Armed with an arsenal of hits, performative swagger, and show-stopping dance moves that have become synonymous with her multi-hyphenate career, pop icon Jennifer Lopez took the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards by storm with an electrifying — and golden — set during Monday night’s ceremony.
Taking the VMAs stage at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall for the first time since 2001 for a fierce, elaborately choreographed set, Lopez blazed through a powerhouse medley of standout tunes from her robust discography, including old classics “Get Right” and “My Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” as well as new hits “Ain’t Your Momma” and “Booty.”
In a mash-up reminiscent of her Vegas residency, her subway car performance for “Jenny From the Block” was also part of this 10-minute medley. Accompanied by a cadre of shimmering, sexy backup dancers, Lopez stayed true to her roots as a Fly Girl, making ample time to dance across the stage.
Ever the collaborator, she brought out two surprise guests. Rapper Ja Rule appeared on stage to perform their 2001 hit “I’m Real,” while DJ Khaled joined to close out the medley with their newest single “Dinero.”
Following the highly-anticipated performance, Shawn Mendes presented 49-year-old with this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, noting Lopez is a trailblazer, as the first Latino artist and seventh women to receive the show’s highest honor since the prize’s 1984 inauguration.
“I grew up on MTV, and this is really like a tremendous honor for me,” Lopez said during her acceptance speech. “It has been an incredible journey of dreaming my wildest dreams and then kind of watching them come true.”
One of Hollywood’s leading triple-threat performers, Lopez called her career an “obsession” and thought “why not?” whenever questioned about her workload. Then came along her two children with Marc Anthony, Max and Emme in 2008.
“It was through that unconditional love that my career, my whole life became clearer,” she said. “Today I stand here stronger, better than ever.”
Past recipients of the Vanguard Award include David Bowie, Kanye West, Tom Petty, and the accolade’s titular pop superstar (named for him in 1991). Madonna became the first woman to claim the prize in 1986, followed by Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Pink in subsequent years.
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Ahead of notching four No. 1 singles and several high-profile videos to her belt, Lopez first transitioned from acting to music with the release of her triple-platinum debut album On the 6 in 1999. She has since released eight full-length LPs, which have sold a combined 80 million worldwide units in addition to multiple theatrical successes with global box office grosses exceeding $2.9 billion.
“Dinero,” reportedly lifted from an upcoming Spanish-language album, dropped earlier this year, peaking at No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 before scoring two nods at the 2018 MTV VMAs. Lopez’s next big-screen effort Second Act (which she also produced) hits theaters on Nov. 21.
“I go back to my neighborhood at times, I still have friends who live there and people my mom hangs out with, I know that slice of life so well. It’s not something I’ve become disconnected from,” Lopez previously told EW of her humble roots, which laid the foundation for her pop cultural domination later in life. “I feel no matter how much I travel and where I go, I always feel so connected to the working class I grew up in with my mom and my dad. It so affected me to see my dad working nights for 20 years… I think that’s why I work so many jobs, still. I feel like a working woman, a working girl. That’s who I am.”
Check out the full list of VMA winners here, which includes another Moon Person trophy for Lopez, who won Best Collaboration with Cardi B and DJ Khaled for “Dinero.” Check out her full acceptance speech above.