A lot has happened to Miley Cyrus within recent times. Now famous for her incessant twerking and overzealous tongue waggling, the celebrity star has stirred huge controversy across many corners of a flabbergasted America.
The shock and awe that was generated from the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, presented Aug. 25, thrust a half-naked Cyrus kicking and twerking into the media spotlight; it’s fair to say, the act brandished the young singer with a somewhat unfavorable reputation, amongst most civilized circles. Although this moment appeared to be the tipping point for the Wrecking Ball singer, serving as the catalyst that accelerated her ongoing celebrity descent, the process has actually been much slower and more pervasive than society perhaps realizes.
Miley Cyrus was born Destiny Hope Cyrus on Nov. 23, 1992. As the daughter of the illustrious country music singer, Billy Ray Cyrus, she quickly found her niche in television. To put it bluntly, no sooner did she lose the diapers than she was propelled into the turbulent world of celebrity hysteria and idolization.
Cyrus quickly became a notorious child celebrity, delivering a number of minor and perfunctory performances in film and television. In 2006, however, Cyrus starred as Miley Stewart on the Disney Channel TV series Hannah Montana, a role which saw her fame rise to new and unprecedented levels. Adored by hoards of adolescent Disney fans, a squeaky clean Cyrus went on to pursue other artistic endeavors, launching a modest pop career in 2007.
This modicum of success exposed a new series of opportunities for Cyrus, providing a cheap, fast and easy means of achieving the meteoric success and material wealth that she enjoys today; not that this is necessarily Miley’s fault. Indeed, what starts out as an ambitious young girl, purely yearning to sing and act, can eventually lead to much wider personal and professional issues.
In light of recent events, we take a look at some of the divisive turning points in Miley’s nascent career, and ask whether she is destined to suffer a public meltdown.
Vanity Fair Cover
At the tender age of 15, Miley was already starting to become a part of a culture that seems insistent on sexualizing the youth – an unfortunate norm in Hollywood. She appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in June 2008, striking a series of provocative poses in front of the cameras.
The photoshoot immediately sparked a public backlash. One of the images, which showed an underage Cyrus draped in satin sheets, was particularly badly received, with the animated masses vehemently proclaiming that such behavior was unbecoming of a teen idol. The incident jeopardized Walt Disney Company’s wholesome edge to their Hannah Montana
franchise. As Hannah Montana’s key demographic primarily consisted of young and impressionable children, American parents began to question whether Miley Cyrus remained a suitable role model.
The incident was also an indication that Miley’s image was being sculpted, without her even realizing it – again, a part of the insidious nature of the industry. As a highly pliable and inexperienced girl, it would be easy to cajole and manipulate her into engaging in sordid photoshoots. Indeed, these sentiments were echoed by Disney spokesperson Patti McTeague, who excoriated Vanity Fair for orchestrating the incident:
“Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.”
This pressure was evident during a subsequent interview conducted between Miley and Vanity Fair’s Bruce Handy, where the pop princess claimed she was unable to resist the charm of Annie Leibovitz, the magazine’s photographer:
“Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought it was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie.”
Arguably, this was the moment when the girl’s innocence was beginning to erode, like acid rain stripping a tree’s branches of its leaves. Although Cyrus later issued an apology for the incident, groveling to her fanbase for forgiveness, the rot was starting to set in.
For all the wrong reasons, Cyrus’ market value began to increase substantially after the Vanity Fair shoot. Back in May, of 2008, Francois Navarre, proprietor of a renowned photo agency (X17), discussed how snaps of the celebrity had increased in sale value, immediately leaping from $300 to $2,000.
Miley Cyrus’ Naked Body Exposed in Photos
Shortly after the photoshoot controversy, Miley’s “do no wrong” image was dragged through the mud, once more. On this occasion, a teenage hacker accessed her Gmail account and leaked a number of lurid images into the public domain. One of the images revealed Miley in her swimsuit, whilst another showed her posing in scanty underwear.
