August 24, 2014 7:50pm PT by Ashley Lee, Hilary Lewis
VMAs: Miley Cyrus Wins Video of the Year, Homeless Teen Delivers Moving Speech
Miley Cyrus won the award for video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards, but she used her moment in the spotlight at the Forum to shed light on the issue of homelessness in L.A.
Cyrus had a young man named Jesse take the stage to accept the award and used the opportunity to shed light on the epidemic surrounding homeless youth. Sitting on the side of a ramp leading to the stage, Cyrus shed tears during his speech.
"Thank you all — my name is Jesse, and I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving lost and scared for their lives right now. I know because I am one of these people," he said, dressed in a suit and tie and reading from a few pieces of paper. "I've survived in shelters all over this city. … Though I may have been invisible to you in the streets, I have a lot of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight."
Jesse claimed that Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless youth in America and urged people to go to Cyrus' Facebook page to raise awareness and funds to end youth homelessness. A message posted on Cyrus' Facebook page directs people to ways they can contribute. She also released a video following the show in which she spoke about her efforts.
Cyrus' rep told The New York Times that the singer was inspired by Marlon Brando's Oscar acceptance speech in 1973, when the best actor winner sent Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage in his place as a protest against Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans.
Heather Carmichael — executive director of the L.A.-based My Friend’s Place, which assists homeless teens and young adults with jobs, homes, education and healthcare — told The Times that Cyrus met Jesse while visiting the organization last week. She paid for his outfit and a hotel room at the BLVD Hotel in Studio City, Calif; they also rode to the show together and ate at In-N-Out afterward.
Announced by Jimmy Fallon, the night's top honor went to Cyrus over Beyonce and Jay Z's "Drunk in Love," Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX's "Fancy," Pharrell Williams' Oscar-nominated song "Happy" and Sia's "Chandelier."
Recent video of the year winners include Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors," Rihanna and Calvin Harris' "We Found Love," Katy Perry's "Firework" and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."