A harrowing tale of attending and twerking at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
That Time I Twerked My Way To An Injury
words by felicia williams // photos by felicia williams and colin wright // los angeles, california // shop our urban goods
“Hey, have you heard of that rapper Fetty Wap? Did you know he's got a prosthetic eye?” “Wha--what do you you mean? Like a bionic eye? Like one that moves?” “No! Not like one that moves! He's not a dark wizard.”
Fetty Wap is on blast. He plays in the mornings to wake us up. He plays in the background as we get ready for the day. He plays in the afternoon, providing its beats to our lunches. Trap Queen is the song that I hum absentmindedly when I am alone. Trap Queen plays as we each snuggle into bed at night, haunting our dreams...
It’s Sunday morning and it’s the day of the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. More importantly, it’s the day of the official after party for the show, one that MTV is well adept at throwing.
I’m accompanied by two of my closest friends: doctor Francesca Decker and author slash world traveling aficionado Colin Wright (who is currently in the Philippines at the time of this writing). Francesca is accompanied by her equally talented husband, Jarred (also a doctor).
I was able to get four tickets to the Video Music Awards, having worked for MTV in my not so distant past, and a party like this is not meant to be enjoyed alone. One must have others to witness their slow descent into pop culture madness.
Listen to the kids: The day of the VMAs is a marathon, not a sprint, so it is important that you pace yourself in order to last throughout the day.
We’re off to a roaring start, with most of us feeling the effects of the copious amounts of wine (and music videos) we imbibed the night before.
We begin at The Line Hotel in Koreatown for a stylish L.A. bruncheon. A few seconds through the over-crowded lobby and up the elevator, we step out into the California sunshine and into the Commissary, their beautiful spot for alfresco food, positioned under a towering green house with the smell of delicious dishes wafting through the air.
“I wanna die,” Francesca confesses to the group.
Actually, maybe that’s not what she said. That’s what I heard though.
I look to my three companions and all I see are dark circles and exhausted airs. We spent the evening eating tacos, trading stories of near-death experiences, and studying music video over a phone screen like students before our mid-term exams. I can still recall Nicki Minaj’s legendary ass, gyrating to the beat of Anaconda, followed by a baffling look at the music video for I Don’t F*ck With You by Big Sean and E-40.
Only Colin looks slightly more refreshed. He hadn’t drank himself silly like the rest of us chumps, so in comparison, he looks like a perfectly coiffed and ready version of himself. I hate him.
"Fetty Wap sounds like somebody wet a small towel and then slapped another person across the face with it. It's like an onomatopoeia. Fetty...WAP!"
A few errands later and we’re back at the condo and I am going full-on 1960s mod. I have a beautiful Kenzo dress that I picked up from Nordstrom and I’m inspired by it’s bright colors and unique silhouette.
Shy, our hired makeup artist for the evening who also did my makeup last year, gives me cat eyes and expertly manicured eyebrows.
Colin wanders out of the bedroom and grins at the transformation and snaps a series of unflattering photos that he refuses to share with me or burn to this day. Jarred is equally impressed and at once horrified. I break into a smile through the 2 inch thick layer of makeup.
Thirty minutes later, we pop the cork on some champagne and toast to the music.
“It’s 5:15!” calls one of the boys who have no idea what it’s like to be female and get ready for these things.
“What time do we have to be there?”
“The tickets say that the doors close at 5:45.”
Colin is first to get dressed, outfitted in his classic blue blazer with jeans and a t-shirt. Jarred’s look is wonderfully funky with a crisp white button up, gray slacks and artful suspenders.
I work like the wind in the bathroom, curling my hair and placing it into a 60s style ponytail, a perfect compliment to my Kenzo dress and nude pumps. Afterwards, I rush to Francesca’s chair to curl her hair while Shy puts the finishing touches on her makeup.
Once done, she jumps up from her chair, her slight frame showing off a bold black and multi-colored fitted dress. She slips deftly into a pair of teal heels and we tear out of the room, the clock ticking dangerously close to door closure.
We run past the milling crowd, the cameras and the flashing lights and arrive at the doors which are definitely not closed, though it’s 5:50 and the show starts at 6pm. We all exhale a bit, take a few pictures and file into line.
“Born Willie Maxwell, Fetty Wap was given the nickname "Fetty" (slang for money) as he was known for making money. "Wap" was added to the end of the name to perform under in tribute to his favorite rapper Gucci Mane.”
“We are the most dressed up people here,” Francesca mutters in tones of quiet mutiny.
There is indeed a mixture of dress, mostly casual, dotted with the more artful and imaginative such as us. I lift my chin up and walk forward like the Trap Queen I am. I wave a hand carelessly in the crowds direction as we pass throngs of patrons ranging from the teeny bopper age to mid-life crisis crashers.
“Pay no attention,” I rule, turning my heavily made up cat eyes in her direction. “We’re not doing this for them. Besides, it’s the after party where this really matters.”
I swan through security and up to our seats, my companions in tow. A multitude of curious eyes and approving nods are thrown in my direction.
“Aren’t you festive!” another woman chirps at me as I make my way up the stairs. I throw my head back in a throaty laugh, my pony tail whipping back and forth, my razor cut bangs sliding effortlessly to the side.