The F.B.I. took immediate action against the perpetrator, Josh Holly, whose home was raided; the organization appropriated his computer equipment and iPhone.
In a calculated bid to protect her cutesy Disney image, Cyrus claimed the photos were silly and inappropriate, before half-heatedly apologizing for their existence:
“I am going to make mistakes and I am not perfect. I never intended for any of this to happen and I am truly sorry if I have disappointed anyone.”
Pole Dancing at the Teen Choice Awards
The 2009 Teen Choice Awards ceremony saw Miley adopting an entirely different approach to her musical career. Whereas, in the past, she had made a concerted effort to keep her performances clean, it seems the Tennessee girl was ready to make a more “adult” transition.
During a live rendition of Party in the USA, the singer hopped aboard an ice cream cart, retrofitted with a pole and began dancing. Although the video reveals the incident to be a relatively tame affair, the performance still managed to generate quite a media frenzy.
Many argued that the teenager’s attire was overly revealing and provocative, whilst others believed the so-called “pole dancing” section of her act was entirely inappropriate for the then-16-year-old. Senior Editor of US Weekly Ian Drew compared the musical evolution of Miley Cyrus to that of Britney Spears:
“She was the good girl gone bad, and it looks to be working for Miley as well.”
‘Can’t Be Tamed’ and Britain’s Got Talent Controversy
The release of Can’t Be Tamed was the moment that augured badly for the teen star. Perhaps even Nostradamus would not have been able to predict how far things would eventually be taken, however.
Many of the songs from the album, also entitled Can’t Be Tamed, were bloated with sexual themes and lyrics, showing that Miley was undergoing a categorical change in direction. Without question, many of the tracks from the album were part of a “coming of age” ensemble, representing a desperate bid to distance herself from the Hannah Montana image that had been carved out for her, during earlier years.
The music video for the album’s debut song saw Cyrus dress up as a feathered creature, scantily clad in leather garments and high heeled boots.
This also seems to be the point at which the pop star began to lose perspective of precisely who she was. Speaking to MTV Music, back in 2010, Cyrus seemed conflicted over precisely which Miley Cyrus she had become, almost as though her personality was being torn in two different directions:
“I think it definitely shows a change of what people remember me as, but it’s not trying to not be me… I didn’t want to be just a character. I wanted to be myself and just in a bird-like form in the way I dressed… The lighting is different, the outfit may be different, but what you see in me is the same since I was 11-years-old on Hannah Montana.”
The following year, Cyrus sparked uproar in the United Kingdom, after appearing on the television talent show Britain’s Got Talent. Halfway through her performance of Can’t Be Tamed, she grabbed one of the dancers and proceeded to inelegantly suction her face off (a.k.a. kiss).
From this point onward, Miley adopted a very defensive, unapologetic stance when it came to criticism of her actions. Taking to her official website, she posted an angry rant about the media:
“I promise you I did not kiss her… It is ridiculous that two entertainers can’t even rock out with each other without the media making it some type of story… GET OVER IT! NOTHING HAPPENED.”
Let Them Eat Phallic Cake
The phallic cake was supposed to be a humorous birthday gift for ex-fiancé Liam Hemsworth, perhaps inspired by The One With The Cake episode from Friends. The joke was all well and good, up until the moment Cyrus started to make a series of crude poses with said baked desert. The pictures were gladly received by TMZ, and released unto the celebrity-mad world.
The Infamous Miley ‘Fro
Female music artists, hell-bent on making sure the world recognizes they are undergoing creative transitions, engage in many headline-grabbing acts. Changing hairstyle and clothing seems to be the first port of call. From Britney Spears’ moment of head-shaving madness to Rihanna’s eclectic array of hairstyles, chopping and changing the locks is a
sure-fire sign that a celebrity is crying out for media attention.
