This year’s MTV Music Awards, which I had the privilege of attending, were held on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. I am not an awards virgin: I was there for the groundbreaking moments of Miley twerking herself into infamy, and Kanye rudely confronting Taylor Swift-resulting in reprobation from President Obama. Much has changed over the past couple of years, yet the same faces still dominate the music industry years later including: Beyonce, Kanye, Britney, Bieber, Rihanna, Timberlake, The Jonas boys etc.; even Ariana has been headlining since 2013.
|Drake & Rihanna|
This year’s Vanguard Award was given to Rihanna, 28, who started her music career in 2005 and ten years later still rules the charts. Similarly, Drake’s career began in 2009 and he continues to reach stratospheric levels of fame in the rap world despite his middle-class Jewish upbringing. The awards this year were uneventful. Beyonce gave us another over-the-top fantastical hair swinging performance; Britney Spears as usual underwhelmed and the rest of the chart toppers were satisfactory. Rihanna’s vocals are limited but her sex appeal and attitude are not; she is hot and relevant no matter what she does. What shocks me at every celebrity awards show is the level of power they hold despite their young age and immaturity. They show up with entourages of 20, have burly bodyguards pushing you without repercussions, and act like they rule the world-perhaps they do.
With social media’s continual ascendancy, celebrities are not just tastemakers they are life makers. The way teenagers dress, talk, walk, and conduct themselves is modeled after a chosen star. MTV was one of the forerunners of social media providing us with Reality TV and music videos in the early days which eventually lead to Instagram and Facebook-a more intimate look at celebrities lives. Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, the Jenners, continually manipulate their audience with glimpses into their life usually staged for maximum public exposure. Kanye, cognizant of his influence on pop culture, ran the MTV awards like his own personal ceremony, introducing his video with the usual rant comparing himself to Steve Jobs and discussing his phone call with Taylor Swift and his rift with Amber Rose-all with a beatific smile plastered on his usually morose face.
How unfortunate is it that our absorption in the lifestyles of celebrities is so complete that billions of hours are wasted mulling over whether we are Team Taylor or Team Kanye when as Kanye so rightfully acknowledged hundreds have been murdered in Chicago this past year. So why the smile Kanye? Is it because you and Kim know the vast influence you have-dominating with your fake headlines and even faker body parts? Following Kanye’s video presentation which was pornographic and disturbing, the awards resumed to its ho-hum format with few surprises. Yes Drake came out to declare his love for Rihanna but was this a publicity stunt or an actual declaration of love-and why does anyone, myself included, care? Yet, they choose to titillate their fans with questions of are they or aren’t they? Drake made the inconceivable comment that Rihanna remains unchanged despite her overwhelming fame.
At a party a few years ago a young boy asked Rihanna for a picture to which she responded, “good luck with that.” I had the opportunity to witness this exchange and wondered if the Barbados Rihanna would have acted so ungraciously. As I watched the celebrities being escorted off the MTV stage in a silver gilded cage I wondered why they needed a special contraption to walk through with their vast entourages when most of the people they were passing were fellow superstars. This is paradigmatic of their world-it is separate, exclusionary and highly privileged, while they continue to babble about how much they love their fans.
|Model Winnie Harlow dancing at Up and Down|
Why not fraternize with your audience instead of having cages being built to separate you. At the conclusion of the show, I headed to some after parties which convinced me that celebrities rule the world-and we just live in it. The party of the night was at the club “Up and Down” which is owned by Richie Akiva, famous for his friendship with DiCaprio and Rihanna. The police presence was overwhelming with cops stationed outside to control the throngs of photographers and fans. As celebrities arrived in Suburbans mere mortals were scolded to “get off the sidewalk” and “move out of the way.” I think Moses required less fanfare when he split the sea. Celebrities exiting their cars made sure to walk hurriedly so their fans were unable to grab a photo or sighting of their idol. Naomi Campbell, Jaden Smith, Fifth Harmony, Amber Rose and dozens of others ran into the club with an exigency that was unnerving. I almost got hit in the head with ten different cameras when a scantily clad Amber Rose entered the nightspot.
|Victoria’s Secret Models Hailey Clauson, Jasmine Tookes and Taylor Hill
with their friends at Up and Down
It was not until about 2:30 AM when the King and Queen, Drake and Rihanna, materialized at the venue. We were scolded to move out of the way twenty minutes before they showed and when they did arrive the crowd went wild. Both Drake and Rihanna scurried by quicker then Usain Bolt with thirsty photographers begging for some attention. When I entered the club, Drake and Rihanna were invisible due to the dozens of hangers-on and bodyguards surrounding them. When they left at the late hour of 5:15 AM, when clubs are required to close at 4:00, there were dozens of cops there to ensure the safe departure of their highnesses.
|Security at MTV after party at Up and Down|
Moreover, there were still hordes of photographers and fans stationed on the sidewalk, with bodyguards scolding them “to get off the sidewalk or they will have to close the entire street.” Closing the street for a celebrity seems highly doable-why not? Doesn’t their two-minute departure deserve the clearing out of a street-maybe an entire neighborhood should be emptied? As Drake and Rihanna left, in separate cars, one thing that didn’t surprise me was their behavior. Despite, the patience and adoration of their fans they ran out with their eyes cast downward making sure not to interact with the ordinary folks waiting for hours in the heat for a modicum of acknowledgement.
– Lieba Nesis