After an introduction from Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness, where he offered the quotable evergreen "It's 2019, and not caring is not cute," Todrick Hall took the stage alongside Taylor Swift to accept the Moon Person for Video for Good. Their collaboration as executive producers on the visual for Swift's landmark LGBTQ+ anthem "You Need to Calm Down" landed them a VMA on Monday night (August 26), and Swift ceded the mic to Todrick for the acceptance.
"I grew up in the small town of Plainview, Texas, and my entire life, all I wanted to be was Ariel from The Little Mermaid," Todrick said with Swift at his side. "I put a red towel on my head and tied my legs together and jumped in a pool, almost drowned — and after that, people started to tell me the things I could not do and could not accomplish in the world."
Luckily, Todrick said, those experiences fueled him. And now, he's grateful for the progress the world has made. The "Calm Down" video is proof — and he's hoping it can be an inspiration for future creators.
"If you are a young child out there watching this show who is different, who feels misunderstood, we need you more than ever to share your art, share your stories, share your truth with the world no matter what you identify as, who you identify as, who you love. This is just such a beautiful place."
"Calm Down" beat out Halsey's empowering statement of self "Nightmare," The Killers's vérité documentation of conditions at the U.S./Mexico border in "Land of the Free" (as directed by Spike Lee), the activist "Runaway Train" update from Jamie N Commons, Skylar Grey, and Gallant, John Legend's heartstring-tugging "Preach," and "Earth," Lil Dicky's dizzying superstar team-up to save the planet, in the category.
When Taylor Swift returned this year with a much brighter pastel Instagram aesthetic, fans interpreted it as a sign her upcoming music would perhaps be a lighter return to form after the edgier turn she took with 2017's Reputation. They weren't wrong, but it wasn't quite the whole truth, either. Though "You Need to Calm Down" sounds buoyant and effervescent, Swift came out swinging against homophobes with lines like "shade never made anyone less gay" and "why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?" It's only natural that the video take that message and magnify it by about 100.
In addition to featuring LGBTQ+ icons like Ellen, Queer Eye's Fab Five (including JVN himself), and Laverne Cox, the clip explicitly includes a visual reference to the Stonewall Inn and a shot of anti-gay protesters (hopefully) getting their minds expanded.