2016 VMAs: Domination of Female Artists

2016 VMAs: Domination of Female Artists

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - 300 Block of 10 Street NW

Before we welcome the last official long weekend of summer, eek, it’s time for the annual MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) style review. There’s nothing like a sticky New York City evening to remind you what’s hot about summer and in music. This year's production was similar to past years: messy camera cuts, click-bait promotions, and naked “fashion.” Same, same aside I did however notice a shift. This year was totally dominated by women in entertainment. Giddy up!

Five females acts stood out to me as the highlights of the night. Britney’s return to the VMAs, Alicia Keys commitment to her fresh face, Beyonce’s mastery, newcomer (Canadian! Squeal!) Alessia Cara’s big stage open, and this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award Recipient, Rihanna.

Britney Spears

Britney has always been great for VMAs fodder. Some of her best (and saddest) moments have been captured on that stage. While this years’ performance was mediocre she did show some glimmers of her former performing self (circa 1999-2002). It proves that not all things stay in Vegas. For some reason, I want people to go easy on Britney but there’s no need to pity part of her performance look. Admittedly I’m not a fan of a body suit – why would I applaud them if everyone is wearing them, boring – but when she put on that slick bedazzled yellow and silver sequins varsity jacket overtop mid way through I was stoked. Then she took it off. Meh.

Alicia Keys

Not until recently has Alicia Keys stood out to me in terms of admirable personal style and what you can communicate with it. Earlier this year through Lenny Letter she told the world why she chooses to not put on a made up face as part of her look. She goes out makeup free. I see this as bold choice. No different than I see a person who chooses to wear makeup a bold choice. And choice is the key word here. People choosing to wear – or not wear – makeup as a form of self-empowerment and expression is paramount. For those at home watching it’s important that they see that the have a choice. Further, that they have diverse, solid role models that they can aspire to. Good for you, Alicia Keys. 


Her mint Red Carpet feathered dress with the strong shoulder and high collar was magnificent. Fucking chills. She has come a long way style-wise since the early days of Destiny’s Child. But like her recent work, there’s more to it than catching pop songs and beautiful clothes. She is actively, performance after performance, using her stage time as a platform for talking about feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement. This is evidenced through her lyrics, who she walks the carpet with, her dancers, her choreography, her speeches, her social media posts, and her silence. With the deliberate use of silence she make us wait until she knows we are hungry enough and ready to hear what she has to say. We heard her Sunday night. She is a master. She is it.

Alessia Cara

Our very own canuck songstress got hers by opening the VMAs this year. Yay! What’s so stylishly cool about her is her confidence while wearing a pretty casual look. Street clothes on celebrities at award shows is nothing new for the fellas – see Kanye’s all white or Nick Jonas in his track suit – but it seem novel for the ladies. Let’s not be so quick with the double standard, shall we? Causal looks are not always my jam because they tend to look lazy. Her VMA look, while casual, did not look lazy. That camouflage and rose jacket? Damn. Big hair? Yes. She too like Keys, rocks a fresh, clean face to complete her personal look. Again, if we showcase variety and diversity those looking up to them can start to see themselves as accepted and able too.


Finally the toast of the night was Rihanna. She was the belle of the ball as the latest Vanguard winner. She performed four times throughout the night ramping up her looks from a pink t shirt to a champagne ball gown. To the unaware eye the fashion was all over the place. This, to me, was not the case. The looks were grounded with a through line of utilitarian, shined pieces. The belt-meets-pants in the first set, the pocketed satin pants next, those thigh high boots, and the belted, sleeved gown in her finale. Whew. Shout out to Drake for suiting up to present Rihanna with her award. Like any good supporter, the looks were at the same level and meant to compliment. When it come to personal style she is peerless.

Sure there were some underwhelming looks on Sunday. There will always be that. I am just as surprised as you may be to find that in the grand scheme of things - and especially compared to the hot messes of years past - this year’s best wore their best. Yeah ladies. It’s about time.

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