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VMA 2017: Pink’s moving acceptance speech was about loving yourself for yourself

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

One of the themes of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards was to resist social injustice in general and the Trump administration in particular, but when Pink accepted the VMAs’ Video Vanguard Award, she kept her resistance small and personal.

Pink’s daughter, the singer said, had recently told her that she was the ugliest person she knew. “I look like a boy with long hair,” she said to her mother.

In response, Pink made her a PowerPoint presentation, and filled it with pictures of Prince and David Bowie and Annie Lennox and Janis Joplin: “androgynous rock stars,” she said, “and 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.”

When people want to make fun of her, Pink added, they often say that she looks like a boy. “They say that I look like a boy, or I am too masculine, too many opinions, my body is too strong,” she said. But she refuses to change herself to please other people, she explained, and she continues to sell out arenas across the world. “So, baby, girl,” she concluded, “we don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl.”

The moment was a welcome reminder that while pop music is a deeply flawed industry, it has a long and proud history of celebrating gender fluidity and androgyny — or, as Pink put it, “There is so much rad shit going on in music.”

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