Miley Cyrus was well aware that everyone—seriously, everyone—was talking about her twerktastic performance last year at the MTV VMAs.
On Sunday, though, she decided that rather than grinding on Robin Thicke or wagging her tongue for the cameras yet again, she'd use her moment on stage to shine a light on something much more important: Runaways and homeless youth.
That's why she brought a 21-year-old man named Jesse as her date to the 2014 MTV VMAs, even letting him take the mic and accept a Moonman on her behalf when "Wrecking Ball" was named Video of the Year."
So what changed between 2013 and 2014? "I just didn't realize my platform, I didn't realize my power," she said in an interview with Ryan Seacrest's KIIS FM radio show Monday. "And I think I really realized it after the VMAs [last year]…there's something special and there's only few people that experience this that no matter what I do, there's no winning or losing, it's just going to be talked about. Period."
"I'm going to be on the cover of everything no matter what, and I can't help it. There's going to be talk, so what do I want them to talk about?" she went on. "If I'm going to be given this loud of a voice and this big of an image and this big of a platform and this huge of an opportunity to talk to young people in America right now, what am I really trying to say? Because I don't think what I was trying to say is what happened the year before."
From her work with My Friend's Place, a charity benefitting homeless youth, Miley has seen firsthand the importance spreading the word on this issue. She knew sending Jesse, someone her same age, up to the mic to share his experience with homelessness would leave an impression on the viewers more than any dance move. "I think people need to see this," she said, "at least, I know I did after last year…to remember what matters."
And Miley's work with My Friend's Place has given a lot to her, too. "This fills you up and it feels good for a long time," she told reporters. "I feel incredible today. I feel like I have a jet strapped to me and I am ready to take off from this. I feel like there's a way that I can incorporate everything I do in the future around youth homelessness…It just gives me more of a purpose."
She's not stopping anytime soon either, because as she said, "I mean, dying a pop star is not what I want to have on my tombstone."