Breaking: Miley Cyrus isn't 11 anymore

The singer defends her sexed-up new image -- and tells fans to deal with the fact she's an adult

Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 8, 2011 9:09PM (UTC)

Miley Cyrus is not a good girl gone bad. She's just a little girl grown up. In a new story in Asia's Prestige magazine, the former Hannah Montana -- who's taken heat in recent years for her underwear flaunting, lap-dancing antics -- strikes back against those who find her suddenly too controversial. "There was this magazine article the other day, showing all the younger celebrities," she says. "I was the Girl Next Door or whatever, and I fell under the category of Good Girl Gone Bad ... What the hell, man?"

As anyone who's followed Cyrus' career over the years -- and as the mother of two girls, believe me, I qualify -- could tell you, Cyrus has had a bumpy road to adulthood. The girl who became a star at age 13 has seen her rump shaking and salvia smoking horrify parents. Her vocal support of gay rights shocked conservative Christians. And as her fan base hit middle school, she was instantly rendered uncool to an entire generation.


And while growing up is awkward for everybody, it can be downright brutal when you're one of the most famous entertainers in the world. Cyrus' every move is scrutinized, every mistake is front-page news. "Every 18-year-old explores sexuality and experiments and tries things," she says. "For me there's no reason to change that," a notion that fans who still think of her as a face on lunchboxes will just have to get used to.

Cyrus may become one of the lucky ones like Drew Barrymore and Justin Timberlake, performers who transitioned from youthful idols into respected adult performers while also making it OK to be sexy. But along the way, she may well make some terrible movies or bust some awkward dance moves or make some truly dubious sartorial choices. That's what being famous and 18 tends to involve. And as a trade-off, she'll have to deal with the fact that "People see me as this perfect Disney star, and the moment I put out a record that says 'I'm not 11 years old anymore,' people look down on me."

Little girls, as Maurice Chevalier once lasciviously pointed out, get bigger every day. And the smiling Hannah of just a few years ago is now Miley in a revealing halter top and sultry bob on Prestige's cover. Deal with it, America. As she says she's told her 11-year-old sister, "Don't put yourself in a situation where people are going to think of you as only one thing. You're going to change a lot. It interferes with your growing up if you're not strong enough and you’re not sure who you want to be."

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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