Miley Cyrus let a homeless man accept her award for video of the year for Wrecking Ball at the MTV Video Music Awards .
It was in sharp contrast to the 2013 VMAs, when Miley twerked and danced shockingly onstage.
"Thank y'all, my name is Jesse and I am 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. I know this because I am one of these people," he said, as a teary Miley looked on.
"Though I may have been invisible to you in the streets, I have a lot of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight."
Miley's decision to let someone else accept her award to promote a cause was reminiscent of Marlon Brando's 1973 Academy Awards best actor win, when he gave a Native American activist the stage rather than accept his Oscar trophy.
The most shocking moment of the show was Nicki Minaj's rump-shaking during her performance of Anaconda in the show's first minutes and her wardrobe malfunction when she joined Ariana Grande and Jessie J for Bang, Bang.
"It felt amazing to open the show, and we ran out of time getting the dress zipped up," Nicki said backstage.
Taylor Swift was a crowd favourite when she performed her new single Shake It Off in shimmery, fringed shorts and a crop top.
She got to the top of the stage, and as her tuxedoed male background dancers stood with their arms wide open waiting for Taylor to jump, she said: "One second. I don't care if it's the VMAs. I'm not jumping off there."
Ariana, who held hands with rapper Big Sean backstage, kicked off the show with a performance of her hit Break Free, in a Beyonce-inspired leotard.
The 21-year-old won best pop video for her smash single Problem, but lost best female video to Katy Perry, who won for Dark Horse.
Lorde won best rock video for Royals and Ed Sheeran won best male video, beating Pharrell, Eminem, John Legend and Sam Smith, who was a show highlight with his smouldering performance of his hit Stay With Me.
Iggy Azalea and Ora appeared onstage as spider women when they performed their hit Black Widow, as Taylor, Lorde and Charli XCX danced and sang along.