I met Miley Cyrus in the summer of 2006. She was making her premiere appearance as Hannah Montana at a concert in Disney World. Having been told that she was the “next big thing,” I was to interview her for my then job at a teen entertainment mag. My co-worker and I waited patiently for a Disney publicist to escort us into her trailer, where the tween star-in-training was hanging out with her mom, Tish. All I remember is that she was sort of standoffish… Reserved. Not that she only gave me “yes” or “no” answers like some young stars (cough Rupert Grint cough), but she already seemed jaded, not very trusting. She wasn’t going to share much.
But, let’s take a step back for a second and remember that she was 13, for crying out loud! She was a baby. Yet, she wanted nothing more than to be thrust into fame, to be the next Britney Spears… No, she didn’t tell me that, but it was pretty clear from how she was being marketed that Disney aimed to launch her into mega-fame. Sure, via a squeaky-clean sitcom. But how did Britney start out? Oh, that’s right, the squeaky-clean 1990s version of The Mickey Mouse Club.
Fast forward 4 years later, and now 17 year-old Miley is front-and-center for flaunting her girly parts in public and prancing around in barely-there black leather and thick black eye shadow.
My question: This is news? When Britney was 17, she was skipping around in a skimpy Catholic school girl’s uniform pleading “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time.” Granted, when Britney catapulted to overtly sexy “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” pop star status, she had been out of the public eye for a couple of years. She wasn’t even remembered by many as a truly innocent pre-teen. Miley’s not-so-smooth transition may seem a lot more jarring to parents who just a couple of years ago considered Hannah Montana default harmless viewing for their tweens. Nonetheless, given Disney’s track record of rebellious female tween stars, Miley’s new image shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. (Also, news flash: She was “acting out” and flaunting her fragile teen sexuality via mini-photo scandals on MySpace two-three years ago…)
Says Robyn Silverman, a child and teen development expert who blogs here:
“Why is Miley’s behavior so shocking to parents and fans? As a childhood role model, she became a girl-next-door icon. It can be challenging for parents and fans to watch her new, ‘untamed’ persona stomp out the quirky, reliable, relatable Hannah Montana from the past.’’
Fair enough. But, sorry, it’s not really ever 100% about what the parents want. In pop music, entertainment and Hollywood, it’s about what makes money. And, on a more idealistic note, it should also be about what Miley wants. She’s 17. Like every other girl her age, she’s trying to assert her independence. But she’s still growing up, groping around blindly in the glare of fame and trying to figure out who she is and what inspires her. And too bad for you, Puritan America, part of that is developing her sexual identity. (Yes, a young woman does and should have one of those.) As a pop music aficionado, I’m not a huge fan of her blatantly ripping her new image off of every stale Beyonce, Britney, Christina, Madonna and Gaga stereotype. I’m also not a huge fan of her running around without skivvies. And I’m certainly not advocating that 10 year-olds imitate that behavior. But, it’s not Miley’s responsibility to make that obvious to tween girls. It’s the girls’ parents’ responsibility… (Dr. Silverman offers some tips for parents who want to make a “teachable moment” out of Miley’s recent image switch here.)
Hey, there are even mom bloggers out there who agree that the 17 year-old shouldn’t be subject to catty, critical chatter.
And over all the bruhaha and buzz, what does Miley herself have to say for her “controversial” new album and look? “It’s all about breaking free, being who you are and not being afraid to tell the world to back off sometimes, and do your thing and do what makes you happy.”
I’m all about speaking up for yourself and opening up about what you want, even if that’s for “the world to back off sometimes.” I kinda wish that I had met this outspoken, untamed Miley four years ago. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by her evolution. And I can’t help but think, You go for it, girl.
Are you surprised by The “New” Miley?
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