Dear Miley...

From a Disney star to an internationally-known pop music mogul, Miley Cyrus has taken a sharp and dangerous turn in the last few years. I won't take the time to outline her downward spiral, but it's a reality and there are hundreds of stories and posts dedicated to it if you'd care to Google them.

Do I take issue with Miley's filthy onstage performances, overtly provocative image, and perverse language? Sure, but until today it didn't do much more than make me feel very, very sorry for her. But now I'm mad. Yes, I'm ticked off, and here's why. 

I get it, Miley. We ALL get it: you're no longer on the Disney channel, you're no longer a child (even though legally you're just barely old enough for the substances you are regularly seen using), and hey, no one asked you to be a role model. If kids are looking up to you, if young girls idolize you, then it's their problem, not yours. Well, apparently, you know that they are, and you're proud of it.

I've read plenty of posts since your infamous VMA's performance that justify and defend your behavior, calling it entertainment, calling it personal expression, calling it "finding yourself" or identity as an artist. In the meantime, you've tailspinned, but not in the way most people think. Your performances aren't a cry for help, at least not consciously. They are very calculated move of a businesswoman whose product is her own body. No? Well, here's what you have to say about it just this week (posing nude as you do):

"I like that I'm associated with sexuality and *bleep bleep* where we just don't care. I'm not Disney... where everyone's wearing a brightly colored t-shirt."

No, Miley, you're not Disney anymore. But it's a little presumptuous of you to continually throw off on how far removed you are from the franchise that made you a star. Could you have become a household name without Hannah Montana, who had quite a collection of brightly-colored t-shirts? Hmm, maybe by doing what you're doing now, which is taking your clothes off. But as an actress? As a singer? Have you had a successful movie since Bolt? Since Hannah Montana: the Movie? And while you're not the only former Disney star stripping down and literally shedding their clean-cut images, you definitely seem to be the ring-leader of this trend.

But why am I mad, Miley? Certainly not for Disney's sake... you're not the first star they've "lost" and you won't be the last. They're fine, and they'll move on without you as a "role model" in their arsenal. The Disney Channel "Circle of Stars" is literally a revolving door of fresh "talent" so they knew this was coming. I'm mad because I'm a teacher, and I teach teenage girls, and those girls listen to your music and watch your videos. (The boys do too, but that's another issue.) These girls think you're awesome. They started watching you when they were little, as Hannah Montana, and they've followed your career, and for whatever reason, they seem to still think the world of you. And these girls are learning from you. They're learning that it doesn't matter what your talents are, what kind of a singer or actress or person you are- in order to stay "on top" of the heap, you've got to take off your clothes. You've got to objectify yourself to remain in the spotlight. You've got to mask that voice and those acting skills behind one of the most sexually provocative images in the business. I was a fan, Miley. I loved Hannah Montana, I loved your voice, I loved that just a few years ago you were pretty intent on being a positive role model for young people.

I guess you still are, if you consider spreading the trend of objectification and cheapening of your own dignity a good thing. You're often quoted as saying "Who cares what anyone thinks?" (with a few expletives thrown in) but obviously, Miley, you do care. You care what the people who are paying big money for you to literally sell yourself think, because they're the ones who have somehow convinced you that it made you more of a person or an "artist" to desecrate everyday objects as props in your music videos or live, apparently, with your tongue perpetually sticking out of your mouth like a camel. 

I do still feel sorry for you, Miley, because it's a shame that a young girl didn't (or doesn't) have anyone in her life to make her feel like her talent alone was enough to keep her fans or get new ones. That's sad. It's sad that we live in a society where sex sells above talent or quality. It's sad that, for whatever reason, you felt the pressure (or desire) to become an object over an artist. 

And no, I'm not criticizing you because, in your words, I'm "below you" and "want what you have." Nothing could be further from the truth. If my entire career depended on taking my clothes off and smoking a joint in a music video I'd be in big trouble. If my idea of a shrewd business move was to find the next "shock factor" and capitalize on it, I'd maybe be jealous of your so-called success. I'm critical because, while I genuinely regret what's become of you, it personally offends me that, for better or worse, you are sending a message to my students, and it's a lie.

Maybe you've forgotten, Miley, since you seem to have missed Sunday school these past few years, that Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." No qualifiers, no "if I look or dress or dance this way" but period. God created you in His image, and that's enough. And because of that, I Corinthians 6:20 says, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." Now, you may not believe that anymore, but it's the truth. So, these girls are hearing two messages. One, from the Bible that tells them that they're perfect the way they are and that their bodies are a precious gift from God for His glory. The second is from people like you (and I know you're not the only singer who acts the way you do, but you're the one they idolize) who tell them that the best way to get and keep attention is to essentially throw up your middle finger to society and embrace your inner seductress.

That's not true. God did not create you to give you liberty to turn yourself into an activist for sexual exploration. (Read the interviews; I'm not making this up.) You, and all girls, are created as beautiful masterpieces. I'm sorry that somewhere along the line you've decided that that's not enough, but it is. My students are watching you, listening to your music, and following you on Twitter. Oh, and did I mention I have nieces? Thankfully, they're too young to know who you are, but the next generation of young actresses and singers that they become familiar with are looking up to you now. 

You're better than this, Miley. I would like to believe that, deep down, you're a better singer, actress, and person than the one you've become. It seems though, that you've bought into the lie, and that this "public image," judging from your own words, has become who you are. I hope you find your way back to a place where you aren't constantly exploited. I hope you can find your worth in quality art instead of demeaning, shock value performances. In the meantime, stop lying to my girls, and stop lying to yourself.


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