With reporting by Stacey Sommer
It’s the VMA moment the world’s still buzzing about: Video Vanguard Award winner Kanye West capping off his long-winded, “bro”-tastic acceptance speech by announcing, “And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”
His unexpected mic-drop moment instantly caused pandemonium, inspiring almost 250,000 tweets per minute, as well as a host of hilarious “what-if” scenarios, like our roundup of possible Yeezy campaign merch.
But we have to ask: Was Kanye always harboring secret political fantasies? Because as it turns out, a new twist to the story hints at the likelihood that his big presidential bid was actually inspired by an impromptu shout from two audience members in the pit.
Pablo Chacon and Stephanie Sifuentes are 19-year-old students from Downey, Calif., who have been friends since high school. They both attended the VMAs for the first time on Sunday, where they managed to play a little part in history.
Check out this video Pablo tweeted in which he claims to “foreshadow” Kanye’s 2020 bid:
As you can tell, Pablo shouted “Kanye for president!” just before ‘Ye ended his speech. So is Pablo the secret political mind to credit for this Candidate Yeezy craziness? We went straight to him and Stephanie to get the story about what really went down in the pit that night.
MTV: How did you get to be in the pit at the VMAs?
Pablo: There’s this website called 1iota that gives free tickets to events. I’ve had an account for a little over a year and I’ve gotten tickets to Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden’s show, the iHeart Radio Awards and the Justin Bieber Roast. I’d never gone to the VMAs though. I want to major in broadcast journalism, so I just like going to these and experiencing the entertainment.
Stephanie: I also won a ticket from 1iota, which was pretty cool. It was my first time at the VMAs. I’ve always watched it since I was super young and then I saw the opportunity so I was like, “Hey, I’m going to take it!” And then I won, which was pretty unbelievable.
MTV: You obviously knew that Kanye West was going to be there to accept the Video Vanguard Award. Were you excited for that? Are you fans of his?
Pablo: I was a fan at the beginning of his music, but now he’s kind of coo-coo for me. I’m not a HUGE Kanye fan.
Stephanie: I am a HUGE Kanye fan! I was super stoked right before he was presented, because they played a video introducing Kanye and highlighting his past work, and it just got everyone so hyped. I was jamming out to “Runaway,” and I was super excited to just see him in person. And when Taylor Swift was introducing him, I thought it was pretty cool for them to bury the hatchet.
MTV: When Kanye first got onstage to accept the award, he was silent for at least a couple minutes, but all of you in the pit kept cheering. What was going through your heads and how were people in the pit reacting to it?
Pablo: Before the show started, the cameramen were like, “Just make sure you’re cheering a lot.” So as soon as Kanye got up there, we just started cheering. And then he wasn't saying anything, so we just kept cheering to fill the awkward silence, and continued cheering until he started speaking. He was just looking around the whole room and we’re like, “Ok, is he going to talk? Is he not going to talk?” At first, when there was that beginning silence, I thought he was waiting for a teleprompter or something, but he wasn’t reading off anything the whole time. Everything was just off the top of his head.
Stephanie: I was like, “This legend is before me right now.” That’s what I was thinking. The guy I've been listening to for so long, the guy I’ve been watching on TV, the guy I've been hearing on the radio, is before me right now. He’s less than 100 feet away from me. And I know he's really passionate about his music, and that’s what I really dig about him. He’s passionate about being unique and about leaving a mark on the world. So I was screaming. I was going crazy.
MTV: What did you think of his speech as a whole? What parts stood out to you?
Pablo: Some people were like, ’Is he going to perform? Is he not going to perform? What is he saying?’ It was funny how he talked about how awards don’t really mean anything. And I remember him saying, ‘Listen to the kids, bro, listen to the kids!’ That stood out to me and I think everyone around me.
Stephanie: I thought the speech was so funny because it’s like… I don’t think he had a speech ready. I think he was just going on and on. But he did make pretty amazing statements, I think, that made me appreciate music and people’s work a lot more.
MTV: Why did you decide to yell 'Kanye for president?'
Pablo: There was just an awkward silence and Stephanie said, “Kanye for president,” but she didn’t want to say it out loud because we were scared we were going to kicked out or something. So then I yelled it out: “Kanye for president!”
