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Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga performing in masks is the new post-pandemic reality

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Anna Brech
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Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga wore a series of embellished face masks to perform at the MTV VMAs last night, in a fashion statement that was loaded with political symbolism.

Whether you find the sight of them reassuring or slightly unnerving, face masks are an essential safeguard we all need in a post-coronavirus age. 

From health precaution to political symbol, the humble face covering entered the realm of iconic accessory last night, as Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga wore bespoke designs for their joint performance at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).

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The pair took to a stage in Manhattan to perform their hit Rain on Me, which won the award for Song of the Year and Best Collaboration at the event.

Both stars and their entourage of backing dancers wore futuristic-style masks for the event, which gave a first glimpse of what award ceremonies may look like in an era of Covid-19. 

Grande wore a simple black mask for the occasion, and also posted a photo of herself in rehearsals with a sparkling rhinestone covering.  

True to form, Gaga’s masks were a little more outré: her VMA appearance saw her vary between a pink full-face muzzle, a mask with tusks and a digitised mask that displayed LED patterns that moved in time to her singing – among other creations.

“I was wearing face shields before it was a thing,” the singer joked on Twitter, before unveiling her repertoire of artistic face coverings at the VMAs. 

Last night’s VMAs was the first awards ceremony of its kind to be held in a post-coronavirus period. It was adapted in a number of ways for the occasion, including outdoor performances, video acceptance speeches and sound effects to replace real-life audiences. A red carpet was notably absent, along with the usual crowds and packed media pens that accompany these events.

Stars such as Gaga who appeared in person adhered to strict social distancing guidelines, and the stage they used was marked with tape to observe distancing measures during their complex dance routines.

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The ceremony itself was also changed to acknowledge events of the past year, with new categories to honour the best music video from home and best quarantine performance, and a special segment dedicated to frontline healthcare workers. 

Meanwhile, the visibility of masks on-stage was a striking reminder of how much has changed in the past eight months. Fans on Twitter reacted with elation, heralding the masks as both a statement of fashion and political meaning.

Despite the fact that they’ve been proven to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, face masks have become a politically loaded symbol in the States (and in the UK too, to a degree), with some people claiming that they violate personal freedom. 

Both Grande and Gaga were well aware of this fact when they donned masks last night, with Gaga telling virtual audiences: “Be kind. Mask up. Be brave.”

In doing so, their masks joined a growing list of accessories – including Lady Hale’s spider brooch and Meghan Markle’s eco-trainers – that layer style with a powerful expression of political intent. 

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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