This year, the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) were laden with performances, guest presenters, and endless passive-aggressive messages about persistence and positivity during what’s being painted as a dark time in history.
Many messages were quick, tacked onto the end of speeches, or buried into acceptance speeches. Some stars, however, chose to make their message personal. The singer P!nk was one of them, after first delivering a whimsical performance involving a timeline of her greatest hits and ending with her newest single, “What About Us?“
P!nk has been on the charts for over a decade. Her first hit single, “Let’s Get the Party Started,” was the first of many over the years. Her hits repertoire has expanded to include songs such as “Sober,” “Just Give Me A Reason,” “So What?” and “U and Ur Hand.” Her music has always trended toward the style of tough rock balanced with a few inspirational ballads.
Because of her endless slew of hits, P!nk accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award that night, presented to her by comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. In her acceptance speech, P!nk took the time to emphasize individuality in the form of an anecdote about her daughter, Willow Sage.
P!nk describes, “Recently, I was driving my daughter to school and she said to me, out of the blue, ‘Mama?’ I said, ‘Yes, baby?’ She said, ‘I’m the ugliest girl I know.’ And I said, ‘Huh?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I look like a boy with long hair.’ And my brain went to, ‘Oh my god, you’re six. Why? Where is this coming from? Who said this? Can I kick a six-year-old’s ass, like what?'”
She continues, however, on a much more somber note. “But I didn’t say anything. Instead I went home and I made a Powerpoint presentation for her. And in that presentation were androgynous rockstars [sic] and artists that live their truth, and were probably made fun of every day of their life. And these are artists like Michael Jackson and David Bowie and Freddie Mercury… [made] her eyes glaze over.”
P!nk asked her daughter why she felt that she was ugly. Her daughter responded that it was because she thought she looked like a boy. She then asked Willow what she thought her mother looked like, to which the young girl replied, “Well, you’re beautiful.”
They’d arrived at the crux of the conversation.
“When people make fun of me, that’s what they use,” P!nk said to her daughter. “They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong.” She has, over the years, been criticized for her appearance, but remains stubbornly independent about it to this day.
“I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, Mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.'”
She ended her speech on an inspirational note. “We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”
“And to all the artists here, I’m so inspired by all of you. Thank you for being your true selves and for lighting the way for us. I’m so inspired by you guys… Keep shining for the rest of us to see… Thank you guys. Goodnight.”
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