Freeze Frame: The awkward reality behind Madonna and Britney Spears’ on-stage VMAs kiss
The annual MTV Video Music Awards have been the backdrop of some of the most iconic celebrity moments in history.
And in 2003, it was on the VMAs stage that music legend Madonna and popstar Britney Spears locked lips in front of millions – with fellow singer Christina Aguilera enjoying the same treatment moments later.
The Like a Prayer singer was in the middle of performing a medley of her greatest hits alongside her fellow pop comrades when she surprised the world by planting a passionate kiss on Spears.
You can watch the clip above.
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Madonna had been singing her hit song Hollywood, with Spears and Aguilera dressed in bridal-inspired costumes. For those watching at home, it was a “blink and you’ll miss it” occasion.
After kissing Spears, Madonna then moved onto Aguilera. But it was her steamy snog with the Toxic hitmaker that scandalised the world and still makes headlines to this very day.
Audiences will remember the camera quickly panning to Spears’ ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake just milliseconds after the kiss, his telling facial expression also prompting a deluge of articles.
Madonna and Aguilera’s kiss was not broadcast to television screens around the world because of the cut away to Timberlake.
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Aguilera later recalled feeling “left out” that Spears and Madonna’s kiss was splashed across newspapers and her name was rarely mentioned.
“It was weird. And you know why they cut away for it? Because they cut away to get Justin [Timberlake’s] reaction,’ she said in a radio interview with SiriusXM in 2018.
“I definitely saw the newspaper the next day and it was like, ‘Oh, well, I guess I got left out of that’.”
It might have seemed like a spur of the moment decision on Madonna’s part, but as we discovered years later, it was actually a pre-planned stunt.
Spears’ manager Larry Rudolph told Billboard that Madonna orchestrated the performance – down to every last detail.
“Madonna had been very, very, very rigid about the rehearsals,'” Rudolph revealed in 2014.
“She would never address me by name; she would just say, ‘You, make sure Britney’s here tomorrow at 10 o’clock.'”
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And it seems the now 64-year-old was quite pleased with the reaction to her on-stage smooches.
“Once the performance was over, I happened to be in the elevator at Radio City. She came off the stage first, and she walked into the elevator… She came right up to me,” he recalled.
“She put her arms around my waist. She gave me a big kiss on the lips, and she said, ‘You see, Larry, it was all worth it.'”
It might have been two decades ago, but the provocateurs of pop culture still can’t stop talking about the infamous kiss.
A photo of the moment, taken by photographer John Sherer, was even auctioned as an NFT in 2021.
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In January 2023, during Jennifer Lopez’ press trail for her movie Shotgun Wedding, the actress claimed she was supposed to perform in place of Aguilera that night.
Lopez revealed to E! News she was forced to pull out of the VMAs that year due to scheduling conflicts.
“I was filming a movie in Canada and we had met – me, her and Britney to do it – at her home,” she explained. “And I just couldn’t get off the film … so they got Christina to do it.”
She added: “I love Madonna. I’m a huge fan. I always have been.”
And 19 years after their original on-stage make out session, Madonna and Spears decided to recreate that infamous moment at Spears’ 2022 wedding to Sam Asghari.
In a photo posted to social media, the stars locked lips once again – but this time it was all a bit of fun.
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