The last time I wrote about Pink, I made it very clear that I didn’t think she deserved to win MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, especially when music video visionary Missy Elliott has yet to receive this honour. Even though our site manager Emily (she stans for Pink, hard) and I had our first fight ever over this post, I stand by my thoughts. Pink doesn’t deserve to be a Video Vanguard but after last night, I’m actually glad she was awarded the honour.
Let’s put Pink’s underwhelming videography aside and focus on what she did on the VMA stage. She gave a hella entertaining performance, a medley of her greatest hits, that showcased her strength as a pop star. Pink has so many hits. That’s not up for debate. She’s also got SWAGGER. Since pop culture collectively butchered the word “swag” a few years ago, the word has lost most of its impact but what Pink did on that stage was the epitome of swag. In case we forgot, she reminded us that she can sing and dance her ass off. She reminded us that she doesn’t need a trapeze to awe us. I had chills when Pink, her dancers and the whole audience ended the performance with their fists in the air. I may have even teared up at the image of her husband Carey Hart (has he always been this handsome?) and her daughter in matching suits with their linked fists in the air too.
Pink’s performance was really f-cking great but her acceptance speech was even better. One of Pink’s most endearing qualities is that she never seems like she’s putting on airs. Authenticity radiates from every pore. So, when Pink started her speech with “I know I don’t have a lot of time but if I may tell you a quick story,” I didn’t cringe or roll my eyes like I might at another artist. She went on to tell a story about the time her 6-year-old daughter said she thought she was “the ugliest girl” she knew because she “looks like a boy with long hair.” Here’s how Pink responded to her daughter:
How easy would it have been, in that moment, for Pink to look at her little girl and say, “No, you don’t sweetie. You’re beautiful!” If my niece came to me with the same statement of self-doubt, I don’t know if my instinct would have been to just reassure her that she’s pretty and move on. Instead, Pink made her daughter a PowerPoint presentation about gender norms and self-love.
My favourite part of Pink’s speech was this:
“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. I said to her, ‘do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘no Mama.’ ‘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. So, baby girl, we don’t change… We help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”
Goddamn. In a simple, short anecdote, Pink delivered the most feminist and empowering declaration of the night. Pink hasn’t conformed to the small, infuriating box the music industry tries to fit so many pop stars in. She has repeatedly spoken her truth – loudly and passionately. She may not have the profile of some of her peers because of her refusal to fit into that perfect pop star mold, whatever that means. But she’s a Grammy award-winning artist with a 17-year career who is living proof that bullsh-t beauty standards need to be challenged. In her speech, Pink namechecked Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Janis Joplin and other “androgynous rockstars.” She praised them for being “artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their lives, and carry on, and wave their flag, and inspire the rest of us.”
Last night, Pink waved her flag and inspired all the kids watching to carry on. I can’t hate on that. With this message, Pink earned her spot on that stage.