New details have emerged about the behind-the-scenes moments after Kanye West stormed the 2009 MTV VMAs stage, interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech.
In one of pop culture’s most cringe-worthy moments, Swift won a Moonman for Best Female Video, defeating Beyonce and her “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” video.
Not one to keep his opinions to himself, the Chicago rapper took the mic from Swift to defend Queen Bey, saying, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish. But Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”
In case you forgot, you can relive those 15 seconds here:
Now, 10 years later, MTV staffers who were backstage and working production is spilling the beans. In interviews with Billboard , everything from West’s bizarre red carpet behavior to moments off camera is exposed.
Former vice president of MTV talent relations, Whitney-Gayle Benta, revealed how she spotted West on the red carpet, accompanied with a bottle of Hennessey.
“I remember being like, “Are you okay?” Because I knew him very well and it seemed very out of character for him to be on the carpet like that… I definitely said something to him. I was like, “What’s up with you?” And he was like, “I’m here living my best life.”
“I talked to Pete [Wentz] and he told me, “Man, Kanye is so drunk. Kanye came up to me inside Radio City and gave me his bottle of Hennessey, and he made me take a swig,” remembered James Montgomery, former MTV News senior correspondent. “The dude is so wasted.”
The “Gold Digger” rapper was initially placed to sit in the eighth row, but that changed hours before the telecast.
“I cracked a joke like, ‘Jeeeez, who decided to put Kanye alllllll the way back here? Who did he piss off at MTV? He’s not going to be happy about this. Somebody’s gonna get fired,’ described Jim Cantiello, former MTV News producer. “And then the morning of the VMAs, the producers realized that they didn’t have enough men towards the front.. So at the eleventh hour, they moved Kanye up towards the front.”
Ex-president of Viacom Media Networks Music & Logo Group, Van Toffler, even described why West sat front row, even though he was not performing.
“Kanye was not performing… but he had a front row seat. Because we were always concerned about how everything looked on television, we didn’t want these big bulky bodyguards on camera, so we didn’t have security in the front of the talent section.”
According to staffers, producers found Bey crying to her father after West’s bold move when they told her that she was the winner of the night’s top prize.
“I walk behind the stage — and sure enough there is Beyoncé and her dad, and she is crying,” said Toffler. “She was like, ‘I didn’t know this was going to happen, I feel so bad for her.”
Later that night, Beyoncé invited Taylor back on stage during her Video of the Year win to finish her speech, but in reality, that invite was planned by producers. Staffers admitted to breaking protocol by telling Bey she won the evening’s highest honor before its televised announcement.
“At some point I let her know that she was probably going to be up on the podium at the end of the show for an award. And wouldn’t it be nice to have Taylor come up and have her moment then? I had to indicate to her that she needed to stay, and perhaps this is a way to have this come full circle and let [Taylor] have her moment. I would normally not say anything, but I had two crying artists.”
What viewers couldn’t see was singer P!nk confront West about his behavior.
“During the commercial break, he went back down to his seat and P!nk walked up to him and got in his face. I wasn’t close enough to hear the conversation, but she was pointing in his face and nodding her head back and forth, and giving him her two cents about how fucked up this was and then stormed off,” described Montgomery. “Then he was sitting there next to Amber Rose with his arm around her, and you could feel everyone in Radio City glaring at his back.”