Other big winners, reports The Early Show's national correspondent Tracy Smith, were Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott and Gwen Stefani.
Host Diddy literally swam in, a smart move in Miami and in keeping with what appeared to be the water theme of the show.
Everyone had a comment about the weather.
"It's hot as hell out here," said Usher.
"Very hot," said Paris Hilton.
"It's Miami, man," said Nelly.
For the red carpet, how do you decide what to wear in the Miami heat?
"Something that doesn't show sweat," actress Jessica Alba said. "Something that is no fuss; something that isn't see-through. Those are my standards."
Despite the festive atmosphere, Hurricane Katrina weighed on everyone's minds. After hitting the southern tip of Florida on Thursday, taking nine lives, the hurricane strengthened and took aim at New Orleans.
Multiple award winner Alicia Keys said, "I'm definitely praying for the people in Louisiana. I'm hoping that'll pass without too much heartache and pain."
Shakira made VMA history with the first-ever performance in Spanish.
"It's a great achievement for me for my community and I'm happy," she said.
Kelly Clarkson made a big splash. Clarkson performed "Since U Been Gone," winner of best female video and best pop video, after being soaked by a torrent of water. "I think it's fun. I think it's different," she told Smith, pointing out that she made one of her music videos in a pool of mud.
As maestro of a string orchestra, Diddy paid tribute to his friend, Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls, fatally shot in 1997. Sadly, violence continues to plague the rap world. At a party the night before the awards, producer Suge Knight was shot in the leg.
"I'm sick of it, really sick of it," music producer Quincy Jones said. " Because, number one, most of it's wanna be. And psychodrama."
Word that Diddy was giving out $50,000 apiece to the best-dressed male and female star had everyone buzzing — and preening. In the end, Gwen Stefani and Snoop Dogg took the fashion prize.
Ludacris, a frequent collaborator, won best rap video all by himself.
"I've been waiting five years to win that solo video award," he said.
Green Day took home the most awards with seven.
But the real winner of the night may have been the host himself. Diddy, who has run a marathon and opened on Broadway, called it "one of the hardest things I've ever done" and said he was proudest of his "Biggie performance."
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