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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to actually be in the audience at an awards show? What it would feel like to be surrounded by so many celebrities, getting to see incredible speeches and watch pop culture history unfold right in front of your very eyes? I certainly always did and never dreamed I actually could, until last night, when I had the privilege of attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.

Yep, ladies and gentlemen… I got to realize a lifelong dream of actually being in the audience at one of music’s biggest nights, and I can honestly say it’s totally different from what you see go down when you’re watching from the comfort of your couch, snacks in hand, ready to live tweet your commentary. It’s incredibly cool to be behind-the-scenes, and as both a music lover and a pop culture enthusiast, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. Here are the things that really went down at Madison Square Garden last night that viewers at home didn’t get to see.

Celebrities don’t take their seats until 10 minutes (or less!) before the show starts.

If you have images in your mind of celebrities anxiously waiting in their front row seats for a long time prior to the first performance of the night, well I’m sad to say that most of the big names don’t scurry in until the very last minute, likely creating some high tension moments for the behind-the-scenes crew as they prepare to set up their shots.

At first, spotting celebs is exciting, but by the end of the night, you’re over it.

Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande sharing a hug.
Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande sharing a hug.

I was positioned in a spot where I had a clear view of all the front row celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and Ariana Grande and Mac Miller, and for the first hour or so, I couldn’t stop staring at them — how did they react to each moment? Would they share PDA? Would they start texting or leave to use the bathroom? But by the end of the night, you’re actually kinda used to it, which is such a weird feeling.

Celebrities look pretty much exactly like you’d imagine them to IRL.

It’s honestly dizzying to be in the presence of so much celebrity, but also comforting to see that they look pretty much exactly the same as they do in photos or on TV. It’s also so weird to see them in their “off” moments, like catching Ariana and Mac whispering and holding hands looking so in love.

Kanye was heckled during his infamous 4-minute speech.

Although ‘Ye received plenty of rave reviews and applause for his moment onstage, TV cameras didn’t catch a group of individuals heckling him quite loudly. West did address them, but carried on in true Kanye fashion like it ain’t no thang. Bless him.

There’s a *lot* of downtime involved.

One of the things that surprised me is how many commercial breaks there were, leaving the audience to their own devices. So what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling? I can safely say that someone approached Kim for a selfie approximately every 7 seconds, and she happily obliged each time. Such a trouper. Aside from that, celebs hobnob with each other, meeting old friends and new, and posing for pictures aplenty. Some sipped from their drinks (Nick Jonas!) and others mindlessly texted until the “10 seconds to air…” call came over the speakers.

It’s a long night for all involved.

Ariana and her posse all sipped iced coffee from Starbucks cups, and with good reason — awards shows are long. It was kind of bizarre to see famous attendees yawning and looking totally bored, or leaving early to hit up the crazy after parties. All in a day’s work.

Enthusiasm dwindled… quickly.

Even though it looks like the energy in Madison Square Garden was infectious on TV, the truth is that the pit handlers had to chide us several times for not giving enough energy… and the celebrities felt it, too. Especially when a newcomer was performing, but even during Rihanna’s first performance when Kanye had to convince people to rise in their seats, sometimes it was hard for the audience to engage in the moment. In the pit audience’s defense, it was definitely caused by standing on line outside in the late August heat, paired with being smushed into a tight crowd, and lack of access to a restroom for several hours… by the end, we all wanted to peace out and hit the sheets. Or if you’re like me, you hastily grabbed a street vendor hot dog and a bottle of water before catching a train home.

But there’s nothing more incredible than watching history in the making.

Though there were some slow moments, I can honestly say that there was nothing more electric than watching Beyoncé’s epic Lemonade medley, or many of my favorite performers (BRITNEY!) up close and personal like that. I thoroughly enjoyed all the performances, and it’s impossible not to scream your lungs out when you have some of the top names in music putting on their best show right in front of you. You definitely forget how tired you are or how much your feet hurt, and you realize how incredible it actually is to be living in that moment. And you’d do anything to do it all again.