The Most Over-the-Top Celebrity VMA Awards Looks

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

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

Jennifer Lopez

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

Lil Mama, 2007

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

Rihanna, 2007

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

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

Pink, 2008

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

Lady Gaga, 2010

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

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

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

Nicki Minaj, 2011

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

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

Rita Ora

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

Stella Maxwell, 2016

Stella Maxwell

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

Nicki Minaj, 2017

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

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

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

Lil Nas X, 2019

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

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

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

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