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The Most Over-the-Top Celebrity VMA Awards Looks in MTV History

The 2020 MTV VMAs are just around the corner, and obviously, this year’s ceremony will be unlike any other. Hosted by the incredible Keke Palmer, the VMAs will be a mostly virtual event due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic — though rest assured, we’re still getting those promised performances from Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and more. One thing we won’t be seeing? The typical red carpet, which in VMAs history has been the backdrop for some of the best, worst, and most over-the-top award show looks of all time. In honor of all the jaw-dropping contraptions that should have been this Sunday, we’re taking a deep dive down memory lane with the craziest VMA looks since 1984 — you know, like that time Lady Gaga showed up wearing pieces of raw meat.

The VMAs are a place to push fashion to new heights and embrace drama on every level. We might not be treated to the same spectacle this year, but the VMAs’ 35-year history gives us plenty to gas over for now. Starting from 1984, here are all the VMAs looks we just couldn’t forget.

A version of this story was originally published in 2020. 

The Backstreet Boys, 1998

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Backstreet Boys Robert Hepler/Everett Collection.

The whole gang is here — and looking like they got very different memos about that night’s look.

The Backstreet Boys, 2000

Two years later, the boys are back — and more confused in their fashion than ever.

Jennifer Lopez, 2006

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We know Jennifer Lopez loves her neutrals, but these shiny tall boots and head wrap were a step too far.

Lil Mama, 2007

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Lil Mama Everett Collection.

This baby-turned-red-carpet look (pacifier and all) is simply not working for us.

Rihanna, 2007

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Rihanna Everett Collection.

This is as close to not-best-dressed as Rihanna looks, and it’s still pretty great — just not quite the style we know and love.

Katy Perry & Miley Cyrus, 2008

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Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus Michael Germana/Everett Collection.

Katy Perry’s bedazzled Wonder Woman-esque is just as surprising as Miley Cyrus’ drop-waist look.

Pink, 2008

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Pink Michael Germana/Everett Collection.

Pink’s got her signature hair here, but it looks like her signature style hasn’t yet kicked in.

Lady Gaga, 2010

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Lady Gaga Debbie VanStory /
We love Gaga. But when it comes to her 2010 array of VMAs fashion, we’re taking a hard pass.

Lady Gaga, 2010

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Lady Gaga 2010 Kathy Hutchins / Hutchins/Newscom/MEGA.
And there it is. Meat from the top of her head to the soles of her feet.

Cher, 2010

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Cher Sara Cozolino/Everett Collection.

A leather jacket, leather thigh-high boots, and…well, about as little as one can be wearing without being naked underneath.

Nicki Minaj, 2011

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Nicki Minaj Debbie VanStory/
Nicki will do Nicki, no matter what. But this clown-inspired(?) get-up had even the hardcore barbs scratching their heads.

Jennifer Lopez, 2013

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Jennifer Lopez F. Sadou/AdMedia/Newscom/MEGA.
Someone got a tiny bit over-eager with the cutouts on this otherwise fabulous silver number.

Rita Ora, 2016

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Rita Ora UPI/Newscom/MEGA.
Rita Ora is serving us feather duster meets lingerie — plus a sensible light jacket, in case she catches a chill.

Stella Maxwell, 2016

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Stella Maxwell UPI/Newscom/MEGA.
Stella Maxwell boldly rocked the bell-bottom trend with this *very* elaborate matching set.

Nicki Minaj, 2017

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Nicki Minaj F. Sadou/AdMedia/Newscom/MEGA.
This is Nicki serving full Harajuku Barbie realness, and it’s more Pepto Bismol-colored latex than we’ve ever seen in one place before.

Madonna, 2018

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Madonna Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency / MEGA.
Madonna’s North African-inspired ensemble may have come from a good place, but viewers agreed they were getting mixed messages.

Nicki Minaj, 2018

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Nicki Minaj Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection.

Nicki Minaj proved long skirts can be revealing too with this sheer tulle number and a high-cut bodysuit.

Lil Nas X, 2019

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Lil Nas X Jason Mendez/Everett Collection .

Lil Nas X may have crushed the charts with unforgettably catchy “Old Town Road,” but we’re ever-so-slightly blinded by this all-red cowboy ensemble.

Lady Gaga, 2020

“I was wearing face shields before it was a thing,” the 34-year-old said about her 2020 MTV VMAs look.

Kacey Musgraves, 2021

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Kacey Musgraves Evan Agostini/ Invision/AP.

Kacey Musgraves’ feathered headdress was definitely turning heads in this dramatic return to the red carpet.

Justin Bieber, 2021

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Justin Bieber, Giveon Charles Sykes/Invision/AP.

Just because this wasn’t on the red carpet doesn’t mean we can forgive it. Bieber saw Jason Sudeikis’ hoodie and raised it one ill-fitting pair of jeans and an even worse-fitting blazer.

Before you go, click here to see the most shocking Grammy awards red carpet looks of all time.

Jennifer Lopez

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