It's very hard to forget Miley Cyrus' infamous 2013 VMAs performance. You know, the one where she grinded up on Robin Thicke while performing a duet of "Blurred Lines"? Yeah, that one. But as it turns out, all the chatter surrounding that moment changed her life forever. According to the singer, it was that VMAs performance that led Cyrus to become an activist — but not for the reason that you might think.
According to Just Jared, in the March issue of Wonderland Magazine, Cyrus says that "not only was culture changed, but my life and career were changed forever" by that moment. It's true that, after she twerked her way into the headlines, people couldn't help but talk about what she did at that show. Many felt she had gone too far when she humped those giant teddy bears and got a little too friendly with a foam finger. But, more importantly, Cyrus also drew criticism for appropriating Black culture. Vulture called it a "minstrel show routine," which “tipped over into what we may as well just call racism.” Slate went as far to say that, "to celebrate herself, Miley Cyrus used other women’s bodies as a joke."
But the conversations surrounding her performance led her to have a soul-searching one of her own. "It inspired me to use my platform for something much bigger," Cyrus said. "If the world is going to focus on me and what I am doing, then what I am doing should be impactful and it should be great."
After that moment, Cyrus decided that she needed to be more involved with the communities that support her music, and it led her to start her own organization, the Happy Hippie Foundation. "It’s dedicated to fighting injustice for vulnerable populations," she told Wonderland. Specifically, she hopes the anti-homeless, pro-LGBTQ+ foundation will "bring awareness towards issues affecting homeless youth and other vulnerable populations such as the LGBT youth community," according to the website.
While she didn't officially start Happy Hippie until 2015, the year before when she returned to the VMAs, she showed her commitment to using her celebrity for a worthy cause. She showed up to the 2014 VMAs with a special date, a homeless youth named Jesse Helt, who helped her accept her Video Of The Year for "Wrecking Ball." "I may be invisible to you on the streets, but I have a lot of the same dreams that brought you here tonight," he told the crowd.
Cyrus was later questioned about Helt's past, but she wanted the moment to highlight the LGBTQ+ homeless problem and the homeless shelter My Friend's Place. According to GLAAD, homelessness disproportionally affects LGBTQ+ youth; in 2016, they reported 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. With what some called a publicity stunt, Cyrus raised $200,000 for homeless teens, which shows how powerful her decision to get involved can be.
Since launching the foundation, Cyrus has continued to use her VMAs appearances to try to make a positive statement. This past year, she performed her single "Younger Now" with a group of kids and seniors dressed in poodle skirts and greaser leather jackets. One of those older performers was James "Gypsy" Haake, a celebrated drag performer, which set the tone for a much more inclusive VMAs performance than the one she's become known for.
While it's surprising to think that her twerk-filled MTV awards show performance from five years ago would affect Cyrus' life so drastically, any epiphany that leads someone to give back is worth rehashing. And if the criticism of the performance managed to teach the singer to use her platform to do more good for the world, then that's at least one silver lining.