Gomez was reacting to a pre-planned set collapse during Rodrigo's performance that reportedly confused audience members.
On Sept. 12, 2023, a claim began to spread on social media platforms that singer/actress Selena Gomez had made disgusted faces as well as covered her ears during Olivia Rodrigo's performance at the 2023 Video Music Awards (VMAs).
One TikTok post claimed that Gomez was "making disgusted faces and covering her ears while Olivia sings" and was proof that the "Only Murders in the Building" star had acted as a "mean girl" during the awards show. "Why bother showing up if you're gonna be mean?" the caption said.
We found posts on other social media platforms related to the claim.
"Not Selena Gomez covering her ears during Olivia Rodrigo performance," one such popular post on X (formerly known as Twitter) said on Sept. 12, 2023. The post was attached to the same video as shown in the TikTok post. At the time of this writing, it had nearly 17 million views on the platform.
Not Selena Gomez covering her ears during Olivia Rodrigo performance 😭 pic.twitter.com/aeXjQ8tl2e
— annoyed (@cyberbei) September 13, 2023
However, we found the footage was miscaptioned. While the footage authentically showed Gomez reacting while Rodrigo was on stage, it was during a pre-planned set collapse that reportedly confused VMA audience members, including Gomez.
We found the clip of Gomez' reaction timestamped at 1:53 in the video of Rodrigo's performance that was posted to MTV's YouTube account.
Her reaction was also found in a "POV" livestream of the VMAs, which began at 4:21 in the video. The livestream included live audience reactions at the awards show and was also found on MTV's YouTube account.
In the video of Rodrigo's VMAs performance, it showed how Rodrigo's set began to fall apart while she performed her song, "Vampire." In the video, pyrotechnics appeared to malfunction, a red curtain fell, and a stagehand escorted her offstage.
Rodrigo was escorted off the stage at 1:51 in the official video of her VMAs performance, immediately before Gomez' reaction was shown. Gomez reacting to the destruction of the set during Rodrigo's VMAs performance was also confirmed in the "POV" livestream, which showed more of her reaction. In the background of the livestream, you could hear the last note Rodrigo sang before being escorted offstage, as well as the transition between "Vampire" and the next song Rodrigo performed during the VMAs performance, "Get Him Back."
Reputable news and entertainment publications also reported Gomez looked scared by the set collapse. The New York Times wrote Gomez looked stricken, while The A.V. Club said, "It even scared poor Selena Gomez."
Gomez herself commented on an Instagram post about the incident. "I heard a loud noise and it scared me," she wrote. We reached out to her representatives to confirm what she posted and will update this fact-check if we hear back.
As we found video footage that confirmed she was reacting to the set collapse, reputable entertainment publications reported on Gomez appearing scared, and Gomez herself said she was scared during the performance, we rate this claim "Miscaptioned."