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Madonna makes surprise appearance at VMAs to celebrate MTV's 40th anniversary

The Queen of Pop opened the ceremony by celebrating her decadeslong love affair with MTV and New York City.
/ Source: TODAY

The MTV Video Music Awards kicked off with a surprise appearance by Madonna.

The Queen of Pop, 63, opened Sunday's ceremony by celebrating her decadeslong love affair with MTV and New York City.

During a video sequence showing the singer riding in a cab through the city, she recalled in a voiceover the now famous story of her arrival in the Big Apple in the late 1970s with only "$35 and a pair of dance shoes" to her name.

Madonna kicked off the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards with a surprise appearance.Theo Wargo / Getty Images

She recalled telling a taxi driver on that first night in the city to "take me to the center of it all." He dropped her off in a then-seedy Times Square.

"I was 19 and terrified, but it was just the first step," she explained. "I knew that some day with a lot of hard work I'd be known not just in New York City but all over the world."

As Madonna, dressed in a trench coat, stepped out of the cab into Times Square onscreen, she began talking in her voiceover about the arrival of MTV itself — and how the two enjoyed a symbiotic relationship from day one.

Madonna opened up about her longtime relationship with MTV, in honor of the music channel's 40th anniversary.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

"Forty years ago, another underdog arrived in New York City, hoping to create something revolutionary. An all-music channel premiered in the middle of the night and called itself MTV," she said as images of her classic videos — "Papa Don't Preach," "Like A Prayer" and "Ray of Light," to name a few — appeared on buildings all around her.

"We found each other and formed a bond that changed my life, changed music and created a whole new art form. That's why there's only one place to be tonight."

As the video sequence ended, Madonna appeared live onstage inside Brooklyn's Barclays Center, where Sunday's ceremony took place. As the star-studded audience roared, she quickly ditched the trench coat to reveal a body-baring black dominatrix outfit.

"And they said we wouldn't last," cooed the singer. "But we're still here, motherf------."

"Happy 40th, MTV!" she added before leaving the stage.