J.Lo, Camila Cabello & J Balvin: Latinos represent and win big at 2018 MTV VMAs

Latin artists came, saw and conquered the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 20. Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello and J Balvin were among the big winners while Maluma represented the culture with a performance of his Spanish-language hit “Felices Los 4.” The latest Latin music explosion made quite an impact at last night’s ceremony that celebrated the year’s best music videos.

Lopez earned the honor of the night as this year’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient. Past winners include Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Rihanna for their iconic clips. J.Lo taking it home this time was historic as she was the first Latin artist to receive the achievement award. Before her speech, Jennifer tore through a live medley of her hits, including her latest bilingual banger “Dinero.” The aforementioned song featuring Cardi B and DJ Khaled also took home the Best Collaboration VMA.

The Cuban-born Cabello ended up sweeping the night’s top awards: Video of the Year for “Havana” and Artist of the Year. The latter was created last year after MTV merged the Best Male and Best Female Video categories into Artist of the Year. She became the second artist with Latin roots to win Video of the Year following Christina Aguilera in 2001 for “Lady Marmalade.” However, Camila’s the first ever winner from a Latin country thanks to the telenovela-inspired mini-movie for “Havana” that touched upon her Mexican heritage. “I want to thank my family who inspired this music video,” she said.

Counting Best Collaboration, Cardi B nabbed three Moon Person awards with the addition of Best New Artist and Song of the Summer for “I Like It” with J Balvin and Bad Bunny. Considering the big hits the trio was up against, the Song of the Summer win represented a big victory for Latin culture. Cardi embraced her Dominican roots on “I Like It” alongside reggaetoneros Balvin and Bunny, both who received their first VMA.

J Balvin added a second one to his collection when “Mi Gente” with Willy William won Best Latin. That award had been given in the past quietly and intermittently during Spanish-language rebroadcasts of the show. Last night was the first time it was announced at the main ceremony with William taking it on behalf of Balvin, who is currently touring Japan.

Maluma did not win Best Latin, but he had the house moving (including Cabello and her mom) with his fiery performance of “Felices Los 4.” It was the first time since 2005 that a Latin artist was invited to perform their Spanish-language hit. MTV previously did right by the Latinos with Shakira and Alejandro Sanz singing “La Tortura” at the 2005 ceremony that also featured a live showcase of reggaeton music OG’s at the time, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar and Tego Calderón. In a very VMAs fashion, Maluma’s sexy set ended with a surprise kiss with one of his dancers, making it one of the moments of the night.

The MTV VMAs reflected the changing tides for Latin music and artists in the global market. The Latinos came through, shined among their industry peers and did the community proud. It was one small step forward for the winners that night and one giant leap for Latin representation in mainstream media.