Miley Cyrus: The Problem With Being Outrageous

Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMAs

Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMAs

“Miley Cyrus: Biggest Winner At The VMA’s” wrote Zack O’Malley Greenburg on He claimed that even though Miley didn’t take home a single VMA on Sunday, she did pick up 100,000 new Instagram subscribers, 50,000 new Facebook likes, and that 300,000 Tweets per minute were flying while she was on stage. All paving way for her new album release, coming in October. He predicts it will be a hit.

Sadly, he’s probably right.

That’s the problem with being outrageous: it works.

For awhile.

Then you have to do something else outrageous. Then something else. Then something else again. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle.

For which MTV and the VMA’s are well known.

Miley Cyrus’ jaw-dropping song was just the latest in a long history of “pushing the envelope” performances at the VMA’s.

MTV debuted in August, 1981; the VMAs in 1984. Here’s what’s happened since:

1984: Madonna writhed all over the floor in a wedding gown singing “Like a Virgin.”

1990: Madonna sang “Vogue” dressed like Marie Antoinette while backup dancers fondled her breasts.

2000: Britney Spears stripped out of a tux to sing, “Oops! I Did it Again.”

2003: The infamous kiss between Madonna, Britney, and Christina Aguilera.

2009: Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to say he thought Beyoncé should have won instead.

2010: Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw beef.

So yes, outrageous “plays” at the VMA’s. It gets people talking. It sells songs.

But does it guarantee a lengthy career?

Absolutely not!



Madonna is the only singer who’s had a long career based on outrageous conduct. She’s survived for 30 years not on singing talent, but on marketing talent and her ability to constantly reinvent herself. Forbes recently named her the Top Earning Celebrity of 2013 ($125 million).

No one else comes close. They just get compared to Madonna.

So what does all of this have to do with you?

Or clothing? Or image?

There’s nothing wrong with reinventing yourself from time to time. In fact, I encourage it. If how you’re dressing isn’t getting you the job, respect, or mate you want, it may be time for a change.

Just be careful what you change into.

Because classy may not be as headline-grabbing as trashy, but it definitely gets better results.

Britney, Christina, Miley – that’s the problem I have with all these former Disney stars. I understand that they want to be seen as women now. I get that they want to distance themselves from their Disney days.

But why do they all think taking off their clothes is the only way to go about it? Why can’t one of them act like a lady? They’ve got millions of fans following them, idolizing them, and what do they do? Pull a bait-and-switch and morph from princess to porn star.

Parents were not amused by Miley’s performance. Blogger Kim Keller said it best in a letter to her daughter:

“If you ever even consider doing something like that, I promise you that I will run up and twerk so you will see how ridiculous twerking looks. I will duct tape your mouth shut so your tongue doesn’t hangout like an overheated hound dog. I will smack any male whom you decide to smash against his pelvis – after I first knock you on your butt for forgetting how a lady acts in public.”

Then blogger Matt Walsh chimed in with a letter to his son condemning Robin Thicke’s behavior:

“…where are the men in all of this? Have we so completely given up on chivalry that we don’t even see what’s troubling about a GROWN ASS MARRIED DUDE singing a song about sexual domination while dry h**ping a young woman on national TV? Men in this culture need to stand up and be leaders. I don’t want to talk about the Miley Cyruses of the world. Enough is said about them. I want to talk about the legions of cowardly, amoral adult men who graduate college and still carry on like frat boys well into their 60’s. The girls that behave like Miley Cyrus do so because they want to attract men. And it works.

“It shouldn’t.”

Solange and Beyonce Knowles

Solange and Beyonce Knowles

Now compare all those terabytes devoted to trashing the bad behavior at the VMAs to this refreshing note about Beyoncé:

Designer Rubin Singer, who recently dressed Beyoncé for a private concert in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, tells Glamour that Beyoncé and Solange Knowles are “the only celebrities that always dry clean and send clothes back in a box, with a hand-written thank you note. They are true ladies.”

See the difference?

Class and manners ALWAYS get noticed, and ladies are welcomed anywhere.

Tramps? Not so much.

Yes, we’ve all had “low rent” moments in our lives when we’ve given into bad behavior. Some of us more than once.

But to make a career out of it? To openly court controversy?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse – they all went down that road with disastrous results. Let’s hope Miley doesn’t.

Or you.

If you’re not happy with your image, by all means, reinvent it. Just take a page from Beyoncé’s book (she went to finishing school) instead of Miley’s. Your career, social life, kids, and parents will thank you for it.


Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Signature Style Blueprint, a video course that teaches women how to create a signature style using their best colors, best features, and best styles. You can learn more here.

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  • Ruby

    Reply Reply August 29, 2013

    What a well written commentary, I didn’t even watch the award show because I knew it would lack any class. I’m grateful you are giving a voice of reason to all this drama!!