Stephanie: So when [Kanye] was just going on and on, I started looking around and I saw people be like, “When is he going to stop? What is he talking about?” But then when he was talking about the kids, about standing up for ourselves and all that… when he was saying stuff like that, I saw people around me who were actually in awe. And it was pretty impacting, so I just said it as a joke: “Kanye for president!” And then the girl next to me was like, “Say it louder!” And I was scared to say it because we saw a couple girls get kicked out earlier. And that’s why Pablo screamed it out, because he didn’t care.
MTV: So how loud did you originally say it, Stephanie?
Stephanie: I said it while everyone was clapping, so you couldn’t really hear it. My intention was that Kanye could hear it, but I said it at the wrong moment, I guess, when everyone was clapping. Then Pablo screamed it out when it was complete silence.
MTV: A few seconds after Pablo screamed that, Kanye finished his speech by announcing he was running for president in 2020. What was your reaction when he said that?
Pablo: I was just like, “Oh my gosh, he said it! He said he’s running for president!” As soon as he said it everyone around me just looked at me and went, ‘Oh my god, he said it!” We were just all shocked, and I was even more shocked.
Stephanie: I was like, “Oh my gosh, the legend acknowledged us!” Or acknowledged Pablo. He pointed at Pablo, but I pretended he was pointing at me too, because you know, I wanted a little bit of credit. But I was just amazed that he actually heard it.
MTV: Do you think Kanye said that because of your comment? Or do you think he had already planned to say it?
Pablo: I don’t know if he had it in mind. From Kanye, you can expect anything. You expect the unexpected. So I don’t know if he was going to say it. He could’ve had it planned and it was just a coincidence that I said it too.
Stephanie: I’m in conflict with that because I want to say yes, but at the same time I’m thinking, did he say that because of all the drama in the campaign right now? Maybe to relieve tension or to be a little humorous or something? I’m kinda conflicted.
MTV: You could also theorize that maybe he just didn’t know how he was going to end his speech. And then he heard what Pablo said and thought, ‘Yes, that’s the perfect ending.’
Pablo: That could be it because he didn’t have a speech written out on a teleprompter or anything, so maybe he was like, “I just need to go out with a bang. To get people talking.” Because that’s when he wasn’t saying anything, and it was all quiet. And then I screamed it out and he ended it right after. Some people pointed out that he kind of gestured to me, too. Yeah, that’s a good theory!
Stephanie: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too! Because if he would’ve opened up with it, it wouldn’t have made such a big impact on people. But then he finished it off with saying that and it just blew up.
MTV: What did people around you in the pit say after he said he was going to run for president?
Stephanie: Everybody freaked out. There was a huge mosh pit around Pablo, just giving him high fives. It was funny because when he said that, our whole section just went crazy and I was like, “Oh my gosh! That was my idea!” And then Pablo was like, “But you didn’t have the balls to say it!”
MTV: Besides your involvement with Kanye’s speech, what was your favorite part of being at the show?
Pablo: For me, it was the Weeknd. Everyone was jumping up and down. And just all the performances, like Justin Bieber crying. I also like seeing what happens off camera. I saw Kanye actually smiling during commercial breaks and socializing. It’s just weird to see how the media portrays people, but then off camera, they’re just normal people.
Stephanie: I liked the Twenty One Pilots and A$AP Rocky performance. When there was a commercial on TV right before, I saw A$AP getting ready for his performance and he was such a cool guy; interacting with the people in the audience. And he was just a really funny, cool guy. So I got to see that part of him.
MTV: Let’s say Kanye runs in 2020. Do you think he’d make a good president?
Pablo: I don’t think so. I’m not sure. Who knows if he was even serious? Who knows if he just wanted to make memes and end it on a high note?
Stephanie: That’s like 50/50. Because I feel like he would listen to the people. But at the same time, do the people really know what’s best for them? And if he did win, would things change? And how would his inauguration speech be? I mean, look at his speech at the VMAs. Imagine that at the White House! I would like to see that, though. Maybe for just a two-year trial run maybe.
MTV: So he’d have your vote?
Pablo: Uhh, probably not. It’s five years from now, so who knows who else is gonna run and what he stands for. It just depends on where he stands on issues and stuff.
Stephanie: Yeah, you know what, I’d vote for him.