first time in 14 years.

Among the presenters was out bisexual singer Tinashe and gay personality Bretman Rock, who, to much controversy, wore a dress actually once worn to the VMAs by late singer Aaliyah.

They co-introduced the Group of the Year Award to BTS.


Bisexual singer Madison Beer, nominated for an award at the ceremony, presented performers as well. Her outfit was modelled after an outfit worn by Beyoncé in 2003.

Out actress Megan Fox co-presented her boyfriend, Machine Gun Kelly, with Kourtney Kardashian.

Kelly later got into an argument with UFC fighter Conor McGregor.

Out singer-songwriter Troye Sivan and Kim Petras were also in attendance. Petras performed at the pre-show and Sivan took part in interviews throughout the night.

Non-binary musician Demi Lovato was nominated for the Video for Good Award for their video “Dancing with the Devil” but did not win. Out singer Miley Cyrus’ work was nominated for two awards, Best Collaboration and Best Editing but did not win either.

The trophy at the awards ceremony is no longer referred to as “moonmen,” since the network gave it a gender-neutral update in 2017.

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