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MTV Video Music Awards turned curiously serious, thanks to Miley Cyrus and Ferguson

Sunday night's MTV Video Music Awards had their usual share of red-carpet glamor, onstage antics, unexpected moments — nobody thinks Nicki Minaj purposefully split her dress up the middle in an opening numbers with Ariana Grande and Jessie J — oh, and music. But there were also two uncharacteristically serious moments.

The first one wasn't too much of a surprise — MTV had announced before the show that it would air a 15-second commercial dealing with the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and it did:

At the awards show, rapper Common also called for a moment of silence for Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager whose shooting death by a white police officer sparked the Ferguson protests. "Hip hop has always been a voice for the revolution," he said, while presenting the award for best hip hop video, but the protests in Ferguson and around the country are because "each and every one of our lives matter." The moment of silence, he explained, was "for Mike Brown and for peace in this country and in the world."

The genuine surprise of the night was from Miley Cyrus, who instead of accepting her Best Video Award (for "Wrecking Ball") herself, sent up a 22-year-old homeless man from Oregon named Jesse. "I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving and lost and scared for their lives," he said. "I know, because I am one of those people."

Then, noting he's "survived in shelters" all over Los Angeles, Jesse turned his focus to the people in the room: "The music industry will make over $7 billion this year, and outside these doors are 54,000 human beings who have no place to call home." He directed viewers to Cyrus' Facebook page, and her representatives pointed reporters to a fundraising campaign for a L.A. homeless-youth organization called My Friend's Place. The reps said Cyrus got the idea for the stunt from Marlon Brando's 1973 Best Actor Oscar speech, delivered by a Native American woman as a protest against how Hollywood treated American Indians.