In 2009, Justin Bieber attended his first VMAs, excited to see Beyoncé. He stood next to Diddy on the red carpet outside Radio City Music Hall, having just met him for the first time, and gleamed a big smile with the sleeves of his jacket rolled up. Later, he’d be onstage introducing a fellow pop sensation, but first, he was taking it all in. “He’s a great young man in the making,” Diddy said, smiling himself.
Eleven years later, Biebs’s history with the VMAs is long and speckled with plenty of highlights. He’s won three Moon Person trophies and been nominated for 20 in total, including four this year at the 2020 VMAs. But back in 2009, when Bieber first stopped by the show, Diddy was right: JB was still in the making. Now, he’s a made man. Below, relive Bieber’s VMAs evolution from then until now.
2009: A Biebs is born
Bieber’s first-ever appearance at the show wasn’t marked by a performance, though he did join Miranda Cosgrove onstage to introduce Taylor Swift, who launched into “You Belong With Me” with the help of some creative subway cinematography. On the red carpet, Bieber’s baby face and gigantic smile helped make him an instant presence, especially with his then-trademark artfully shaggy hair.
2010: Homecoming king on the skins
The following year saw JB making his proper performance debut, and he seized the moment. It was, naturally, a shining medley, and dressed like a Riverdale homecoming king, he managed to pack a bit of “U Smile,” “Baby,” and “Somebody to Love” into just over four minutes. He had help, flanked by a battalion of dancers while rocking a sideways black cap, and capped the show by busting out a drum solo from behind the kit. Biebs’s “Baby” also won the highly coveted Best New Artist trophy, beating out an impressive roster of fellow nominees: Nicki Minaj, Kesha, Jason Derulo, and Broken Bells. The legend had just begun.
2011: One less lonely snake
The 17-year-old was another year wiser and another few inches taller as he picked up the Moon Person for Best Male Video for “U Smile,” the song he’d fittingly teased at the previous show. Bieber topped Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You,” Bruno Mars’s “Grenade,” and even Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” for the distinction, and earlier in the evening, he memorably used a baby albino boa constrictor named Johnson as a fashion accessory — though he later reportedly auctioned him off for charity.
2015: A triumphant (and tearful) return
After a few years away from the VMA spotlight, the 2015 show was very much a welcome return for the recently 21-year-old performer. Two days before the event, he dropped “What Do You Mean?” and had dominated the entire summer with his Jack Ü collab “Where Are Ü Now.” He hit the red carpet looking like a stylish ’80s vampire — leather jacket, suede boots, a blond swoop of bangs — and nabbed Best Visual Effects along with Skrillex and Diplo. But no one could’ve predicted what happened after the athletic, flair-filled performance of his big summer hits: Biebs broke down in tears onstage. “I just wasn’t expecting [the audience] to support me in the way that they did,” Bieber later explained. “Last time I was at an award show, I was booed.”
2020: Stuck with him
Though he’s not scheduled to perform, Bieber nabbed four nominations for the 2020 show, the most he’d been up for since 2016. His noms include a biggie for Artist of the Year, Best Collaboration (thanks to “Stuck With U,” his charity quarantine team-up with Ariana Grande), Best Pop, and a nod in the inaugural Best Music Video From Home category. It’s been 11 years since his first VMA appearance, and Bieber’s still holding strong.
The 2020 VMAs will air live at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Sunday, August 30 across MTV’s linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find everything you need to know at vma.mtv.com.