Miley was absolutely no exception when she advertised the butchering of her former hairdo. During 2012 – clearly favoring a blonde, pixie-like haircut – Cyrus said farewell to her traditionally long, brown locks, generating much public intrigue.
Debatably, the event was aimed at achieving two prime objectives: to court the ever-watchful eyes of the media, whilst further detaching herself from the innocent “girl-next-door” stereotype, with which she had been lumbered.
‘We Can’t Stop’ Music Video: the Rise of Twerking
With an entirely new physical look, a drastically different artistic approach, and a mindset that seemed to completely oppose the wholesome principles of her younger days, Miley embarked upon the next stage of her musical career.
Miley released We Can’t Stop as the lead single for her Bangerz album, on June 3, 2013. Many saw the track’s music video as another incendiary attempt to solicit the media, escalating previously observed sexual themes to an entirely new level.
The video saw Miley gyrating in a variety of locales, repeatedly spanking a fellow partygoer, tonguing a miniature Miley Cyrus replica doll, dragging around a series of stuffed animal carcasses and almost dislocating her pelvis, whilst performing an inane twerk-a-thon session.
VMA Music Performance and the Robin Thicke Twerk
With Miley Cyrus’ image having been twisted beyond all recognition, the pièce de résistance to Miley’s unfortunate transition finally reared its ugly head, during this year’s VMA music awards ceremony.
Cyrus took to the stage to deliver an unforgettable We Can’t Stop/Blurred Lines mashup, with a stripy Robin Thicke in tow. Millions of unsuspecting viewers looked on, as Cyrus jiggled her assets in flesh-colored bra and pants, before going on to grind up and down Thicke’s lap.
In the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Cyrus admits that her behavior had become increasingly colorful. However, she attributes this unconventional behavior to her stunted childhood:
“I was an adult when I was supposed to be a kid… So now I’m an adult, and I’m acting like a kid.”
Liam Hemsworth Breakup
In the aftermath of the VMAs, the man that Miley characterized as her “first serious boyfriend” is reported to have been mortified by Miley’s edgy performance. Details of their strained relationship splurged forth from the rumor mill, with numerous reports of the pair being sighted looking miserable.
The relationship was abruptly terminated, upon the See You Again artist hearing that Hemsworth had been allegedly pursuing the Mad Men actress, January Jones; this was something that was later denied by Hemsworth’s representative.
Cyrus, clearly unwilling to believe her man, spitefully unfollowed Hemsworth on Twitter, thereby concluding a four-year long chapter of her love life.
Although she tried to convince the world that she was unfazed by the sudden split, she was later reported to have tweeted “… I’ve never felt more alone. It feels so scary getting old.”
Since the pair’s high-profile breakup, Miley is said to have been involved with Rolling Stone photographer, Theo Wenner. However, during a recent Halloween party, located in West Hollywood club Bootsy Bellows, she was seen making out with Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden.
Precisely what lies ahead for the troubled pop star’s love life remains to be seen. However, her now-defunct relationship with Hemsworth could be viewed as a symptom of Cyrus’ continuing celebrity descent. The question is: what other unfortunate consequences are likely to befall the ex-Disney icon?
The Glorification of Drugs
Perhaps one of the most disturbing implications of Cyrus’ bizarre personality change is her glorification of drugs, including marijuana and the party drug molly; throughout many of her songs, she appears to venerate molly, in particular.
Speaking to the Rolling Stone, she confirmed her proclivity towards use of particular drugs. After expounding upon the virtues of both weed and a crystalline form of ecstasy, called molly, the singer cogitated over some of her drug-addled experiences:
“I think weed is the best drug on earth… One time I smoked a joint with peyote in it, and I saw a wolf howling at the moon. Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And molly, too.”
Naturally, Cyrus neglected to mention the recent wave of deaths, observed across much of North America, which has been tentatively linked to recreational use of molly. The illicit drug is often tainted by subversive cooks with a number of dangerous adulterants and combined with other highly addictive drugs to hook its users.
