We wouldn’t blame Christina Aguilera if she felt like Jan Brady after the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. After giving two stellar performances at the awards ceremony that night — including the VMA’s opener alongside Madonna and Britney Spears — all anyone could talk about the next day was “Britney, Britney, Britney.”
During the 2003 opening performance, Madonna kissed both Spears and Aguilera — as a way to pass the pop icon torch over to her two predecessors. But only Madonna’s smooch with Spears was really seen by viewers at home, while Aguilera’s liplock was pretty much completely cut out of the broadcast.
“Christina got slighted a bit,” Alex Coletti, who produced the VMAs ceremony that year, admitted to Yahoo Entertainment. “It was never about how Madonna kissed Britney and Christina. It was always known as the ‘Britney/Madonna kiss.’ And I feel bad for that.”
Yet, Coletti doesn’t seem to feel that terrible about the snub. He explained to Yahoo that the reason why Aguilera was brushed off was because Spears got kissed by Madonna first — and after the two pop stars smacked lips — the ceremony’s director Beth McCarthy-Miller made the split-second decision to cut away from the stage to capture Justin Timberlake’s reaction, who was sitting in the audience.
Spears and Timberlake had broken up the prior year, and tabloid culture was still fixated on their seemingly messy split.
By the time the camera captured Timberlake’s annoyed reaction and cut back to the stage, Aguilera’s PR moment had already received the kiss of death.
Coletti said getting a response from Timberlake was premeditated and that he and McCarthy-Miller had planted a cameraman right in front of the “Cry Me a River” singer in anticipation.
“He probably was pissed that the camera guy was there, but if he’s a pro, he knows it’s going to be here, so it’s like, ‘I’m gonna give ‘em something,’” Coletti told the outlet with a shrug. “And we knew where the gold was. You go where the shot is exciting. … Beth McCarthy-Miller is one of the greatest live directors ever, and we let her do her thing. In the moment, she can follow anything and not be so rigidly scripted that she wouldn’t take a chance on something. So, I think she knew to keep an eye on Justin.”
Coletti added: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d tell Beth to take the same shot.”
Aguilera has expressed some irritation with the entire fiasco. In a 2018 interview with Andy Cohen, Aguilera described the decision to cut to Timberlake as a “cheap shot.”
“I definitely saw the newspaper the next day, and it was like, ‘Oh well, I guess I got left out of that,’” Aguilera said, noting that social media wasn’t a thing back then and that she wasn’t aware her kiss was cut until afterward.
She also noted that she had another performance that night where she sang her 2003 hit “Fighter,” which she described as “kick ass.”
“So, I was OK with [the attention being on Spears],” Aguilera said. “She could have the kiss.”
Coletti, however, told Yahoo that Aguilera’s camp was pretty peeved about the slight. To read his description of the aftermath and how his team tried to correct it, head over to Yahoo Entertainment.