Before accepting the most prestigious award of the night — the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award — the 17-time VMA nominee and five-time winner celebrated her return with a show-stopping medley of her biggest hits.
The rapper donned a pink wig and a matching outfit as she performed snippets from tracks including “Monster”, “Beez in the Trap”, “Moment 4 Life” and “Super Bass” all against a Barbie Dreamhouse backdrop, complete with several rooms and a slide.
When it came time to perform “Super Freaky Girl”, Minaj leaned into the sexy nature of the song as she danced on a pole and with male dancers wearing leather outfits.
Following the epic performance, videos from fans praising Minaj played, before she was introduced back to the stage by several members of the Barbz.
After giving each of her fans a hug, the 39-year-old performer stepped up to the mic to thank them, as well as her family, fans, and peers for supporting her throughout her career.
She began by acknowledging “all of the key people who inspired me,” a list that included Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Lauryn Hill. Next, were the “people who gave me huge opportunities that I’ll never forget,” including Kanye West, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Rihanna.
After thanking her label and others involved in the production of her music, Minaj spoke about people she wishes were still here.
“I wish that Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were here. I wish that people understood what they meant and what they were going through. I wish people took mental health seriously, even for the people that you think have the perfect lives,” she said. “I wish Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle were here.”
Minaj ended her speech by giving a shout-out to the Barbz, before telling her fans, “You guys are my babies, but I have a new baby. His name is Papa Bear. Papa Bear, I love you so much. Mommy loves you so, so, so, so, so much.”
Minaj shares her son, who will turn 2 next month, with her husband, Kenneth Petty.
Minaj won her first Moon Person statuette for Best Hip Hop Video in 2011, and earned a nomination once again this year for Best Hip Hop for her Lil Baby collab, “Do We Have a Problem?”
Her return to the annual awards show follows the release of her new single, “Super Freaky Girl”, which has become the rapper’s first No. 1 single as an unaccompanied artist and her third overall. The song debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, and according to Billboard, is the first hip-hop song by a solo female artist to do so since Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998.
See more from the VMAs below.
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