When you think about the MTV VMAs Micheal Jackson Video Vanguard Award, you usually think of the over-the-top pop culture moments that happen before the award is even handed over to the music artist being honoured. I remember Rihanna receiving hers two years ago with a love profession from Drake, and Britney Spears getting a choreographed tribute (with a special appearance from Lady Gaga's male alter ego Jo Calderone) when being awarded hers in 2011. And while this year's recipient, Jennifer Lopez, gave us impressive dance moves and some GIF-worthy A-Rod moments, the honour held an even more significant meaning on a cultural level. I realised this when my mum called me asking in Spanish, "Did you see that Jennifer Lopez received that MTV award?"
My Latina mum, who asks me the meaning behind emojis every other day, was in tune with an award show. Being on the same page, we were not only filled with emotion over the fact that J.Lo, an all-time favourite performer was receiving the recognition, but that she was the first Latin artist to do so. She joined the ranks of music legends like David Bowie, Madonna, and The Rolling Stones. As a Latina, this was a celebratory moment in which one of our own was being placed among a group of iconic names and getting the recognition that she deserves. Let me explain it a little further.
She's The First
The proudest part of this recognition is the fact that a Latin music artist is finally getting the award after it's been handed out for over three decades. This now opens the door for other Latinxs to feel that they could follow her footsteps as they see themselves being represented on that stage. With so many diverse artists like Cardi B and Becky G, who have been inspired by Lopez, this sets a precedent that can be followed in the future.
"It's always an amazing thing [to be first] because you want everyone to know they have a fair shot at anything in this life," J.Lo told MTV's Sway Calloway. "If I could be the first to do anything, it's not about me, it's about everybody else."
When it was announced that Lopez would be receiving the coveted award, people were quick to get upset over the fact that Missy Elliot or Lady Gaga was not chosen this year. That backlash led me to do some research of my own to see if I had any right in defending our Jenny from the block. "The Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award is given to music performers or directors with renowned accomplishments in music and film," wrote Billboard. So why wouldn't Lopez, who's been serving up story lines, dance moves, and diversity (with dancers and actors) in her music videos since 1999, be deserving of it?
We Latinos know the talent that Lopez has been delivering in her career, especially in her music videos, for the last three decades. Let us remind you of her music video excellence: "Waiting For Tonight," "I'm Real (Murder Remix ft. Ja Rule)," "I'm Glad," "On The Floor," and most recently "El Anillo". And that's not even half of it.
Multicultural Is Mainstream
This accomplishment also comes at a time where the music industry is seeing the power of Latin artists and their musical talents. Where it doesn't matter if your lyrics are in Spanish; people will listen and enjoy the song just as much. Just look at the recent success of "Despacito," "I Like It," and J.Lo's "Dinero." All Spanish-language songs that reached the top of the charts, proving that multicultural is mainstream, and there shouldn't a division among languages in the music sphere, especially in a country where racial and ethnic minorities are a growing chunk of the population.
MTV has even opened its eyes to this fact, giving Maluma, a Colombian music star, the stage at the VMAs to perform his Spanish-language hit “Felices Los 4." If that wasn't enough, Camila Cabello took the top award home for Video of the Year for "Havana," a song that's an homage to her Cuban roots. It's because of artists like Lopez that these new artists are able to make their mark and prove that Latinxs have something to give to the world (and not just in music). If you just give us the same opportunities, we'll show you what we got. And let J.Lo be proof that we've got a lot to offer.