From Olivia Rodrigo taking the stage with her latest GUTS singles to *NSYNC reuniting and Shakira performing a rollicking medley of tracks in honor of her receiving the Video Vanguard Award, the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards — which aired live from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday (Sept. 12) — contained a multitude of water-cooler moments ripe for social media discussion and beyond.
This ceremony marked the VMAs most global year to date, with debut performances from K-pop behemoths TOMORROW X TOGETHER and Stray Kids; Latin stars Anitta (who graced the stage at the 2022 ceremony), Karol G and Peso Pluma; and rockers Måneskin representing for their native Italy.
Stateside pop stars like Doja Cat, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion additionally rounded out the event, and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop was celebrated with an all-star team-up between Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Doug E. Fresh, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J, Lil Wayne and the night’s emcee, Nicki Minaj.
While the most-talked-about moments from the show exploded on social media, Billboard saw all the best moments of the ceremony that didn’t happen onscreen, live and in person. Here are a few things at the 2023 VMAs you didn’t see on TV.
Olivia Rodrigo’s Victory Dance
After lighting up the stage, literally, with an impressive dual performance of GUTS singles — first with “Vampire” before leading into “Get Him Back!” — Rodrigo and her accompanying dancers finished in a synchronized pose. But before leaving the stage, the singer did a a teeny victory dance, kicking her arms and legs with glee at a job well done.
Taylor Swift Being Everyone’s Biggest Fan (As Usual)
Though Swift spent the majority of the night next to Ice Spice either dancing or gabbing in between sips of drinks, she took a moment to chat with Kelsea Ballerini and Lil Nas X, who sat in the rows behind her, to exchange a compliment or two. The gesture wasn’t taken for granted: Lil Nas made a heart with both of his hands at the mega pop starto show his appreciation of her kindness.
Shakira’s the Main Event
After teasing Shakira’s Video Vanguard Award performance in between commercial breaks, the crowd chanted the Colombian superstar’s name in unison as the clock ticked down to her showcase. And once she took her place on the Prudential Center stage before the cameras rolled, fans in the audience did their best She Wolf calls to show their love to the star, no matter where they were in the audience.
Stray Kids Love ‘Calm Down’ as Much as You Do
Stray Kids set up for their performance of “S Class” — which marked their debut at the VMAs — several minutes before going live, during which Rema and Selena Gomez won best Afrobeats for “Calm Down.” Before the duo hit the stage to accept the award, a clip of the track played briefly and caused the members to dance from their places onstage, just moments before bringing the heat in of their own performance.
Karol G Is a Popular Photo Opp
After gracing the stage to sing her hits “OKI DOKI” and “Tá OK,” Karol G changed into a glittering silver gown and adding soft waves in her pink tresses and took a seat in the celebrity section. Fans in the audience fawned over the star as she took pictures with “TQG” collaborator Shakira, who was seated with her two sons, and Nicki Minaj moments before presenting the award for best direction to Taylor Swift.
Nicki Minaj Claps for Cardi B & GloRilla
Cardi B and Nicki Minaj’s reported bad blood dates back to a fight at the 2018 Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party, but water might be under the bridge. As a clip of Cardi and GloRilla’s “Tomorrow 2” played during the best hip-hop category, Minaj was seen clapping for the song (as well as the other nominees) before her own “Super Freaky Girl” eventually took the prize.