Female artists make history with best direction nominations at the VMAs

Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Hannah Lux Davis are up for awards for best direction at the MTV's 2020 Video Music Awards.
Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish performs in Miami on March 9, 2020.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Live Nation

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By Gwen Aviles

Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Hannah Lux Davis are up for awards for best direction at the MTV's 2020 Video Music Awards, marking the first time in history three women are simultaneously nominated in the category without male collaborators.

Swift has been nominated for "The Man," while Eilish was nominated for "xanny." Davis, who has worked with artists like Ariana Grande, Drake and Miley Cyrus, was nominated for directing Doja Cat's "Say So."

Both Davis and Swift were nominated in the category last year — Davis for directing Grande's "Thank U, Next" video and Swift for co-directing "You Need To Calm Down" alongside Drew Kirsch — but they ultimately lost to Calmatic, who directed the video for Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus' "Old Town Road (Remix)."

The last time three women were up for awards in the best direction category together was 2005, but two of the three women were nominated alongside male collaborators. Missy Elliot was nominated alongside Dave Meyers for "Lose Control" and Diane Martel was nominated with Francis Lawrence for Jennifer Lopez's "Get It Right" video. Floria Sigismondi was the only woman that year to be nominated by herself for directing The White Stripes' "Blue Orchid."

Taylor Swift performs during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards in Newark, N.J., on Aug. 26, 2019.John Shearer / Getty Images

Mary Lambert was the first woman to be nominated in the best direction category for Chris Isaak’s “Dancin" in 1984, but the first woman to win in the category was Valerie Faris. Faris directed The Smashing Pumpkins' video "Tonight, Tonight" with her husband, Jonathan Dayton, and shares the accolade with him. Melina Matsoukas, who directed Beyoncé's "Formation" was the first woman to win the award without a co-director in 2016.

Doja Cat on Season 18 of "The Voice."NBCU Photo Bank

Given that only five women have ever been nominated for Academy Awards in the best director category in more than 90 years, Swift, Eilish and Davis' simultaneous recognition points towards progress in the entertainment industry.

Eilish, who racked up five awards at this year's Grammys, is also the first artist in VMA history to be nominated twice as a teenager in the video of the year category.

According to MTV, the VMAs, which will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, will be the first event at the entertainment venue since the coronavirus pandemic began. Ahead of the Aug. 30 awards show, MTV also announced two new categories: best music video from home and best quarantine performance. DJ D-Nice, Chloe & Halle, CNCO, John Legend, Lady Gaga and Post Malone are among the artists nominated for their socially distant renditions.