These details catch her attention and she beams at me. “Look at you!" she gushes. "The earrings, the shoes, the dress, the hair. Amazing!”
Colin grins knowingly behind me. I turn around to see if Francesca has heard this, this ringing validation of the evenings dress choices. Sadly, she’s too far out of earshot. I wrinkle my nose.
The VMAs are like a concert, but possibly the best concert you can go to. Where else can you go to see some of the greatest performers in pop culture come together for a night of music, performance and awesome self-aggrandizement?
The stage is beautifully constructed and the acoustics and fantastic. Though we’re not as close to the stage as the cameras, the view is unobstructed. When Nicki Minaj goes up to accept her award for Best Female Video via Anaconda, even from the cheap seats, you can see the bodaciousness of her backside.
I need not go into what happened during the VMAs here. Perhaps you’ve already seen it, perhaps you could care less. I will tell you that I was impressed with all of Miley Cyrus’ outfits, that Justin Bieber did a great job performing and that, yes, Kanye West’s acceptance/public service announcement speech was just as awkward in real life as it was on TV.
With the awards wrapped up, Colin says farewell to the group and grabs a ride bound for the airport and the Philippines. The remaining fellowship braze our way to Club Nokia, an event space near the Nokia Theater (now named the Microsoft Theater) which hosts the official after party.
We transcend a dizzying amount of escalators, each new level bringing us increasingly close to the wall of deep bass pouring out of the entrance. Security whisks away our tickets and in we step into a liquid black and neon hazed space.
The place is packed and the music is correct. The after-party is for the troops, the MTV staffers that put on the show and MTV partners and honored guests.
There’s also quite a few MTV celebrities in the house, most noticeably the return of “awesome shoe guy” from the Movie Awards, which I later learn is the host of a show. Tonight he is wearing more of a MJ meets Usher style outfit, complete with cap, sneakers and coat jacket that flairs out every time he spins on the spot. And spin he does. Time and time and time again. I hear Chris Rock in my head. I munch happily on my chicken and expertly made pork taco slider and watch him with amusement.
The DJ is getting the crowd pumped, there are jumbotron style graphics of Miley Cyrus’ nearly nude body coating the walls, and waiters deftly spirit in alcohol and food to the demanding throng.
We three ascend the central staircase to an up-level dancing platform and begin the first of many rounds of drinks that will later lead to my ultimate downfall.
“Salut!” we shout. And down we go.
"Fetty Wap had no idea he was gonna blow up. My friend loves him and before Trap Queen, saw him at this dinky little casino gig that he'd booked. He still has a bunch those he'll have to perform this year. Can you imagine? Going to see Trap Queen performed after a 20 dollar magic show?"
“These earring as killing me!” I shout over Uptown Funk. I remove the offensive bits and throw them on a side table.
I swing out my ponytail and am fully possessed. I twerk and sway, body roll and bop like the best of them. Francesca is completely transformed. Two drinks in and a little food and her batteries are recharged. She bumps and grinds in a way that I am sure every one of her patients would be proud.
Down below, the DJ booth is switching it up. A blond duo, one DJ and one violinist step up to the plate and rip into our earbuds.
It is magnificent.
The entire party shifts, time stops and people gawk at the incredible performance. Phone cameras roll and a circle forms around the violinist, who dances and rocks out harder than any Mozart kid before her, expertly blending her strings to the rhythm of deep house and hip-hop.
At the end of the performance, the crowd wild, a dancing circle forms up and b-boys pop'n lock their way onto eventual YouTube videos.
We join in and dance our way through several songs before I start to feel...funny. My knee feels a little off. I’m not overly concerned though as as I’m nearly six drinks in and the music is fresh.
Several a guy (and gal) comes up for a dance and I humbly oblige. I pull in lone stragglers on the sides, clearly wanting to dance but not emboldened to step forward.
Francesca pulls off some impressive ground level moves with her partners that make Jarred and my eyebrows creep way up our foreheads.
“She’s gonna feel that in the morning,” he throws my way with a grin.
After a few more songs, I look around and realize that the dance floor is clearing, the bar areas are closing down and that the party's almost over. It’s a bit after midnight and folks are either heading to their plan B or headed home. I look over at Francesca who clearly gives of no signs of wanting to stop. I laugh and gently let her know it’s time to pack it up.
With the magic of the evening beginning to fade to a close, I feel my knee and hip joint cry out in ominous mutiny. It briefly makes me wonder about the numbers of dance related injuries that Los Angeles hospitals face on a Friday or Saturday club night. Dislocation through twerking. I smile through my pain.
Back at the condo, we’re a happy mess. We break into a half bottle of wine and reminisce about the evenings highlights.
Then, with our feet sore and our backs aching from hours of drinking and gyrating, we quietly watch Fetty Wap rapping Trap Queen in the kitchen. It is our anthem. It is our mantra. It is the last thing we hear before slipping drunkenly into our beds.
As I close my eyes, I adjust my gimpy leg and pray to our savior Fetty that I might be spared, that I might, in fact, be given a second chance in the morning and that my leg will be healed by the power of his bionic eye and inspired name. Fetty Wap will listen. I know he will. He always does.