Lady Gaga: singer/actress, fashion icon, and activist. And now, fittingly, she's also the first recipient of the MTV Tricon Award, an honor that spans everything Gaga is and does.
"You can't just call her a triple threat," Bella Hadid said to introduce Gaga as this year's award winner. "She turns pop music into high art. She redefines fashion," Hadid continued, calling Gaga "a powerhouse" actor and someone who "inspires and empowers all of us" with her activism. When she took the stage in one of her latest visionary 2020 VMAs looks (including a mask, of course), Gaga said she was eager to share the prize.
"I want to share this award with everybody at home tonight, everybody at home who is their own form of a Tricon," she said in her acceptance speech. "I want you to know that you can do this too. Just because we're separated right now and culture may feel less alive in some ways, I know a renaissance is coming, and the wrath of pop culture will inspire you, and the rage of art will empower you as it responds to hardship with its generosity and love."
The rest of her remarks touched on her path here, on this night, when she ended up taking home four Moon Person awards — including Song of the Year, Best Collaboration, Artist of the Year, and Best Cinematography — and where she also debuted her powerhouse cut "Rain on Me" with a dazzling performance alongside Ariana Grande.
"I want you to know I failed over and over again as an actress and as a musician when I was young, and though I gave back to the local community through service as a young woman in New York, philanthropy became a much bigger part of my life as a star," she said, shouting out the Born This Way Foundation, which she started with her mother.
"I wish for you to think of three things that define who you are and take a moment to reward yourself for your bravery," Gaga continued. "This has not been an easy year for a lot of people. But what I see in the world is a massive triumph of courage. I also hope that people at home that have big dreams, I hope they see me here today accepting this award and know how grateful I am."
It's those qualities that have made Gaga an indelible presence in the cultural sphere for over a decade. Her debut album, The Fame, dropped in 2008, but it was the following year that she seemed to reach out and remake the pop realm in her own image and likeness, thanks to visionary videos like "Bad Romance" and "Telephone" and the choreography that each entailed.
This year's Chromatica — which she showed off in a transportive nine-minute medley earlier in the show — brought her back to the pop-music space, though she'd spent the back half of the 2010s as an actress. She first popped up on American Horror Story in a Golden Globe-winning performance, then moved into film, starring alongside Bradley Cooper in his Oscar-winning directorial debut, A Star Is Born.
A decade ago, Gaga had quite a night at the 2010 VMAs, walking away with eight awards and turning heads in her world-famous meat dress, which quickly become a fashion highlight.
Now, though, Gaga's wishes are simple: "I want nothing more than to be your artist in 2020."
Oh, and please, wear a fucking mask, OK? "It's a sign of respect," she said. You heard the Tricon.
The 2020 VMAsh have kicked off across MTV's linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find the complete winners list here and everything else you need to know at vma.mtv.com.