  • Valeria Martin

    Reply Reply August 29, 2013

    I saw the performance online. Very troubling. In the long-term who will take her seriously? I was on Facebook this morning and one of my FB friends posted a photo of a young attractive woman with a tattoo “Loyalty” on the side of her face.Supposedly she did this for her boyfriend. Sad. She is not going to get far in life. Sad how young women compromise themselves for acceptance.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2013

      Valeria – wow! A FACE tattoo? Yikes! Jumping through hoops like that for men early on will lead to a lifetime of abuse. Sad. You have to set boundaries and enforce them. Period.

  • Evelyn Lundstrom

    Reply Reply August 29, 2013

    Well said Diana.

    Your article expresses everything I’m disgusted with regarding out-of-control young people. The trashiness of so-called entertainment has hit a new low, and the influence this has on impressionable teens and young adults is obvious. One just has to walk into a bar on Friday or Saturday night to see that.

    It’s time the entertainment business lifted it’s own game and refused to mix talent and porn. These young ‘entertainers’ don’t realise they are only a product of which most of us are happy to forget permanently.

    Talent with style is what we will remember forever. Trashy entertainment is forgotten as soon as it’s over. I’ve often wondered what the parents of these entertainers are thinking. I am so pleased to read that Miley’s parents had plenty to say. I have the feeling that Paris Hilton’s parents must have slapped her into place too. She (Paris) is becoming more appealing and authentic. I think it’s time to bring in the ‘new’ ideal – being REAL!!

    Love your articles.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2013

      Thanks, Evelyn! Glad you enjoyed it!

      This behavior is just another consequence of the “casualization” of our society. “Casual Friday” in the early ’90s quickly degraded to casual EVERY day, which has given way to bad manners, bad language, and bad behavior twenty years later. Then there’s the obesity epidemic – another consequence. It’s all interconnected, this lowering of standards, and it’s NOT a good thing. Anyone who DOESN’T fall in with the crowd absolutely stands out.

      You and I definitely have our work cut out for us, Evelyn… 🙂

  • Fidelia

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013

    Thank you for this article. I was wondering also why getting ‘trashy’ has become increasingly popular these days. It’s really sad. This exposé sure is a perfect one. Thank you again.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2013

      Thanks, Fidelia! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Tania Mizzi

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013

    Diana- you hit the nail on the head with a brilliant article as usual.
    The take home message being that a slut get lots of attention, but eventually no DECENT man will want her as his wife ( or in a long term committment).

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2013

      Thanks, Tania! You’re right – ANY woman can show skin and get attention. It doesn’t take talent to drop trou. But to keep it classy when you’re surrounded by trashy? THAT takes strength and dignity. It’s like when Jerry Seinfeld was doing stand up early in his career and made a conscious decision to keep his comedy family-friendly and profanity-free. It made him stand out among the legions of crass comedians. What did it get him? A long-running hit show and huge paycheck.

      It’s going to be hard for Miley to top that performance; we’re already shocked and outraged. I understand it’s also put her rocky engagement to Liam Hemsworth in further jeopardy. All in all, a pretty big gamble, if you ask me…

  • Jo Ann Lohne

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013

    Eloquently said…..

  • Carole

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013


  • Cathie

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013

    Thanks Diana, articles like this keep the hope for our culture alive!

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply August 31, 2013

    I quite agree with everything. I have always been neatly and simply dressed. I’m married to a lovely man (who is a doctor) who has no stomach for this sort of dressing in women ( I hesitate to say ladies, because, as you say, ladies don’t behave like this).

    It’s even sadder seeing grown women in their 50’s behaving like this.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 31, 2013

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article!

      Most men of integrity have “no stomach for this sort of dressing” because it’s demeaning to women. If you wouldn’t tolerate your wife, sister, or daughter dressing or behaving like that, it’s hard to watch other people’s wives, sisters, and daughters doing it. And you’re right – ladies don’t act like this. My mother made that distinction early on: there are women, and there are ladies. Sadly, ladies are getting fewer and fewer…

  • Valeria Martin

    Reply Reply August 31, 2013

    Two comments I want to make–

    –I grew up during the 60’s and 70’s. When I was a small child, I remember watching singers on television, and the close up of the camera focusing on the expression and feeling the singer would put into his/her performance. It made an impression on me. I use to think they were crying because they put so much heart into their ballads. I am now 52. You can see the longevity of this memory. Real talent.

    –Twerking, and dancing around half naked should be reserved for getting your freak on with your man in the privacy of your bedroom!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 31, 2013

      Hi Valeria – I also remember people singing like that. Remember the groups where they’d all dress alike, dance alike, and harmonize? Then they’d sing songs that didn’t require profanity or speak of lewd behavior. Seems like ancient times. Sadly, we’re not the first to feel this way:

      “The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as
      if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.” – Peter the Hermit, 1274

      Wonder what he’d think today?

  • Cinnamon2013

    Reply Reply September 14, 2013

    Don’t forget about Adam Lambert’s performance during the VMAs in 2009 and fallout afterwards. He could have gone so much further in his career.

  • Cinnamon2013

    Reply Reply September 14, 2013

    Actually it was the 2009 AMA awards show.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 14, 2013

      Again, the shock factor only works for so long – you have to get more and more outrageous to keep people’s attention. A better approach? A long, consistent body of work…

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