Do you think Miley Cyrus ever believed that Jay-Z would return the favor of being mentioned in her 2009 hit, Party in The U.S.A with a mention on his newest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail? We didn’t. (For the purpose of context, Jay-Z’s mention comes in a song titled SomewhereinAmerica–no spaces–and raps as follows: “Cause somewhere in America/ Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’/ Twerk, Miley, Miley, twerk.”)
Frankly, the amount of time that we have spent writing digital love notes to Jay-Z’s wife, protegé, and botanic phenomenon of a daughter feels like it could warrant a rhyming couplet or two. But what do we get in return? The joy of self-expression, yes, but definitely no mention on Magna Carta Holy Grail. I suppose when you’re Miley Cyrus, though, anything is possible.
If we’d started with that thought – that anything is possible when you’re Miley Cyrus – perhaps what seemed like an overnight transformation (though we appreciate that this transition actually took years), wherein she metamorphosed from daughter of Billie Ray Cyrus-cum-Southern Disney star to a pelvic-humping, tongue-out combo platter of Kate Lanphear and Stevie Nicks enthusiast, might have been slightly less jarring.
In the wake of her newest music video for We Can’t Stop–which, mind you, We Can’t Stop talking about–we also can’t help but view Miley’s provocative conversion as further proof of fashion’s distinct ability to (yes we’re going to say it again) let us slip in and out of different identities. (Is likening Miley’s pixicut to Hannah Montana’s blond wig too far a stretch?)
Case in point: can you imagine the skinny jean, suede boot, knee bopping, wigged pubescent rolling around in a most suggestive come-hither manner? Probably not. Just try to picture the below Hannah Montana evocatively singing, “It’s my mouth I can say what I want to,” while swinging at a teddy-bear fabricated pinata wearing nothing but a cropped top and panties. Or maybe don’t; turns out that vision’s more troubling than intended.
But we’ve got to hand it to Cyrus. Instead of disappearing from the limelight and returning in a confounding new form, her public image shifted in near-graceful increments that eased the transition from charming girl whose guitarist donned a fucking sweater vest to the present grill-bearing, net-wearing, controversy-stirring Barbie kisser.
In the triangle of evolution collaged above, Destiny Hope (that’s her birth name) opens the floor, smiling in her floral shrug pre-metamorphose into her pop-sensation alter ego Hannah Montana–see: the neighboring “realistic” blonde wig that made discerning the difference between Hannah and Miley exorbitantly difficult for her fictitious best friends. From that point, she becomes acquainted with red carpet traipsing, declaring an affinity toward rhinestones and consequently, too, toward highlights and extensions. By the triangle’s apex, she’s candidly becoming something of a woman. On its way down, the transition to present begins–making the photoshopping process of her silhouette considerably more difficult. (So many spikes, says Charlotte.)
But what do we make of the evolution?
It is certainly very ballsy. Whether intentional or not, Cyrus is undoubtedly alienating some of her previous fans, or at very least, their mothers. Starting one’s career as a Disney star perpetuates an image of wholesomeness that the twenty-year-old has seemingly taken pains to buck (with relatively little drama to this point, compared to some of her peers). Then again, how long can someone maintain their role in popular culture before finding themselves fallen victim to a cold case of Cosmo Kramer-style typecast? And more importantly, how long can someone maintain a childhood persona that no longer resonates?
She’s growing up and as that happens, the fans will grow too. Does it matter if a couple wean off along the way? As someone whose breakout character and actual life were so intertwined, it’s easy to imagine that Cyrus has been sharing intimate parts of her life from the start, and is simply continuing to do so. Morever, she’s doing it well; this feels more like a coming-of-age than a Britney or Lindsey-esque ramp up to the breakdown. Which brings us back to point one: when you’re Miley Cyrus, anything is possible.
Written by Leandra Medine and Kate Barnett