(Reuters) – Taylor Swift won video of the year and Ariana Grande was voted artist of the year in a girl-powered MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) show on Monday, while rapper Cardi B won best hip-hop video and newcomer Lizzo celebrated large women.
Alternative pop singer Billie Eilish, 17, beat Lizzo to be named both best new artist and best breakthrough or PUSH artist in the fan-voted awards show.
Another newcomer, Lil Nas X, took home the song of the year award for “Old Town Road,” his country rap collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus that ruled for a record 19 consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard singles chart.
Swift and Grande went into the ceremony in Newark, New Jersey, with a leading 10 nominations each.
With Grande on tour in Europe and absent from Monday’s show, Swift provided the opening act with a rainbow-themed performance of her pro-LGBTQ single “You Need to Calm Down” from her new, and already best-selling, album “Lover.”
Accepting the video of the year award, Swift said that since the VMAs are chosen by fans, “It means that you want a world where we are all treated equally under the law.”
“You Need to Calm Down” also brought the country-turned-pop singer the “video for good” statuette for songs that have raised awareness.
Cardi B beat out a male-dominated lineup to win best hip-hop video for “Money,” and ended a delighted acceptance speech saying: “Thank you, Jesus.”
The outspoken rapper was also on hand to present Missy Elliott with this year’s Vanguard Award for career achievement, calling her “a champion for women who want to be doing their own thing.”
Best new artist contender Lizzo, enjoying a breakout year, performed her hits “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” in a yellow sequined bodysuit, accompanied by plus-size dancers, in a message for body positivity.
Mendes and Camila Cabello stoked reports that they are dating with a steamy live version of their romantic duet “Senorita,” which reached No. 1 this week on the Billboard singles charts. The duet won the statuette for best collaboration.
Korean boy band BTS won for best K-Pop and best group, while the recently reunited Jonas Brothers, won best pop song for “Sucker” and paid tribute to their New Jersey roots with a performance from Asbury Park.
Monday’s VMAs had none of the stunts and draw-dropping moments that have become milestones in pop culture, including Madonna’s onstage smooch with Britney Spears in 2003, and Kanye West storming the stage in 2009 to tell Swift that her award should have gone to Beyonce.
Additional reporting by Matthew Lavietes; Editing by Peter Cooney & Simon Cameron-Moore