During the late 2000s and early 2010s, Miley Cyrus was perceived as an ideal role model for young girls. As a Disney Channel prodigy, she epitomized a wholesome southern image. Even her brief stint with the “I’m grown up” persona in her 2010 album titled “Can’t Be Tamed” was not enough to detract from her squeaky-clean Hannah Montana vibe. However, on August 25, 2013, as you sit at home watching the MTV Video Music Awards, everything changes. A 20-year-old Miley, nominated for four awards, appears on stage wearing a glittery teddy bear-shaped leotard that reveals a flesh-colored bikini underneath. This unprecedented move by the former Disney starlet is a headline-making moment that sends shockwaves throughout the entertainment industry.
Miley Cyrus performed her controversial hit song “We Can’t Stop” with some dancing teddy bears. Following the performance, Robin Thicke appeared on stage to perform his hit single “Blurred Lines.” The performance featured twerking, a giant foam finger, and tongue action, which caused a lot of buzz on social media. In fact, it generated over 300,000 tweets per minute, surpassing the social media activity of other popular performers like Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga that night.
The incident that occurred during Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV VMAs came as a shock to viewers globally, particularly parents and censor boards. However, it resulted in a significant surge in sales for her latest single, “Wrecking Ball,” ultimately cementing its place in the VMAs scandalous moments along with icons such as Madonna, Britney Spears, and Michael Jackson.
As the emotional milestone anniversary approaches, Miley Cyrus has hinted at taking a reflective look back on her career. It has been ten years since the singer entered the spotlight and now, at 30 years old, she is preparing to enter a new era of music with her latest single “Used To Be Young”, set to be released on August 25th. The single includes lyrics from some of her past hits such as “Party in the USA” and her biggest single to date, “Flowers”. This track serves as a contemplative reminder of her life in the public eye.
The musician and one-time Disney star has experienced both triumphs and setbacks since her iconic appearance at the VMAs. Her journey began with the massive success of her album Bangerz, which was released just a month after the VMAs in September. Miley’s short blonde hair, daring wardrobe choices, and habit of sticking out her tongue became a defining feature (and challenge) for a generation of young fans who were embracing a new era of sexuality. Additionally, Dolly Parton recently revealed that Miley played a role in her own “risque” image transformation.
Miley Cyrus’ fashion sense remained daring and spandex-heavy even during her Bangerz Tour in the following year. She gradually embraced more psychedelic themes, which was perceived by many as her being a “woman on the edge.” However, we can now appreciate it as her boldest effort to break free from her Hannah Montana persona. This bold move continued with her 2015 album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. In a rare comment, she recently spoke about her boyfriend Maxx Morando.
Miley Cyrus collaborated with Wayne Coyne, who is famous for his work with The Flaming Lips and Yoko Ono, to create an experimental album. Unfortunately, the album received mixed reviews from critics and didn’t do well in terms of sales. During this time, Miley’s style was heavily influenced by glitter. However, after a short stint coaching on mainstream TV with The Voice, she made a drastic change in her aesthetic. Instead of twerking, she embraced country pop.
In 2017, Miley Cyrus took a partial step back to her father’s country roots during her Younger Now era. She donned Elvis-style jumpsuits with sparkles, grew out her hair in natural curls, and embodied a “country girl next door” appearance that matched well with her rekindled relationship with ex Liam Hemsworth. This fresh look continued into her subsequent project, the EP She Is Coming in 2019, where she successfully combined her Tennessee roots with Los Angeles style by sporting crop tops, wide-legged pants, blunt bangs, and natural highlights. Unfortunately, the singer experienced a dramatic house fire with Hemsworth during this time that resulted in the loss of $800k.
It would be remiss not to acknowledge Miley’s portrayal of Ashley O, her pink-haired character in a 2020 episode of Black Mirror. The episode parodied Miley’s pop stardom and gave it a dystopian, candy-coated twist. Following her separation and divorce from Liam, Miley’s style evolved towards rock, with her sporting a platinum blonde mullet, various shades of black and blue leather, and occasional shimmery blue eyeshadow for an overall 80s meets Thunderdome vibe, reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, and Debbie Harry.
Miley’s Plastic Hearts era proved to be a successful return to form for the artist. This was further emphasized by her recent Endless Summer Vacation, where she showcased her new brown hair highlights, a great physique (as seen in the “Flowers” video), and a newfound comfort with being in the public eye. Miley now exudes a confidence in her celebrity status that combines the relatable charm of her Hannah Montana days with the sensuality of her VMA performances. It truly is the best of both worlds.
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