As the outspoken pop provocateur prepares to present this year’s video music awards, we look back at her most rule-breaking moments
It’s been two years since Miley Cyrus metaphorically killed Hannah Montana with a foam finger during that notorious performance at MTV’s VMAs, but it’s a moment that is still burned onto our collective memory. Since then, Miley has evolved from one of the most criticised figures in pop music, to an outspoken LGBTQ activist, charity worker and no-fucks-given feminist. And whilst she predictably still generates a lot of backlash (who doesn’t?), it’s hard to deny that the eternally cool Nashville artist has used her influence in largely positive ways.
This weekend, Miley Cyrus will be hosting the VMAs rather than performing, and we can barely contain ourselves. From riding a huge inflatable penis, to singing an elegy for her pet blowfish (RIP Pablow) we have no idea what she will do next, and what to expect. Will she make her entrance on a giant pink tongue? Will she set her armpit hair on fire and do a backflip over Kendrick Lamar? To celebrate an artist that truly embraces her freedom, here are five times Miley Cyrus took the rulebook, ripped it up and stamped on it.
SHE SEXUALISED A SLEDGEHAMMER
The video for 2013’s “Wrecking Ball” was really fucking weird. But if Miley Cyrus wants to lick a sledgehammer and swing, naked, on a giant concrete wrecking ball whilst crying, then that’s exactly what she’ll do. This was the moment we all waved goodbye to the cookies-and-milk “Party in the USA” Miley of prior years and welcomed punk Miley v.2 into our lives for good, with brilliant results. The video eventually generated such an endless slew of parodies that the original became even more of a parody of itself. Laugh now, but we’ll bet you anything that this will be iconic in 20 years time.
There are so many questions that this recent Paper Magazine cover image brought up. Why is Miley Cyrus hugging a pig? Is the pig smiling? Can pigs smile? Is that really what Babe looks like now? Why is Miley covered in glitter and dirt? Why does her hair look like sand? Why? Why? Why? Avalanche of questions aside, this image is the perfection reflection of Miley Cyrus in all her weird and wonderfully rebellious glory. This is why we can’t wait for her to host this weekend’s VMAs – because she agrees to appear on the front of a magazine naked and clutching a smiling pig. What more could we really want?
SHE STUCK A MIDDLE FINGER UP TO TRADITIONAL BEAUTY IDEALS
Miley Cyrus has been outspoken about how being surrounded by unrealistic beauty standards is not only boring but damaging, "I was told for so long what a girl is supposed to be from being on (Hannah Montana). I was made to look like someone that I wasn’t, which probably caused some body dysmorphia because I had been made pretty every day for so long, and then when I wasn’t on that show, it was like, Who the fuck am I?" she said last week. "When you look at retouched, perfect photos, you feel like shit. They lighten black girls’ skin. They smooth out wrinkles…It’s crazy what people have decided we're all supposed to be." She’s also grown her armpit hair and died it neon pink like an old skool feminist, because if you're going to grow your armpit hair you might as well decorate.
SHE WAVED GOODBYE TO THE GENDER BINARY
Miley Cyrus is obviously not the first public figure to reject the limits of the male/female binary, but as somebody who previously epitomised mainstream Middle America and emerged from the conservative world of country stars and beauty pageants, it’s pretty cool for her to be outspoken about not conforming to a specific gender. “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” Miley Cyrus told Paper Magazine. Along with rejecting gender labels, she’s also rejected sexuality labels. “People try to make everyone something,” she told Time. “You can just be whatever you want to be… If I end up in a straight relationship, that’s fine—but I’m not going to be with f—ing slob guys who are watching porn, making all their girls feel ugly.” Yesssss!!!
SHE FULLY EMBRACED HER NAKEDNESS
Despite the fact men are free to parade their naked torsos under the sun like normal human beings, when women or people with breasts do the same thing, they are often slut-shamed and accused of being bad role models. If Miley Cyrus’ ever-engrossing Instagram is anything to go by, she actively rebels against these kind of misogynistic double standards – because contrary to popular belief, people actually own their own bodies. She’s also spoken out about how her nudity is condemned, but Taylor Swift’s videos that support violence and guns largely go under the radar. “I’m a bad role model because I’m running around with my titties out? I’m not sure how titties are worse than guns," she said in a recent interview with Marie Claire, adding: “People need more conventional role models, I guess. But I just don't care to be that person."