From Hannah Montana to Miley: A Journey of Self-Discovery in the Public Eye
One name we all know: Miley Cyrus. Whether you've known her from her early days as Disney's child prodigy or from her more recent tell-all music, she's been a household name since she was as little as 5 years old. As we all know (and have witnessed), child stardom is ridden with consequences and stigma that can be hard to escape from. We've seen it through Demi Lovato, Lindsay Lohan, and of course, Miley Cyrus.
The Nashville native was in the spotlight from an age as young as 5. She faced pressure in all aspects of life, from Disney's intense filming schedule to her celebrity family. When looking back, Miley says, "I didn't understand the pressure I was under." When you're little, being a star seems great, but it comes with consequences. "Do this, Do that." "Dress this way and act like this." All things that a young Miley Cyrus was told by the rich, old, white men that controlled her life both on and off set.
As Cyrus grew older, and her show ended, she pursued a music career that was jumpstarted by her early fame. Unlike the labels we receive in high school, pop culture labels stick with you. Unless you change it, somehow. Which is how Miley Cyrus tried to break away with the release of her 2013 Bangerz album (and there definitely are some bangers on there). Cyrus definitely did not hold back, attempting to shake off her label like a winter coat, with "promiscuous" (as my old fashioned mom says) lyrics and themes. She "broke the internet" with her infamous VMA's performance, twerking with one-hit-wonder Robin Thicke. She's often said that she felt over-sexualized because of this performance, which received harsh criticism. For a girl that grew up in constant control by others, the last thing that pop culture should do is shame her for rebelling and owning her sexuality.
As time passed, Miley Cyrus was again stuck with a label-- but this time it was more like "child star on a downward spiral." No matter what she did, the definition by the public eye remained constant. During this time she started her Happy Hippie Foundation, which works to "fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations". In an interview, Cyrus came out as pansexual, and said "Once I understood my gender more, which was unassigned, then I understood my sexuality more. I was like, “Oh — that’s why I don’t feel
straight and I don’t feel gay. It’s because I’m not." Her advocacy for the queer community continues to live on and inspire young fans to strive for self-acceptance.
In 2015, she released Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, a somewhat psychedelic album in collaboration with the Flaming Lips that avoided the mainstream. This album was largely criticized for the unpolished songs about drug use that underwhelmed expectations of Cyrus' musical talent. All in all, it was a learning experience for Miley Cyrus to look back on, no matter how harsh reviews were.
Cyrus traded in drug songs for love songs on her 2017 album Younger Now, in which she returned to her Nashville roots with country-infused love ballads. She even collaborated with the country queen herself (and Miley's Godmother), Dolly Parton, using her guest vocals throughout the album. The album received mixed reviews, most agreeing that it lacked substance (and drug substance, this time). Though the album was not praised, the growth from her previous album was very apparent, not only in songwriting, but also in her personal life.
In 2018, Miley married her on and off love, Liam Hemsworth, which ultimately ended in divorce in 2019. Like any 10 year relationship, Miley felt as if a part of her was ripped away, saying the split "was like a death." It didn't help that the relationship was in the public eye, from the genesis to the finale. In august 2019, Cyrus released the passionate single "Slide Away" that seems to reference her breakup with lines such as "Move on, we're not 17." Prior to the single, she had been working on an ep trilogy, She is Coming, She is Here, and She is Everyrthing. She is Coming debuted at number 5 on the charts in May 2019, but the singer announced that the following EPs would not be completed.
As of August 2020, Miley appeared on the sex podcast Call Her Daddy, unveiling details about her private life that were previously unknown (especially with the lack of interviews). She touched on understanding she was pansexual and revealed she has been sober for quite some time, contrary to her frequent drug use displayed in the Bangerz era. She is set to perform at the 2020 VMAs. Her single Midnight Sky, which was released August 14th, touches on relationships and sexuality, a look into her album She is Miley Cyrus that will be released in the future.
Me, You, all of us, we go through some drastic changes throughout our lifetime. The good thing for us "normal folk" is that our unfavorable moments are not broadcasted to, quite literally, millions. Those who are dealt the unlucky (or lucky, depending on your perspective) hand of the public eye face challenges that are unprecedented and jarring. In Miley Cyrus' case, she has been through ups and downs that have led her to demonstrate growth in both identity and discography.