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The Story Behind the MTV VMAs’ Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award

This year’s trophy goes to Shakira when the annual awards showcase goes down on Sept. 12 — here’s what you need to know about TV’s lifetime achievement honor.

We all remember how old and where we were when we first heard Wycleaf Jean shout his famous “Shakira, Shakira” intro in the namesake singer’s hit 2005 single, “Hips Don’t Lie.” Fast-forwarding to 2023, the Colombian superstar now boasts a catalog of 145 songs and holds the title of the best-selling female Latin artist of all time as noted by Billboard.

There’s no disputing, then, why the ageless artist has earned the honor of this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards. She’ll become the first South American artist ever to receive the honor, first bestowed in 1984, akin to the music network’s lifetime achievement award.

Nicki Minaj hosts this year’s ceremony at Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center, marking the second consecutive year that the “Barbie Tingz” rapper will take on this role after co-hosting in 2022 — but did you also know that just last year, she was herself the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and performed on the VMAs stage for the first time in four years?

Indeed, there’s a lot of history behind this award, and if you want to learn more about what makes it such a high honor in the music industry, read on, as Boardroom everything you need to know before MTV’s big night.

Stay tuned at the end of this story, too, for the full list of Video Vanguard winners to date.

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What is the Video Vanguard Award?

Introduced at the very first MTV Video Music Awards at 1984, the Video Vanguard Award was created as a prestigious honor for both music artists and music video directors for their contributions to the art form and popular culture. Rather than the typical silver trophy known to VMA honorees as the “Moon Person,” the Video Vanguard Award is plated gold to distinguish the lifetime achievement status it confers.

The very first recipients of the award in 1984? The Beatles, Richard Lester, and David Bowie. Other notable winners throughout the years have included Madonna (the first woman to receive the award in 1998), Janet Jackson (1990, the youngest recipient at 24 years old), LL Cool J (the first rapper to win in 1997), Jennifer Lopez (the first performer of Latin descent to receive the award in 2018), and Missy Elliott (2019, the first female rapper to win).

Why Name it After Michael Jackson?

In 1991, the Video Vanguard Award was officially named in honor of “The King of Pop,” who was previously recognized with the honor himself three years prior. Michael Jackson changed the music video game forever with masterpieces such as 14-minute cinematic pioneer “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” the latter of which was recognized as the first music video by a Black artist to be played by MTV in heavy rotation, and his contributions to the form are considered revolutionary.

The “Human Nature” singer was also the first Black artist to receive the honor in 1988.

The very first Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award as such was awarded to Bon Jovi and Wayne Isham in 1991, as presented by Arsenio Hall. In 2003, the award was presented as the Lifetime Achievement Award by Kelly Osbourne and Avril Lavigne to Duran Duran. After two years of hiatus, the award was presented in 2006 as simply the Video Vanguard Award when it was given to influential director Hype Williams.

Following Michael Jackson’s death, the award was renamed after the late “Rock With You” singer in 2011, but later caused controversy after allegations of child sexual abuse surfaced following the release of HBO documentary Leaving Neverland. As of late, the award is vaguely referred to as the Video Vanguard Award.

How Did MTV Pick Shakira?

A five-time VMA winner, Shakira is best known for hits like “Hips Don’t Lie,” “She Wolf,” “La Tortura,” and her “Beautiful Liar” collaboration with Beyoncé. As the second Latin artist to receive the honor and the first born in South America, Shakira is a true history-maker in hitting the VMA stage for the first time in 17 years.

One year before in 2005, she made VMAs history with the ceremony’s first performance entirely in Spanish – “La Tortura” featuring Alejandro Sanz. Only five years prior, she won her first Moon Person in 2000 for International Viewer’s Choice (Latin America North), and again in 2002. Shakira’s MTV history-making doesn’t end there, as her 2000 episode of MTV’s Unplugged was the the first broadcast to be entirely in Spanish. In 2001, her “Whenever Wherever” video became the first Spanish-language visual aired on MTV in North America.

“Shakira is a true global force who continues to inspire and influence the masses with her unique, musical prowess,” Bruce Gillmer, President of Music, Music Talent, Programming, and Events at Paramount and Chief Content Officer, Music for Paramount+, said in a statement. “She’s a trailblazer for women around the world and one of the first artists to lead the globalization of Latin music. Her massive impact across the musical landscape will be long-lasting as she continues to create and entertain at the highest level.”

This year, Shakira received four nominations at the 2023 Video Music Awards — notably tied with Diddy and K-pop stars BLACKPINK — including Artist of the Year and both Best Latin and Best Collaboration for the Karol G-assisted “TQG.” She also managed a second Best Latin nod for “Acróstico.”

The 2023 MTV Video Music Awards air on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. ET.

Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Winners

NOTE: The Video Vanguard Award was not officially renamed in honor of Michael Jackson until 1991. Jackson’s name was removed in 2003 before returning in 2011.

  • 1984: The Beatles, David Bowie, Richard Lester
  • 1985: David Byrne, Godley & Creme, Russell Mulcahy
  • 1986: Madonna, Zbigniew Rybczyński
  • 1987: Peter Gabriel, Julien Temple
  • 1988: Michael Jackson
  • 1989: George Michael
  • 1990: Janet Jackson
  • 1991: Wayne Isham, Bon Jovi
  • 1992: Guns N’ Roses
  • 1994: Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones
  • 1995: R.E.M.
  • 1997: LL Cool J, Mark Romanek
  • 1998: Beastie Boys
  • 2000: Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • 2001: U2
  • 2003: Duran Duran (as Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • 2006: Hype Williams (as Video Vanguard Award)
  • 2011: Britney Spears
  • 2013: Justin Timberlake
  • 2014: Beyoncé
  • 2015: Kanye West
  • 2016: Rihanna
  • 2017: Pink
  • 2018: Jennifer Lopez
  • 2019: Missy Elliott
  • 2022: Nicki Minaj
  • 2023: Shakira

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About The Author
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown is the Music and Entertainment Editor at Boardroom. Prior to joining the Boardroom team, she served as the Associate Editor at ESSENCE and Girls United, ESSENCE's Generation Z platform. Through the years, the Spelman College graduate has amassed bylines in entertainment, fashion, beauty, wellness, and business across For(bes) The Culture, HYPEBAE, Byrdie, HighSnobiety, xoNecole, REVOLT, and more.