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After being stuck in traffic, Drake finally made it to the VMAs (opens in new tab) to present Rihanna, the "most beautiful, talented woman [he has] ever seen in [his] life," the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award. Decked out in a proposal-ready suit, the rapper went ahead and said what the congratulations billboard already hinted (opens in new tab): "She is someone I have been in love with since I was 22 years old. She is one of my best friends in the world..."
But the rest of the speech was just as heartfelt. Below, every word Drake said:
The first time I met Robyn Fenty was 2005. She was shooting a music video at a restaurant called Avocado in Toronto called "Pon De Replay" and the director of the video was lil x. I was introduced to her as a kid who played background music at a restaurant as people ate pasta. It's hard to believe that 11 years later, that all three of us would come together to create visuals for a song called "Work". Today, the world knows Little X as Director X, they know me as Drake and not the kid singing while you order pasta. But 11 years later, they still all know Rihanna as the one and only Rihanna. Captivating from day one, the iconic being that is Rihanna was already at a place that most artists only dream of going. For them that is often the peak, but for her that was the starting point that she has kept to ascending to an untouchable level ever since. When it comes to music she relentlessly takes over the charts with every release. When it comes to performances, they swarm in masses just to be in her presence, obviously. And when it comes to fashion and style, she makes it seem so effortless, until you try and do it's yourself, which is when it gets a little awkward. What's most impressive isn't the endlessness of stats, awards, and accomplishments. What's most impressive is the person. Some artists need to play a character to achieve success; some need to downplay their own natural instincts to blend in. She succeeds by doing something no one in this industry does, which is being herself. This woman has surpassed all competition while still being the same girl from Barbados surrounded by the same friends, speaking with the same accent and never missing a Crop Over unless it's to come perform at OVO Fest. We love the music, which can change styles from album to album. We love the videos, which change their artistic vision from year to year year. But most of all, we love the woman who hasn't changed since day one. She's someone...she's someone I've been in love with since I was 22 years old, she's one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life, I've looked up to her even though she's younger than me. She's a living, breathing legend in our industry.
Once he finished and gave the award to her (and tried to kiss her—though she dodged that), Rihanna accepted the VMA with a lot of humility and love to Barbados:
[joking about her mic height] Does that mean I'm shorter than Drake? MTV, this is such an amazing night. It's such an amazing moment in my career. When I think about the Vanguard Award and receiving this tonight, all I could think of was my country. They're going to be so proud. This is the first Vanguard to land anywhere close to my country. And so you know, my success, it started as my dream. But now my success is not my own. It's my family's. It's my fan's. It's the Caribbean's as a whole. It's women's, it's black women's. So many people feel like their little piece is such a major part of this puzzle, and I have to thank you all for supporting me over and over. Thank you to every director who has taken a chance on me and a chance with my crazy ideas.
There's so much growth that has happened over the last 11 years. I can't believe I'm receiving the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award at 28 years old. It is crazy! I have so many people to thank. I mean, from the very beginning: Evan and Carl from SRP [Music Group]. You guys have believed in me. You brought me straight to Jay-Z's office, met Jay, L.A. Reid, Jay Brown, my publicity team. So many people ride with me every day. My best friends never left me. They actually followed my ass here to America, getting on my damn nerves. They're here right now, witnessing this. This is a big moment. Thank you, Drake, for that amazing speech. Thank you, MTV. I had so much fun! Good night!
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Alyssa Bailey is the news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she's not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.
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