Miley Cyrus Opens Up About How the Late Trans Teen Leelah Alcorn Inspired Her to Start Happy Hippie
This Pride season, Miley Cyrus has a cause -- and a camera.
That's a photo of Miley and her amFAR gala date, agender writer Tyler Ford. It was taken as part of InstaPride, which is run by Miley's recently launched Happy Hippie Foundation. Sharing portraits of trans and "gender expansive" people along with their stories, the series aligns with a major part of Happy Hippie's mission -- giving disenfranchised youth the opportunity for expression.
That's something Happy Hippie does in several forms, including art therapy -- something we learned in the process of putting together our summer cover story. "It works as well as talking to someone," Cyrus told the story's writer, Amanda Petrusich. "A lot of these kids are there because they're not believed in or because they haven't been able to express themselves." The foundation is also committed to providing more tangible resources to the My Friend's Place shelter in Los Angeles, including socks, underwear and food -- all crucial items for vulnerable youths.
Happy Hippie's slightly unconventional approach to supporting at-risk youth goes back to its origins: the name of the foundation came from Cyrus' celebrity/artistic BFF Wayne Coyne, who has a company called Wicked Hippie. "Wicked Hippie is, like, taking a shot before you go to yoga," she told Petrusich. "It's like, yeah, you're a hippie, but you're a fucking freak also." Her organization applies the same logic. "We're trying to make people happy. It's just kind of an extension of what we're already doing."
Her commitment to this cause spills out into all areas of her life, including her Backyard Sessions videos -- most notably in an adorable performance with Ariana Grande, which was part of Miley's attempt to reach a broader audience. "Maybe it makes it a little less insane," she said.
But perhaps the deepest source of inspiration for Miley's renewed commitment to her cause came from her reaction to the death of Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl who took her own life last December. In an essay published on Medium, she writes that, "It hit me as hard as if I had known her. I felt connected to her." In short, "Every life is valuable, and we should make sure those who question their value feel protected."
She burst into tears at the memory while performing at the Adult Swim upfronts party back in May: "I was like, 'Fuck, I can't start crying here,' but I did because I'm standing there with this butterfly and my tits out and this little baby, beautiful little girl, fucking killed herself because of the way that she was being discriminated against."
Does that mean she harbors animosity towards anyone who doesn't understand her project? Nope. "I never, ever want to judge Leelah's parents because they've got enough guilt, I'm sure... I'm the most un-judgmental person ever."