The 39-year-old rapper took a break from her cohosting duties on Sunday, August 28, to take the stage with a medley of her biggest hits, from “Monster” to “Moment 4 Life.” Several dancers joined her for the Barbie-inspired performance, busting moves on the pyramid-shaped stage. Along with a bright pink wig and dazzling top, Minaj wore colored contacts and a short pink skirt. The medley wrapped up with “Super Freaky Girl,” the BET Award winner’s latest single which samples the 1981 hit “Super Freak.”
Following the performance, video messages from fans sharing their love for Minaj floated on screen. A handful of Barbs later took the stage to introduce their favorite artist.
While accepting her trophy at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, Minaj gave a shout-out to all of her biggest supporters. “To everyone in here, God bless you and thank you,” she began. “I want to take a second to just say thank you to some of the key people that inspired me and I think inspired my flow. … [And] people who gave me huge opportunities that I’ll never forget: Kanye West, Beyoncé, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Eminem, Britney Spears, Rihanna.”
Minaj went on to send love to Drake “for always saying the things I need to hear to get me back in the game, adding, “My whole Young Money family, my Republic family, my babies Wendy, Joe, Josh, the whole building. I wrote this down, I don’t know why, but this was in my spirit to say. I wish that Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here.”
She concluded by screaming the name of her fandom. “Barbs!” she gushed. “You guys are my babies, but I have a new baby. His name is Papa Bear and I love him so much. Mommy loves you so, so, so, so, so much.”
Ahead of the awards show, the “Starships” artist celebrated her major career accomplishment via social media and teased her can’t-miss performance. “I’m receiving the Video Vanguard Award at the 2022 #VMAs!” she captioned an Instagram post at the time. “You DO NOT !!!! I REPEAT!!!! You do NOTTTTTT want to miss my performance.”
Paramount+ exec Bruce Gillmer went on to give fans more insight into why Minaj was the perfect fit for the prestigious honor. “Nicki has broken barriers for women in hip-hop with her versatility and creative artistry,” he noted in a statement in August. “She has shifted the music industry and cemented her status as a global superstar with her crossover appeal, genre-defying style and continuing to be unapologetically ‘Nicki.'”
The “Anaconda” artist is the first musician to receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award since 2019 when Missy Elliot was given the honor. She made history at the time for being the first female rapper to accept the trophy. Previous winners include Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson and more.
Minaj is no stranger to the MTV VMAs stage, earning her first nomination in 2010 for Best New Artist. She won her first award the following year, taking home Best Hip-Hop Video for her song “Super Bass.” Four more wins followed over the years from a total of 16 nominations, including Best Female Video for “Starships” in 2012.
The “Queen Radio” host’s history at the awards show has also been filled with plenty of drama. In 2015, Miley Cyrus dissed Minaj during an interview with The New York Times before hosting the VMAs — and the Other Woman star added fuel to the feud at the ceremony.
“And now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me the other day in the press,” Minaj said on stage during the live broadcast. “Miley, what’s good?”
Months later, the “Bang Bang” artist hadn’t let go of the rift. “Perdue chickens can never talk s–t about queens,” Minaj said of the Hannah Montana alum during a June 2019 episode of her radio show. “She disrespected me in a magazine article for no reason. … Now you coming out with pink wigs, all you bitches wanna be Nicki.”