12 Years Ago: Taylor Swift’s Feud With Kanye West Begins at the MTV Video Music Awards
Twelve years ago today (Sept. 13, 2009) might be a day that Taylor Swift would just as soon forget. What started out as a joyous occasion, with Swift giving a heartfelt acceptance speech after winning Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, turned into an awkward moment, when she was interrupted by hip-hop artist Kanye West.
West, who walked on stage as the then-19-year-old was speaking, took the microphone from her and protested that Beyonce‘s "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" should have taken home the trophy. "Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. Of all time!” West said.
The disruption resulted in boos from the crowd, leaving the stunned teen speechless while the audience stood and cheered their support for her. Swift got a chance to finish her speech thanks to Beyonce herself, who graciously used her time after winning Video of the Year to allow Swift to say her thanks.
While Swift may have been momentarily left speechless by the incident, she had plenty to say about West's outlandish behavior later. “I was standing on stage because I was really excited because I had just won the award,” she recalled after. “And then I was really excited because Kanye West was on stage. And then I wasn’t so excited anymore after that.”
Swift went on to praise Beyonce for the thoughtful way she handled the event: “I thought it was so wonderful and gracious of her to do what she’s always done,” she added. “She’s always been a great person before anything else. Before the talented artist, the superstar, she’s always been a great person.”
West, who was removed from the show after the interruption, issued a public apology to Swift. “I feel like Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, when he messed up everything and Robert De Niro asked him to leave,” he said. “That was Taylor’s moment, and I had no right in any way to take it from her. I am truly sorry.”
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Swift returned to the VMA stage in 2010 and performed the song "Innocent," from her Speak Now album. With lines like, "Time turns flames to embers / You'll have new Septembers / Every one of us has messed up, too / Minds change like the weather / I hope you remember / Today is never too late to be brand new," some speculate that the song was her offer of forgiveness for West's rude behavior.
Six years later, the two officially made peace, thanks in part to Jay Z. In fact, after the 2015 Grammy Awards -- at which Swift and West were spotted chatting -- West hinted that he and Swift could record together in the future.
However, that peace didn't last long: In February of 2016, West debuted his song "Famous," which features the lines "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I mad that b---h famous / I made that b---h famous." West claimed that Swift knew about the lyrics ahead of time and was okay with them; she said she did not and was not. The two, along with West's wife, Kim Kardashian, continued to trade barbs until July, when Kardashian shared footage of West and Swift having a phone conversation about the song.
In response to Kardashian's social media posts of the video footage, Swift claimed in a note on social media that she had specifically not heard of and did not approve the "that b---h" lines. Due to the backlash -- which included Kardashian and plenty of other social media users deeming Swift a snake -- Swift retreated from the public eye for just over a year. In August of 2017, she began teasing new music, using snake imagery in multiple ways; Swift's 2017 album Reputation appears to make mention of her feud with West and Kardashian numerous times, although she has not explicitly said so.
As Swift released Lover in 2019, the incident resurfaced in an interview she did with The Guardian. The musician revealed that as she made Reputation, she was also writing “a thinkpiece a day that I knew I would never publish: the stuff I would say, and the different facets of the situation that nobody knew.” When asked why she didn't just "exonerate herself," she added, “Here’s why. Because when people are in a hate frenzy and they find something to mutually hate together, it bonds them. And anything you say is in an echo chamber of mockery.”
LOOK: Taylor Swift Through the Years