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Tuesday 29 July 2014

Clare Cullen: Why I love Miley Cyrus

Bear with me - I'm about to do something not many people do these days - defend Miley Cyrus.

First and foremost, Miley is playing the game. She's so clever that she fully understands the misogyny and sexism inherent in the entertainment industry, and instead of shying away from it, purposely exploits it for her own monetary gain - something male performers have been doing for years. (So much so that her net worth is $150m.)

Not only that, but she's so aware of the games required that she openly mocks the expectations placed upon her- take her website, for example. She knows she doesn't need a website - her YouTube video releases break records. (Wrecking Ball broke the Vevo record for most views in one day.)

Miley Cyrus 'gets' the internet. She understands what 'virality' is when the majority of the world's marketers don't.

She performed 'Wrecking Ball' dressed in her now-signature two-piece, this time with a cat design, with a giant singing cat in the background. The cat then cried during the emotional part of the song. She understands the internet so well it's almost as if she invented it.

 

Speaking of the two-piece; while it may not be to everyone's taste, it is nothing more shocking than the leotards and two-pieces worn by Madonna in the 80s. Similarly, Cyrus has totally reinvented herself - the same way Madonna was praised for.

She brought us 'Wrecking Ball' - which brought about some of the funniest parodies of 2013. 'Two Irish Guys Watch Miley Cyrus'(1m views- now blocked by Universal) and 'Wrecking Ball Chat Roulette' were two of the stand-out entries, but there were hundreds of thousands of Vines, tweets and posts - not to mention this brilliant dog costume and the hilarious 'Wrecking Bauble' Christmas tree decoration. Without Miley Cyrus, I would not have been a fraction as entertained as I was in 2013.

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There's no doubt that she knows how to work the system, knows that being talked about is the biggest key metric in the business. So much so, that she topped the Forbes list of Most Influential people of 2013. However, she then uses that notoriety to spread messages that she is passionate about. She's an open, loud and proud feminist, and talks about it in interviews. Many celebrities are reluctant to call themselves feminist - Miley isn't.

She's a positive inspiration to young women, encouraging them to be themselves. "If you can't express yourself, you're not very free."

Cyrus tweeted a picture of herself (now my phone screensaver - I'm not even embarrassed)  pulling her jumper up to expose her breasts with a 'Merry Christmas' bubble superimposed over her nipples. Many media outlets reported this as something along the lines of 'Cyrus flashes Twitter for attention!' when, in fact, she was stating her public support for a campaign called 'Free the Nipple'.

'Free the Nipple' is a campaign which takes issue with the classification of films in America - in particular, the fact that gratuitous violence can earn a lower rating than a female nipple. Cyrus backing the cause so publicly (and in that manner) earned the campaign thousands more followers and more promotion than they could ever have drummed up alone.

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While most people may not realise, Cyrus' antics highlight a gaping inequality in showbusiness, which she makes no effort to pretend doesn't exist. The blame for her "shocking" performance with Robin Thicke (of the questionably-worded 'Blurred Lines' song) was placed soley on Cyrus' shoulders despite Thicke, an older, married man, grinding on her while she 'twerked'. Whether intentional or not, it shone a harsh light on the standards by which Hollywood and the entertainment industry judge their female stars in comparison to their male counterparts for the exact same acts.

Speaking of the VMAs', Cyrus teddy-bear one-piece at the VMAs became such a popular Halloween costume that it sold out on Amazon.com.

 

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Cyrus is also, again perhaps inadvertently, highlighting the purity with which Disney and child stars are viewed, and the unfairly high standards impressed upon them. While Britney Spears' teenage sexuality was a direct marketing ploy by those who managed her, Cyrus is in control of her own image and her own career. The fact that her sexualisation is her own choice does not sit well with those who knew her as a fresh-face Hannah Montana. Cyrus' behaviour is mild compared to R&B star Rihanna, but she receives much more intense criticism - which, as a 21 year old, she handles with ease. She teaches those that look up to her to "ignore the trolls" and "be yourself".

"I don’t want to be perfect... My mom always tells me that imperfections equal beauty."

She showed that she is able to laugh at herself during her hosting spot on SNL, for which she received rave reviews.

