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VMAs and Keke Palmer pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick Boseman, who died from colon cancer on Friday at age 43.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Keke Palmer paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman in the opening segment of the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, calling him “an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched, and everyone he encountered. We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He’s a true hero, not just on screen, but everything he did. His impact lives forever.”

Boseman, whose role as Black Panther redefined the superhero genre for a generation of young Marvel fans, died at 43 last week, after a short but resonant career playing roles as iconic to the Black experience as James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall. Boseman, behind the scenes of some of his most successful films, battled colon cancer since 2016, but never talked about it publicly. The news of his death came as a shock to all but his closest peers and family. But also lent a hard-to-fathom resilience to his roles in hindsight — imagine doing that work while suffering under the knowledge of terminal illness.

At Sunday’s VMAs — a fading but still comprehensive spectacle of contemporary pop culture — the awards show tried its best to acknowledge Boseman amid the madcap scramble to assemble a show under COVID-19 regulations. A telecast already guaranteed to look unlike any other VMAs in history now had to mourn the face of the most inspiring mass-market movie event of the decade.

At MTV’s 35th VMAs, the Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande duet “Rain on Me” won song of the year and best collaboration, while Gaga also took home the prize for artist of the year. The Weeknd nabbed the night’s biggest award, video of the year, for “Blinding Lights,” and best direction went to first-time director Taylor Swift for her song “The Man."Hosted by Keke Palmer, the event featured performances by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, Da Baby, Miley Cyrus, BTS, Doja Cat, Latin boy band CNCO and Maluma. Gaga and Grande led the field with nine nominations apiece, followed by The Weeknd and Billie Eilish with six.

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