Taylor Swift seemed surprised when her name was called for video of the year at Monday night’s (Aug. 26) 2019 MTV VMAs. But it wasn’t that shocking that her glossy LGBTQ+ anthem “You Need to Calm Down” took home the night’s biggest prize during a time when the singer is increasingly voicing her opinion on social issues and just three days after her Lover album instantly became the year’s best-seller.
Surrounded by a glittery galaxy of superstar drag queens, Swift luxuriated in the fact that her second Moonperson of the night was a “fan-voted award,” fitting for a star with legendarily close ties to her legion of Swifties.
“I first want to say thank you to the fans because in this video several points were made, so you voting for this video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law,” Swift said in a measured tone, making sure that the message of equality and tolerance in the visual she co-directed with Drew Kirsch came through loud and clear. “Regardless of who we love and how we identify.”
Swift also noted that at the end of the video there is a petition for the Equality Act, thanking all the fans who’ve signed the petition, which she said now has 500,000 signatures. “Which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House,” she said, checking an imaginary watch in a seeming call-out of Pres. Trump, whose administration has been working to roll back health care rights for transgender Americans. “Thank you for being the example that you are,” she said to the cast of the video, honoring them for living their lives authentically.
After opening the show with a dazzling performance of “Calm Down” and “Lover,” Swift notched her second video of the year VMA after first scoring the biggest prize in 2015 for “Bad Blood.” She took the mid-broadcast top award by beating out some heavy hitters, including Billie Eilish (“Bad Guy”), Ariana Grande (“thank u, next”), the Jonas Brothers (“Sucker”), Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus (“Old Town Road (Remix)”) and 21 Savage ft. J. Cole (“a lot”). Swift’s moment in the sun at Monday night’s show came 10 years after her first trip to the VMAs was memorably interrupted by Kanye West, who bum-rushed the stage during Swift’s acceptance speech in a moment that became viral legend.
Swift referenced that incident on the red carpet earlier in the night, when chatting with pre-show co-host Terrence J after he asked for her post-show party plans. “What are you doing after this? I know there has to be a big party because you’re going to win awards,” J said. “You never know what can happen on this show, as I’ve learned,” said. “But we’re just probably going to figure out a way to celebrate anyway.”
Watch a clip of Swift’s speech below.