Miley Cyrus and a Homeless Man at the 2014 VMAs
One year after Miley Cyrus’ twerking-fest made headlines, she took the VMAs stage with a different message in mind. The pop star brought along an anonymous homeless man to the awards show who used his time onstage to shed light on an issue many have been afraid to address: youth homelessness.
Miley Cyrus won Video of the Year at this year’s VMAs, yet she didn’t celebrate with her usual oohs and aahs or applause that usually comes along with such accomplishments. Instead, she sent a homeless young man named Jesse Helt to speak on her behalf about youth homelessness in an emotional speech onstage.
Helt’s message was not only heartfelt, but also informative. In his remarks, he mentioned the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in America as well as how many young people feel they have no choice but to become homeless due to the economic downturn in America.
At the VMAs, Helt directed fans to his Facebook page and encouraged them to donate through a Prizeo fundraising site to My Friend’s Place, an organization in Los Angeles that works with homeless youth. Since then, My Friend’s Place has collected over $120,000 in donations from people around the world.
Helt and Cyrus eventually got back together, with Helt taking a full-time position at My Friend’s Place. Additionally, Helt has since joined Cyrus at his Happy Hippie Foundation where he now assists with various tasks.
Cyrus has said that the 2014 VMAs marked an important turning point in her life. She began to distance herself from Hannah Montana, the Disney cartoon character which had consumed much of her personality since 2006.
While it would have been easy for her to become overwhelmed with the attention of a new movie and tour, she refused to let that stop her from evolving beyond her child-star image and taking on an adult persona. Through her Happy Hippie Foundation, she’s actively raising awareness about youth homelessness issues.
Her actions are more than a sign of maturity; they’re an act of rebellion against the opportunistic media coverage she’s received for much of her life. At twenty-one years old, it’s time she started paying attention to both real world issues and those created in her imagination.
Cyrus’ approach to social issues has been largely positive. Her Happy Hippie Foundation has raised money for causes such as homelessness and bullying, while also spreading awareness of HIV and AIDS through videos she’s released.
But now, she’s taking a risk that could prove to be her biggest yet: selling the Moonman trophy on eBay – with Helt as an willing seller (and as the man who gave her the award).
Helt was arrested for criminal mischief in 2010, leading to his sentencing to six months behind bars. Together with Cyrus, Helt raised money for My Friend’s Place charity which provides shelter and support to homeless youth in Los Angeles.