“We don’t change … we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.”
After entering the theater standing on the hood of a flying car, singing a medley of her greatest hits, P!nk took the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to accept the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, a lifetime achievement recognizing her contributions to “music and film.”
But rather than talking about her impressive list of accomplishments in the realm of music videos, P!nk took the opportunity to tell a story about her daughter Willow, age 6, who recently told the singer she was the ugliest girl she knew because she looked “like a boy with long hair.”
“I know I don’t have a lot of time, but if I may tell you a quick story. 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 6-year-old’s ass, like what?’
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 and artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their life, and carry on, wave their flag and inspire the rest of us. And these are artists like Michael Jackson and David Bowie and Freddie Mercury and Annie Lennox and Prince and Janis Joplin and George Michael, Elton John, so many artists — her eyes glazed over. But then I said, ‘You know, I really want to know why you feel this way about yourself.’ And she said, ‘Well I look like a boy,’ and I said, ‘Well what do you think I look like?’ And she said, ‘Well you’re beautiful.’ And I was like, ‘Well, thanks. But when people make fun of me, that’s what they use. They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong.’
And 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.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. 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. There’s so much rad shit happening in music. And keep doing it. Keep shining for the rest of us to see.
And you, my darling girl, are beautiful, and I love you. Thank you, MTV. This is a really special night. Thank you, Ellen. I couldn’t love you more. Thank you guys. Goodnight.”
P!nk has always been one of our favorite performers — for her incredibly catchy songs, her kick-ass attitude and her powerful social commentary about the harmful pressure society put on women and girls to conform and the power of rejecting that pressure to just be yourself.