When it was announced that P!nk, a woman with 17 years of experience in the music industry and an LGBT ally who defies gender norms, would be the recipient of the 2017 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award at the MTV Video Music Awards, several dissenting voices on Twitter and in the media (mostly those who hadn't kept up with her career since the early 2000s) balked, asserting that she wasn't worthy of the honor. But P!nk, who hit the red carpet looking beautiful and strong sporting a three-piece pinstripe suit that matched the outfits her husband, Carey Hart, and daughter, Willow, wore, delivered a profoundly moving acceptance speech about gender roles and staying true to oneself that proved exactly why she's a trailblazer.
Following a killer performance of a medley of songs that spanned her career, including "Let's Get This Party Started," "Raise Your Glass," "Perfect," "Just Give Me a Reason," and her latest single dedicated to all of the outcasts, "What About Us," P!nk's friend Ellen DeGeneres introduced her. And P!nk immediately got to the story she wanted to tell about her daughter and individuality, beginning by saying that she was recently driving Willow to school when the 6-year-old said, "Mama, I'm the ugliest girl I know. I look like a boy with long hair."
Naturally, P!nk's instincts kicked in upon hearing of her daughter's negative self-esteem and assumed that she must have been bullied. "My brain went to, 'Oh, my God, you're 6. Where is this coming from? Can I kick a 6-year-old's ass? Like, what?' But I didn't say anything, and instead I made a power point presentation for her," she said.
The woman behind videos that investigate gender roles, such as "Blow Me One Last Kiss," in which two P!nks, one in a gown and one in a suit, slow dance with each other, and "Raise Your Glass," in which P!nk portrays various strong female personas including Rosie the Riveter, a wrestler, and a skate punk, went on to tell the audience about her power presentation for Willow.
"In that presentation were androgynous rock stars and artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their life, and carry on and 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," P!nk said of groundbreaking (several of them queer) musicians who eschewed gender norms dating as far back as the late '60s and early '70s.
Still, P!nk said that she wanted to know why Willow had such a negative view of herself, so when she asked the question her daughter responded, "Well, I look like a boy."
And P!nk's response was the best that any mom/role model could offer.
"What do you think I look like?" P!nk asked of Willow, who told her mother she was beautiful. But P!nk explained to her daughter that she got to be the woman she is by not caving to what other people think or say about her:
"When people make fun of me, that's what they use. They say that I look like a boy, or I'm too masculine, or that I have too many opinions, my body is too strong. And I said to her 'Do you see me growing my hair?' '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 that they can see more kinds of beauty."
But P!nk, who recently wrote an important Instagram post about the hatred, racism, and anti-Semitism in light of the violence coming out of Charlottesville, also used the anecdote about Willow as a teachable moment.
"So, baby girl, we don't change," she said, pointing to her daughter. "We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl, and we help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty," P!nk said. "You, my darling girl, are beautiful, and I love you."
Watch P!nk's speech below.