Let’s face it: awards ceremony fashion is generally a bit dull. And while the men and women parading the red carpet at prestigious events like the Oscars may scrub up exceptionally well, what they’re wearing is often too classic, safe and – dare we say it – basic to ever really make waves.
Thank goodness, then, for the MTV European Music Awards, where wacky outfits are de rigueur with presenters and attendees alike, and where you’re never more than a few inches from a dress decked out with a carousel or Miley Cyrus in a frong. Here are 20 of the most outrageous MTV EMA ensembles from recent years.
20. Nicki Minaj
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Nicki Minaj hosting the 2014 MTV EMAs. And fair play to her: when her luggage was lost at Glasgow Airport, she managed to improvise magnificently with her hotel suite’s drapes.
19. Miley Cyrus
Wild child Miley prompted a whole lot of pearl-clutching when she lit up a joint on stage at the 2013 MTV EMAs in Amsterdam. What’s definitely more shocking, though, is the fact that she actually covered up for the occasion.
Who’s this bird? None other than Canadian singer Kiesza, who frocked up to the 2014 MTV EMAs in Glasgow, Scotland after gluing together her dress in an aviary.
Image: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
Even the hardest-working diva in show business needs her beauty sleep, so hopefully the crowds at the 2009 event in Berlin kept the noise down for Queen B to catch her Zs.
Image: Mike Marsland/Getty Images
16. Katy Perry
Just in case there’s a person alive who didn’t yet know that she’s the oh-so-quirky type, Katy Perry took to the stage at the 2008 EMAs in Liverpool in a Manish Arora creation that hammered it home to the point of ridiculousness.
Image: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
The party might not start until Ke$ha walks in – but, then again, neither does the vomiting in reaction to her terrible fashion choices. Take this fetching toxic green ensemble, which she sported to pick up the Best New Act award at the 2010 EMAs in Madrid.
You’d think that someone as savvy as Madonna would have the good sense to grow old gracefully. Think again. Here’s the pop icon at the 2012 MTV EMAs in Lisbon proving that she can still squeeze into her ’80s aerobics gear.
13. Katy Perry
It’s said that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. But if you’re Katy Perry and life has given you a broken mirror, you don’t put the glass in the trash; you just stick it on a onesie and get on stage at Amsterdam’s 2013 EMAs.
Image: Dave Benett/Getty Images
Rihanna never got to be the prom queen, so she chose the 2010 EMAs in Madrid to make it happen instead. Those boots, by the way, are for stamping on the faces of the b*tchy girls back in Barbados who gossiped about her dress.
10. Missy Elliott
In 1999 Missy Elliott was so desperate for an MTV moonman that she showed up dressed as one in Dublin as a not-so-subtle hint. And the outfit served another purpose as well: after the show, background staff used it to wrap up all the leftover catering.
9. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus’ 2013 Amsterdam EMA outfit shows why you should never get dressed for a big awards show stoned. And this is not how anyone wanted Biggie and Tupac to be finally brought together.
8. Ariana Grande
It took licking a doughnut for this weird, Jetsons-esque ensemble to become only the second most offensive thing with which Ariana Grande has ever been associated. Those who were at the 2014 EMAs in Glasgow have still never gotten over it, though.
Colombian hip-shaker Shakira went about 500 tassels too far with this Princess Jasmine-aping outfit in 2010. Don’t worry, Madrid, no rhinestones were harmed in the making of those pants.
Image: Getty Images
Pink’s 2003 devil costume is the kind of outfit that looks good on paper but ultimately gets a stylist fired – possibly because the pop star realized too late that wearing it at the Edinburgh EMAs was hell on Earth.
Image: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
5. Emma Bunton
By 2001 the Spice Bus was well and truly running on empty. So it sort of makes perfect sense that Baby Spice left her shirt at home in a risqué attempt to fit in with the rest of the adults at the Frankfurt EMAs.
Image: MJ Kim/Getty Images
4. Alicia Keys
We’re not sure which is worse about the outfit worn by Alicia Keys in Rome in 2004: how many snakes may have had to die to make it, or the fact that she committed the ultimate fashion crime of matching her boots to her dress.
3. Rita Ora
If you’ve ever wondered what Rita Ora looks like inside out, then this red catsuit that she wore at the 2012 Frankfurt EMAs should satisfy your bizarre curiosity. Even her backup dancer looks suitably appalled.
2. Taylor Swift
Where’s Kanye West when you really need him? Unfortunately for everyone’s eyes, pop ringmaster Taylor Swift performed at the 2012 Frankfurt EMA show in this get-up completely uninterrupted.
1. Lady Gaga
There must have been a pretty strong wind machine at the 2011 EMAs in Belfast. However, to her credit, Lady Gaga kept on singing even as she had her very own embarrassing Marilyn moment with her dress.