Recapping the VMAs (From an Insider's Perspective)

No disrespect, but what is with John Travolta messing up at award shows? Like, really? There are prompts right in front of you, multiple rehearsals before the show, and it’s live TV – something that he has been doing for decades. I mean, this is the king of slick and smooth, Danny Zuko, we’re talking about here. Come on. We’re even in his home state, too! Doesn’t he want to do his local fans proud by NOT accidentally cursing on live television?

    Seriously, though, award shows are no joke. Yes, they are as fun, entertaining, and glamorous as you see on TV. They are also stressful, loud, and unpredictable – in (mostly) the best ways, of course. 

    As a guest at MTV’s annual Video Music Awards this year, I was able to get an inside look at what millions of people watch on television, vote incessantly online for, and wish they were able to attend. For most of my adolescence, that was me. Therefore, this little jaunt to the VMAs was an absolute dream come true. From the stars to the security, it was the craziest fever dream come to life.

    Let me start off by saying that no matter who you are, you’re not allowed to wear certain things. No solid white clothing, no obvious brands or labels on display, no hats. (No hats was a difficult rule for me to follow, because if you know me, or simply follow me on social media, I am quite the hat person.) Anyway, for an event that is so engrossed in pop culture and has created such a monumental moments in history, it’s crazy to think that there are any limits on what you can or cannot wear. If you think about it, though, very few of even the most outrageous VMA looks were truly against any of these rules. Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress? Doesn’t truly cross any lines for this event, so it worked. Did it maybe cross lines in other ways? That’s up to you to decide.

    What is both extremely special and extremely arbitrary about this year’s Video Music Awards ceremony, though, was that it was held in Newark, New Jersey for the very first time. 

    Now, as a New Jersey native, I have to say that I was ecstatic to be so close to the event and to have my home state on the tagline of one of the year’s biggest events in entertainment. On the other hand, though, Newark has never had the loveliest reputation. For example, when I was being checked in at the Press/Media entrance on the backside of the Prudential Center, local people and officials were gathering around to start protesting for clean water; something that Newark has not had and has been struggling with to no avail for some time now. Some reports have even stated that their water quality is worse than Flint, Michigan. Yet, here all the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond were ready to dress up, win awards, and put on a show. The hypocrisy and irony of it all was not lost among many of those in attendance and even more people online. (The backlash is actually quite extensive.)

    On a more positive note, though, commercial breaks during the actual live VMAs ceremony is quite an experience. People of all caliber start to mill about the arena, talk about what’s going on, and maybe get a glimpse (or more) of their favorite musicians and entertainment personalities. If you’re lucky, like me, you might end up brushing past Hailee Steinfeld’s stunning red dress when reentering the actual arena after a bathroom break, which leads to a bit of awkward eye contact and a lot of heavy breathing (both on my part).

    A lot of chatter going around both before and after the show was about Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. As a fan of each artist, I wasn’t about to spread rumors or participate in gossip, but when even the women running the security bag check were asking if the pair arrived on the red carpet together, you know that there is a lot more invested in this than simple he-said, she-said relationship drama.

    When Shawn arrived to Prudential flying solo, lucky fans at the red carpet’s barricade clamored for his attention for either a selfie or an interrogation about the “If I Can’t Have You” singer’s relationship with his friend and occasionally duet partner. I specifically heard a group of fans tell security to ‘Let Shawn know that they were waiting for a #Shawmila kiss’ later that night. Not that I can blame them, but it was a big conversation throughout the evening.

    Fast forward to the duo’s “Señorita” performance. The sensual, evenly paced number was calculated and specific, but still equally beautiful and mesmerizing. Unfortunately, as many people have seen online, various big names in the audience were entranced by the pair on the stage and their stellar performance, those including, but not limited to Taylor Swift, Lizzo, and Sophie Turner and the Jonas Brothers; all of whom were clearly waiting for that steamy kiss and clear depiction of real love on stage. 

    On the other side of the coin, many people did not take well to Travolta’s curse word blunder on live television. While many found it comically shocking, quite a few others thought it was unprofessional and immature. The VMAs have a target audience of about 18 to 32, and while that waivers in general, it definitely does when it comes to the in-on-the-action audience members of whom are part of big names in media and business and don’t see the “client/actor/celebrity acting out of line” game to be so cute anymore. Let alone multiple times in the span of a few minutes on live TV. Personally, I get both sides of it, for being in the audience allowed me to hear both huffing and puffing of big-wigs in the business and chuckles from the youthful fans dotted around the arena.

    The whole night was Jersey to the max. Sure, the Awards were held in Newark, one of the largest cities in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean that the night itself and the guests, events, and performances that accompanied it had to be Jersey-esque, as well. Yet, it was, and, as a Jersey girl at heart, I appreciated every second of it.

    Take the Jonas Brothers, for example. They never shy away from where they came from. Living in New Jersey’s suburbs made them who they are and as much as they claim that they “were never supposed to make it out of Jersey,” they did. (And thank God for that.) 

    Kevin, Joe, and Nick accepted their award for Best Pop Video – Sucker was a JBrothers and JSisters masterpiece, after all – and were honored to have been handed the award by presenters Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Drea De Matteo, and Vincent Pastore. All of whom the crowd was just about as excited to see reunite on stage as they were the Jonas Brothers, believe me. Maybe not everyone at home was as hyped as everyone in the arena, but with the various age groups and backgrounds and interests filling the seats of the ceremony, I can say wholeheartedly that the JoBros had some competition when it came to applause that round.

Those three presenters are, for all of you who don’t know, actors had their big breaks on the Jersey-based, cult favorite, groundbreaking HBO series The Sopranos. Tell me, what is more NJ than the Jonas Brothers accepting an award by three of The Sopranos’ biggest stars on the 20th anniversary of the series at the Prudential Center? 

    Nothing.

    Well, maybe the stage being overtaken later than night by some artists who are equally as legendary, just as exciting, and as fiercely immersed into their Jersey roots as anyone else. Queen Latifiah, Naughty by Nature, Fetty Wap, Redman, and Wyclef Jean brought the house down when it came to a generation-spanning mashup of some stellar hip-hop classics. From their obvious Jersey pride, the various stages, and the crowd engagement, this was a perfect way to close out New Jersey’s very first VMAs. (Although, maybe a surprise appearance by the Artist of the Year, Ariana Grande, or even a little Shawnmila smooch, would have been just as exciting… IMO.)

    I have to say that was quite fun to be immersed in the action and get to experience an award show in-house and be apart of the action, and reactions, of the night as a whole, rather than be sitting on my couch at home with my mom and my dog fast forwarding through the artists we didn’t know or didn’t care about. (I’m sorry, Lil Nas X, but that would have been you if I wasn’t sitting there, in person, trying to figure out how your song ‘Panini’ related at all to an all out, preplanned, Startrek-y, futuristic stage setup.)

    What I took away most from being at the MTV Video Music Awards was just how dedicated everyone is. From the fans in the pit to the people putting on VMA labeled wristbands to the artists in attendance, there is not a single person in the room who doesn’t really care about music, film, television, radio, entertainment, and pop culture as a whole. It’s an event based off all of that and more, which I believe is why the ceremony was as exciting as it was. The energy is something you can’t describe. It’s next level excitement, anticipation, and thrill. I felt as though I was in a movie. Maybe just an extra in the back of the really important, climax-peaking scenes, but an extra in the movie nonetheless.