While 10 million viewers watched celebrities walk the red carpet for MTV’s annual Video Music Awards Aug. 25, one Princetonian was there in person, making her debut at the music event of the year. Accompanied by Darren Criss, the actor best known for his role as Blaine on the TV show Glee, Leora Friedman ’14 was invited to attend the awards show in an effort to bring more attention to Music is Medicine, the charity that she established in 2008.


Leora Friedman '14, left, with the actor Darren Criss at the MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo: Courtesy Leora Friedman)

While the Princeton senior may not be the first person that comes to mind when you think about the music industry, she does have a growing network of contacts. Music is Medicine, founded by Friedman and her sister, Ariela, works to unite musicians with young patients suffering from various diseases. Their primary program, “Donate A Song,” creates a direct link between the musical world and those afflicted with an illness by asking artists of all kinds to create original songs for the patients. Friedman thinks of the initiative as a “way to leverage the fame and talent of artists to uplift young patients while also creating songs that would raise awareness and money for the fight against the children’s diseases.”

The work that she has done recently was recognized by mtvU, MTV’s college-oriented division, which singled out Friedman for her exceptional dedication to charity. After receiving a call from a producer, Friedman traveled out to the company’s studio in New York for what she thought would be a simple interview. When she began to discuss her organization and its mission, Criss walked into the room and informed her that mtvU not only would be donating $1,000, but that he’d like her to accompany him to the VMAs. For Friedman, “the opportunities he and MTV had just bestowed on Music is Medicine were too incredible for [her] to fathom.”

As for the event itself, Friedman described it as “hectic and bright and exciting – it was filled with people, cameras, lights, and press.” In the end, this opportunity has meant more for Friedman than just attending a star-studded awards show. It has invigorated Friedman and her team and attracted new artists and volunteers to the organization. Friedman hopes to see increased interest in her cause and an expansion of her project, which she describes as “a magical experience for everyone involved.”

Video: Below, watch Friedman prep for the red carpet at the Video Music Awards (Courtesy MTV)

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