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WHAT A DRAG: It was ladies’ night at the Video Music Awards, as Katy Perry, Adele, Beyonce and Lady Gaga were among the top performers and winners. But Gaga, and later Nicki Minaj, were also tuned into their masculine sides.

Gaga opened MTV’s Video Music Awards dressed in drag as her male alter-ego, Jo Calderone, who sports short dark hair and smokes constantly. She/he sat down at the piano and performed Gaga’s latest single, “You and I.”

The envelope-pushing artist (who wore a dress made of meat to last year’s VMAs) remained dressed as Calderone throughout the night. After accepting the award for best female video for “Born This Way,” Calderone came into a backstage press room smoking a cigarette and drinking what looked like whiskey. She stamped the cigarette out on the carpet before posing for photos.

Asked what she can express as Calderone that she can’t as Gaga, she replied, “I don’t understand the question.” She said Gaga asked Calderone to come in her stead, saying, “If you really love me, you’ll go instead of me and you’ll get in that spotlight.”

“So I did,” said Calderone, describing himself as a guy from New Jersey whose family hails from Palermo, Italy.

“I’m not a singer or a model or an actor or anything. I’m a guy,” she said. “I’m just a guy, you know, and I just wanted to show my girl how much I love her, that’s all.”

Earlier in the evening, Nicki Minaj, winner of the hip-hop video award, said her new album will feature her inner male artist, Roman.

“He’s a boy that lives inside of me,” Minaj said. “He’s a lunatic and he’s gay.”

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BRITNEY TRIBUTE: Britney Spears has made many memorable appearances at the Video Music Awards (that liplock with Madonna, dancing with a snake to “Slave 4 U”), and she was honored for them with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

Lady Gaga, dressed in drag as her male alter-ego, presented the moon man trophy to a smiling Spears.

“One of my biggest inspirations was Britney Spears,” Gaga said. “Britney taught me how to be fearless. She taught us all how to be fearless. She’s a pop-music legend and the industry would not be the same without her.”

Gaga’s male Jo Calderone character then lingered, apparently hoping for a kiss from Spears, but Spears demurred.

“I’ve done that already,” she said.

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