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The joke about why she sticks her tongue out, which raised a few objections, was written by the SNL writers and not by Cyrus - but she received the entirely of the backlash. Again, she took it on the chin.

Lets not forget that Cyrus is not just media fodder - she is actually extremely talented singer and when she performs, sings live. This video of her singing 'Jolene' racked up over 22m views.

On Independent.ie alone, Miley pulled in 1,909,197 unique pageviews in 2013 (the highest-rating single celebrity in 2013) - never mind that Google search pulls up over 566,000,000 results for the search term 'Miley Cyrus'.

Cyrus is a guaranteed hit because she divides people so strongly. Everything she does is up for scrutiny since she chopped her hair - but she loves it. And she's not ashamed of loving it. Unlike other celebrities, Cyrus doesn't seek media attention and then complain when she gets it.

Cyrus may have only caught our attention in 2013, but she was working for her fans behind the scenes for years. In 2012, the Make-A-Wish foundation awarded Cyrus it's first ever 'Annual World Wish Day Star' award for "exceptional contributions" to helping grant wishes to sick children. At that point, Miley had already granted over 150 wishes and was the leading celebrity for doing so, beaten only now by Justin Beiber with 200 wishes.

Cyrus is "Make-A-Wish’s number one requested female celebrity wish granter" and in 2012, she granted the wish of her namesake - Miley Hodge, named after Cyrus. The wish-receivers described Cyrus as "attentive and gracious" and "generous with her time". At the award ceremony alone, she granted eight wishes.

The fact that Cyrus delights in her controversial coverage but did not turn these wishes into a 'Kardashian-esque' photo op makes me like her even more.

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When untrue stories circulate, Miley goes straight to Twitter to set the record straight. Instead of releasing a statement, she talks directly to her fans. This pick-and-choose attitude towards the 'done thing' in 'showbusiness' fascinates me, and I respect it.

Following rumours of Cyrus 'dissing' Beyonce, (which Cyrus denied on Twitter) a fan asked her to "tell Perez he started it" and Miley replied "I rather pretend he doesn't exist" adding that "maybe if everyone did it, he's go away". In my opinion, avoiding Twitter spats like this is a great example to set for her fans. (We will come back to that later).

Lets not forget that during 2013, a 21-year old girl went through a very public breakup of a serious, long-term relationship. She has spoken publicly about how she thought Liam Hemsworth was the One and how she became wrapped up in their relationship and lost herself. This is another important message for young women - not to let relationships take over your life. Cyrus has handled the breakup with grace, refusing to badmouth Hemsworth despite being pushed in interviews about the demise of the relationship.

Cyrus also went through her parents announcing a divorce for the second time, only to have them reunite once more. Such a unstable home life cannot be easy for the 21-year old.

 

As regards her lighting up during the EMAs - Miley has always been very outspoken about her belief that cannabis should be legalised but realistically, she probably just did this because she could. It's not my cup of tea but more power to her - when I was 21 I was getting drunk and falling asleep in pub bathrooms so who am I to judge?

 

Another reason I identify with Miley is because she is so relateable. She loves the internet, overshares online and dances to Britney Spears like I dance to Katy Perry.

 

She also doesn't take anything she doesn't have to or want to - when a paparazzi asked her was she pregnant she replied, "No I'm just sick, you b**ch!" Miley is a strong, independent woman and while it may alienate some, I admire the ability she has to stand up for herself.

The one thing I can't excuse Miley for was her digs at Sinead O' Connor, which began following Sinead's 'open letter' to Miley. Sinead has come out and said the feud allowed for a conversation about mental health to start, but I would be outright lying if I said I thought that was done on purpose. I imagine what happened is that Miley got annoyed following O' Connor's second open letter and said some things she shouldn't have.

We have all said things we shouldn't, especially at 21, unimpeded on the internet - but the fact that Miley never apologised does grate on me. Sinead O' Connor is another star I adore (that's a blog for another day) so Cyrus's apparent refusal to apologise is the one black mark against her in my book. (One day I would love to see the two singers make up.)

To summarise, I love Miley Cyrus and hope she keeps making headlines in 2014. I'd be so bored without the "bad b**ch" of showbiz.

 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me. Tweet to @Clisare

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