Miley Cyrus brought Jesse to Sunday night’s Video Music Awards as her date. No one knew anything about Jesse, except that he was a homeless man, something viewers found out when he accepted the award for Video of the Year on Cyrus’ behalf. But thanks to The Oregonian, Jesse now has a full name: Jesse Helt.
In his speech, Jesse encouraged viewers to head to Cyrus’ Facebook page to donate to My Friend’s Place, a Hollywood center devoted to helping homeless youth get on their feet. “My name is Jesse, and I’m accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States, who are starving, lost, and scared for their lives right now,” Jesse said. “I know this because I am one of these people.”
The Oregonian spoke with the 22-year-old’s mother and learned that Jesse grew up in Salem, Oregon, where he went to school and received his GED at a community college before heading to Los Angeles to, as his mother Linda Helt says, “make it on his own.”
Linda says her son once called to tell her he was living in a bush after moving out of a bad living situation. Now, Linda is happy to see her son getting some spotlight. “He was at the right place at the right time,” Linda said of his instant VMA fame. “He needs to be blessed.”
As Stereogum noted, Cyrus hinted at her plan during VMAs pre-show. “There’s something I’m doing that’s really special that I’m really excited about,” Cyrus told the hosts, suggesting she knew she was going to win Video of the Year for “Wrecking Ball” before the live announcement.
According to Linda, Jesse will use money Cyrus gave him to fly home and reunite with his family soon. He has not returned EW’s request for comment.