Musicians used their acceptance speeches and performances as an opportunity to address women’s rights and raise awareness about HIV at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. Cyndi Lauper presented the best pop award at the award show Sunday night (Sept. 12). She reflected on winning a moon person at the first VMAs in 1984 for her hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and connected the song’s title to current women’s rights issues.
“Yeah, girls still want to have fun, but we also want to have funds, equal pay and control over our bodies. You know, fundamental rights,” Lauper said, getting the crowd riled up. She seemed to reference Texas’ new restrictive abortion law, which prohibits most abortions after six weeks. The law, which went into effect earlier this month does not make any exceptions for pregnancies from incest or rape. It also allows private individuals to sue anyone who performs an abortion or assists someone in receiving the procedure.
Billie Eilish, who was presented with the video for good trophy by Avril Lavigne for her song “Your Power,” also spoke about women’s rights in her acceptance speech. “We need to protect our young women at all costs,” the “Bad Guy” singer said. “We also need to remember that we all have power, and we have to remember to not abuse it.” Lil Nas X’s performance of his singles “Industry Baby” and “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” raised awareness about HIV. The rapper had Southern AIDS Coalition’s director of community investments Mardrequs Harris perform with him on stage. Harris’ outfit featured the number 433,816 in red which represents the universal color or recognition and support for HIV as well as the number of people living with HIV in the south as of 2015, according to GLAAD.
Before welcoming Lil Nas X to the stage, Billy Porter admitted that when he was starting out “the people were not ready for all this black boy joy.” Porter added, “But children, it’s a new day and I’m so thankful to have lived long to witness it.” Porter, who recently went public with his own HIV positive status in a Hollywood Reporter cover story, then introduced Lil Nas X, who led a marching band onto the stage for his song “Industry Baby” with Jack Harlow. Lil Nas X turned the stage into an all-pink party at his “Montero Prison” where his dancers were dressed as stylish robbers. After Harlow’s verse, Lil Nas X changed into shiny pink boxers for a transition dance break before he started rapping “Montero.”
Lil Nas X collected the moon person for video of the year for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” He began his speech with, “thank you to the gay agenda.”
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.