On Sept. 12, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will play host to the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) for the first time since 2013. That was one of just seven years since the show’s debut in 1984 that the production was host-less. There was also no formal master of ceremonies in 2004, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2018, according to Yardbarker.
This year, live entertainment is back — and the VMAs have a leader. The host of the 2021 VMAs is rapper and singer Doja Cat, who will follow in a long tradition that started on Sept. 14, 1984, when Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler teamed up to host the very first VMAs. That year, The Cars won video of the year for “You Might Think.”
If Doja Cat’s career continues on its red-hot trajectory, she could wind up as a legend of the industry whose fortune is rivaled only by her fame. That’s exactly what happened to the following six former hosts.
Last updated: Sept. 9, 2021
In 2017, Variety reported that Jimmy Fallon’s salary at “The Tonight Show” was $16 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid TV hosts in the country. In 2020, Deadline reported that NBC extended Fallon’s contract beyond 2021 when it was originally set to expire.
But Fallon was rich and famous long before he landed the best steady gig in late-night television. In 1998, he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live,” where he remained until 2004 — he hosted the VMAs in 2002. That led to a career in the movies before Fallon returned to small screen superstardom.
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Although he made his money in comedy, Chris Rock proved his mettle for dramatic leading roles with his recent portrayal of a crime boss in season 4 of “Fargo.” When he hosted the VMAs in 1999, Rock was at the tippy top of his game, according to Rolling Stone, and his talent and experience commanding the spotlight while alone on stage shined through.
That year’s show is regarded as one of the best in VMA history and is cited for contrast any time a host nails it or bombs the evening. Rock also hosted in 1997 and 2003. He is almost universally lauded as the most skilled host in VMA history for his ability to walk the line between being critical and lighthearted and to command the stage without stealing the show.
The daughter of country music legend Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus was famous long before her name was synonymous with tattoos, twerking and tongues. The star of Disney’s “Hannah Montana,” Cyrus was at the top of her game when she hosted the VMAs in 2015, although her controversial performance was widely panned.
The year before, she won a VMA herself for “Wrecking Ball” and was coming off a certified platinum album. That year, she earned a top-20 spot on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list — her first appearance on the list since her “Hannah Montana” days four years earlier — with annual earnings of $36 million.
Like Chris Rock, Ben Stiller’s heyday was the late ’90s, when “There’s Something About Mary” put him on the map as a bona fide comedic leading man. It makes sense, then, that Stiller hosted in 1998 — right between Rock’s first two performances in 1997 and 1999.
The son of Jerry Stiller and Anna Meara, Stiller was born into Hollywood royalty. His talent lived up to his legacy and he is now one of the industry’s most prolific professionals. Ben Stiller’s resume includes more than 130 acting credits, more than 50 credits as a producer, 20 as a director, 15 as a writer, 330 television appearances and a Primetime Emmy award.
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A giant of comedy and the movies, Kevin Hart is a do-it-all entertainer whose natural talents and legendary work ethic shined through in his well-received performance at the 2012 VMAs. Hart made $39 million in 2020, according to Forbes, making him one of the 100 top-earning celebrities. His income streams include giant movies like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and its sequel — which combined for a $1.8 billion box-office haul — his stand-up comedy specials like “Kevin Hart: Irresponsible” on Netflix, and corporate partnerships with companies like Visa.
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In 2015, Katy Perry earned $135 million, according to Forbes. The $83 million she earned in 2018 made her that year’s highest-paid woman in music. In 2020, she was one of the world’s 100 highest-paid celebrities across all categories thanks to a haul of $38.5 million.
Perry doesn’t have many off years. Forbes reported that she earns $25 million a year for her current gig as a judge on “American Idol.” Screen Rant says she’s the highest-paid female judge in the show’s history. Before that, she earned most of her money touring. She has nine No. 1 hits and has sold more than 18 million albums. She hosted the VMAs in 2017.