In 2013, Miley Cyrus wagged her tongue and set tongues wagging. Thanks to a handful of steamy videos, some outrageous wardrobe choices and an erotic comedic performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, Ms. Cyrus took the warp-speed path from directionless ex-child star (as the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana) to the most directional of pop stars,
Sliding easily into the role of pop’s enfant terrible. Her album ‘Bangerz’ (RCA), for which she’ll begin touring in February, was notable for its risk-taking attitude in a year when her competition played it frustratingly smooth.
One recent morning, she was at the Four Seasons in New York after a bumpy weekend in which she missed a show in Boston because of weather, then had problems with her voice. But even at the early hour, she was focused and..
..businesslike and hyper self-aware, joking about getting a little Bailey’s for her coffee. These are excerpts from the conversation.
Q. I was struck in your MTV documentary ‘Miley: The Movement’ by how aware of the V.M.A.s’ importance you were. A. But I didn’t know that I was going to be the only one that was really going to push it like that. It’s actually really funny how many people could watch my performance, and they think it was, like, sexist and degrading to women, and somehow people found that it was racist,
Which I couldn’t even wrap my mind around. Because I’m like: ‘How do I win? If I have white dancers, then I’m racist. If I have black girl dancers, then I’m racist.” We know we’re not racist, and I know I’m not putting down women. People got a rise out of me saying that I was a feminist, but I am. I’m telling women be whoever you want to be.
As people have brought these things up to you over the last year, has it changed your personal thinking about race?
No, I never let that change me. My grandma, who is alive, was living in a time where there was no way in hell that she would’ve ever thought there would’ve been a black president. I mean, never. And my grandma’s like, not even 80, so this is in a short period of time that things have changed so much. I really thought about it a lot when Nelson Mandela passed away, because I couldn’t even imagine living this life and seeing how much it’s changed. So, you know, I look forward to when I’m older, my kids being like, “What do you mean people ever even talked about what color your dancers were?”
You obviously know that the primary visual imprint of you from the last six months is either the V.M.A.s or your videos.
I went from people just thinking I was, like, a baby to people thinking I’m this, like, sex freak that really just pops molly and does lines all day. It’s like, “Has anyone ever heard of rock ’n’ roll?” There’s a sex scene in pretty much every single movie, and they go, “Well, that’s a character.” Well, that’s a character. I don’t really dress as a teddy bear and, like, twerk on Robin Thicke, you know?
Last night, I was talking about some Madonna performances, and I said, “At some point, everything becomes irrelevant.” Like, no one even thinks about when she did “Like a Virgin” at the V.M.A.s. That just becomes a standard, where it’s just like, “Oh, that’s her thing.” So, I feel like now that I did the V.M.A.s, that just kind of became a standard for me, and then anytime I do anything else, they’re like, “Miley kept it tame tonight.”
How closely do you watch what other pop stars are doing?
I watch everyone’s music videos, to the point where I’m O.C.D., looking at every single thing they’re wearing and what they’re doing. Before, because I didn’t have my own personal self yet, it was hard for me to watch that kind of stuff. I was so jealous of what everyone else got to do, because I didn’t get to truly be myself yet. But now I realize how much they’re not being themselves either. You don’t have to be signed to Disney Channel to be put in a box, or to be rated PG. I’m with artists sometimes, and I’ll take a picture of them or whatever. They make me delete it.
You’re not serious.
Yeah, it’s insane. I’ll get someone to, like, flash me, and they’ll be, like, “You have to delete it!” I had to do that when I was 14 or 15, but even then I didn’t care. Like, if someone was videoing me ripping a bong, I didn’t care, so it’s just funny to me. I’m like: “Dude, you’re 30. Like, why can’t someone see a picture of your [breasts]?”
I don’t have a bunch of celeb friends, because I feel like some of them are a little scared of the association. This is terrible. I was backstage with [the rising pop star] Ariana Grande. I’m like, “Walk out with me right now and get this picture, and this will be the best thing that happens to you, because just you associating with me makes you a little less sweet.”
It’s less A-line dress.
Exactly. She’s trying. I see her wearing the shorter things. She comes in, and she goes, “This made me feel like you.” And I’m like, “That was like my sixth grade prom dress.” She’s, I think, still on Nickelodeon. She has people that she has to kind of respect.
She has contracts.
And answer to, exactly. Things came out that happened — like, you know, bong videos — when I was on Disney. But I never wanted to do that to Disney. When I was no longer employed by anyone, that’s when I was like, “O.K., I’m going to do my own thing.” But I waited until I felt like I had respectfully finished out what I was supposed to do, you know?
Did you feel a way about Joe Jonas outing you and Demi Lovato as having been the ones to introduce him to pot?
If you want to smoke weed, you’re going to smoke weed. There’s nothing that two little girls are going to get you to do that you don’t want to do. I thought maybe he was saying that like it was going to make him look badass.
It’s the opposite.
We were so young that it’s actually like, “How did you get peer pressured by me?”
Was it true that you had a Vogue cover pulled because of the V.M.A.s?
I can’t say too much. But it was where I was kind of going to have to do this trade-off, and I wasn’t willing to. Right now, me doing any kind of cover for anything that’s like, a Seventeen or Teen Vogue or whatever, the way that I talk isn’t the way that people that are 17 really understand. There was a thing that Kurt Cobain said, something like, “There’s a special place in hell for people that glamorize drugs,” and I never want to be that person that’s, like, talking to 16- and 17-year-olds and being like, “Smoke weed.” I’ve got a little sister. I don’t want her to smoke weed, and it’s not because I think weed is bad, but — —
When she’s old enough to make that choice.
Right, she’ll make the choice. Or even, like, my language. I don’t know how to not talk the way I talk. I would rather have everything I do be 100 percent honest. I just want to be who I am.
Every generation has its moral panic, and it happens to be you this year, and two years from now, it’ll be someone else.
Exactly. Even when I hear that — that someone, two years from now, is going to be the next kind of provocateur — like, I can’t wait to collab with whoever the hell that is, you know? I’m like, whoever that is, I’m going to ride that wave.
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