From Lil Nas X’s “Montero” pink prison striptease to Normani grinding on Teyana Taylor during “Wild Side, music fans were treated to many iconic moments at the 2021 MTV Music Video Awards, which aired live on Sunday (Sept. 12) night from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
With the VMAs being one of the first major awards shows to return to the in-person format following the COVID-19 shutdown, MTV pulled out all the stops for its live audience comeback with a lineup of high-profile performances and surprise guest stars.
While the big moments were captured on camera for audiences around the globe to enjoy on their screens, Billboard got the scoop on the best moments behind cameras from the venue. From the heated exchange between MMA fighter Conor McGregor and Machine Gun Kelly on the red carpet to the sweet moments between presenters and award winners during the show, here are 11 things you didn’t see on TV.
Conor McGregor and Machine Gun Kelly’s Heated Confrontation
Before the show even started, photographers caught an argument between the MMA fighter and Machine Gun Kelly on the red carpet. Following the altercation, McGregor downplayed the situation and said to Entertainment Tonight, “I certainly don’t fight little vanilla boy rappers. I don’t even know the guy. I don’t know anything about him, except that he’s with Megan Fox.”
Billboard has reached out to Machine Gun Kelly’s team for a comment.
Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI Hung Out Before Their Set
Kicking off the show was Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI’s live performance of “Stay,” their hit single that sat at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. The two pop stars were lowered from the ceiling onto a mountain structure on stage. Moments before being lifted into the air, Bieber and LAROI looked friendly as they chatted and exchanged last minute words before starting the show. After “Stay,” LAROI and Bieber even shared a hug before the Australian singer walked off stage for Bieber to continue on with “Ghost.”
Olivia Rodrigo and Jennifer Lopez Shared a Sweet Moment
MTV’s 2018 Vanguard Award recipient Jennifer Lopez made the crowd go wild as she stepped on stage to present the award for song of the year. As she announced Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” as the winner, the 18-year-old pop star joined J. Lo on stage to give her acceptance speech. After, Lopez and Rodrigo walked off stage together, with Lopez’s arm around the young star’s shoulders in a sweet moment between the veteran performer and the rising star.
Doja Cat Entertained Fans With a Dance
In between sets, the night’s host Doja Cat was spotted dancing to Biggie’s “Juicy” as she was taking stage directions from the behind-the-scenes crew. On top of that, she didn’t miss the opportunity to wave and play around with her fans before the cameras turned on.
Kacey Musgraves Let It All Out Following “Star-Crossed”
After Hailey Bieber introduced the country star, Musgraves sang the emotional and fiery “Star-Crossed,” marking her first performance ever at the VMAs. As soon as she sang the last note and the the spotlight began dimming around her, Musgraves did a cute happy dance facing her team backstage to celebrate her big moment.
Jack Harlow Relaxed Before His Lil Nas X Set
As part of the on-stage collab between Jack Harlow and Lil Nas X, the stage was decorated with a pink jail cell (complete with an inmate bed!) along with matching bench press sets. As he waited for his cue, Harlow was seen chilling feet up on the bed inside the pink jail cell.
Finneas Was Super Proud of Billie Eilish
This year, Avril Lavigne presented Billie Eilish with the video for good award for “Your Power.” As Billie walked up toward the podium to accept her award, Finneas was looking extra proud as he clapped and watch his sister accept the Moon Person. Eilish wrapped up the moment with powerful words for her fans: “I just want to say that we need to protect our young women at all costs.”
Shawn Mendes Really Got Into Camila Cabello’s “Don’t Go Yet”
As Camila was performing “Don’t Go Yet,” Shawn Mendes was preparing for his own performance of “Summer of Love” from across the sea of people on the stage opposite Camila’s. As he got ready, Mendes watched, danced, and bobbed his head to girlfriend Camila’s song. After Mendes’ performance, he walked off stage, but stopped to give 24kGoldn — who was seated in the front row — a hug.
Olivia Rodrigo Was a Fan Girl – Just Like Everyone Else
During Foo Fighters’ medley performance of “Everlong,” “Learn to Fly,” and “Shame Shame,” Rodrigo got on her feet and danced to the global icon winner’s set. She was seen singing her heart out and head banging along to lead man Dave Grohl’s lyrics, making her even more relatable than before.
Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox Were Being Cute in the Front Row
Before Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker’s finale performance of “Papercuts,” MGK and his date Megan Fox were spotted sitting in the front row. In a purple sequin top, the rocker was facing Fox, his arm around her as they talked and leaned into each other in between speeches.
Lil Nas X Got Pumped for Busta Rhymes’ Performance
When Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star took over the Barclays Center, every guest and celebrity was on their feet and dancing to the high-energy performance. With strobe lights flooding the venue, Lil Nas X was one of the first to stand and dance to the rap medley, showing his support to one of rap’s legends.