The 20-year-old wild child was previously recorded smoking from a bong at her Los Angeles home, just five days after her 18th birthday. The star denied that the drug in question was pot, instead, claiming it to be salvia divinorum; salvia is a legal psychoactive drug that can induce potent hallucinations in those who imbibe.
Is Cyrus Heading for a Breakdown?
Miley has recently been embroiled in a highly publicized Twitter spat with Sinead O’Connor, where upon the Irish singer prophesized the budding songster’s fate. After Cyrus goaded the singer-songwriter, berating her over her battle with mental health issues, O’Connor ominously responded:
“You will become the victim of it shortly. Soon it will be you the media ‘crazy’ … and you will not enjoy it.”
These thoughts were partially reverberated by Professor of Pop Culture Robert Thompson, who works at Syracuse University. Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Thompson suggested Cyrus to be treading a dangerous path:
“… these child stars in their transition years, some of the publicity turns them from people who actually had promising careers to… objects of mockery…Whenever you hear Miley Cyrus mentioned in the last couple of weeks, it’s always been in a form of mockery, and often disdain.”
It has often been said before, and no doubt will be said again, that immature, vulnerable minds are predisposed to fracture when placed under the immense stresses and strains imposed by artificial celebrity culture. Celebrities, of course, garner enormous spoils, raking in vast sums of money for their work. With all of these splendors on offer, it’s sometimes easy for an envious public to forget some of the remarkable pressures that these characters are forced to endure. This includes wariness of eccentric fans, malicious critics and prying paparazzi, as well as the subversive gold digger, waiting to strip them of their worldly assets. Healthy skepticism and uncertainty can then lead to paranoia and neuroses, perhaps even manifesting as more serious psychological afflictions.
Director of the Psychological Stress Research Program at Florida State University, Charles Figley, conducted an investigation into some of the top factors that contributed towards celebrity anxiety. He dispatched 200 questionnaires to stars that appeared within a list of the public’s top-ranked celebs. After receiving 51 replies, Figley ranked the top 10 stressors:
- Celebrity press
- Threatening calls and letters
- Privacy issues
- Constant monitoring of lives
- Career plunges
- Security concerns
- Curious fans
- Disruption to children’s lives
Hollywood is littered with the metaphorical gravestones of long-lost child sensations, who unassailably flew off the rails after reaching dizzying heights of success. Even now, former child stars, like Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes, continue to pique the morbid curiosity of the American public.
One of the all too common paths that child celebrities end up trekking is that involving drugs. David Wellisch, professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s medical school, claims that drugs can act as a stabilizer, providing relief from anxiety and granting the user feelings of omnipotence.
Figley, meanwhile, suggests that drug abuse can be a part of a young celebrity’s “self-destructive streak,” possibly resulting from a guilt complex that ultimately stems from embarrassment in gaining celebrity stardom so quickly.
When it comes down to brass tacks, it’s oftentimes difficult to determine whether certain celebrities act out to gain additional time in the spotlight, or whether it is a sign they are heading towards a public meltdown. One must question whether Miley Cyrus’ endless slew of controversial acts epitomizes a woman on a destructive journey, or whether they are merely sensationalist attempts to grab the next headline.
The following words by Christopher Lasch, who articulated his thoughts in The Culture of Narcissism, nicely summarizes the overestimated worth of celebrity status:
“Celebrity [is] the reward of those who project a vivid or pleasing exterior or have otherwise attracted attention to themselves… It is evanescent… In our time, when success is so largely a function of youth, glamour, and novelty, glory is more fleeting than ever, and those who win the attention of the public worry incessantly about losing it.”
In a world where fame and celebrity image is currency, over and above talent, one must wonder the extremes that Miley Cyrus, and others like her, may be willing to go to. Where will this new artistic direction see Cyrus head, personally and professionally? Time will tell.
By James Fenner (Op-Ed)