Miley Cyrus’s thrust-out tongue is among 2013’s most ubiquitous pop symbols, an image that has dominated this year perhaps more than any other celebrity gesture, and her VMAs performance was a dozen kinds of pop controversies condensed into their most potent form. But don’t confuse the costumed, gyrating, wild-eyed Cyrus with the real person, she tells the New York Times. “I went from people just thinking I was, like, a baby to people thinking I’m this, like, sex freak that really just pops molly and does lines all day. It’s like, ‘Has anyone ever heard of rock & roll?’” she says. “There’s a sex scene in pretty much every single movie, and they go, ‘Well, that’s a character.’ Well, that’s a character. I don’t really dress as a teddy bear and, like, twerk on Robin Thicke, you know?”
Cyrus also rejects the idea that her performance was in any way racist or problematic.
It’s actually really funny how many people could watch my performance, and they think it was, like, sexist and degrading to women, and somehow people found that it was racist, which I couldn’t even wrap my mind around. Because I’m like: “How do I win? If I have white dancers, then I’m racist. If I have black girl dancers, then I’m racist.” We know we’re not racist, and I know I’m not putting down women. People got a rise out of me saying that I was a feminist, but I am. I’m telling women be whoever you want to be.No, I never let that change me. My grandma, who is alive, was living in a time where there was no way in hell that she would’ve ever thought there would’ve been a black president. I mean, never. And my grandma’s like, not even 80, so this is in a short period of time that things have changed so much. I really thought about it a lot when Nelson Mandela passed away, because I couldn’t even imagine living this life and seeing how much it’s changed. So, you know, I look forward to when I’m older, my kids being like, “What do you mean people ever even talked about what color your dancers were?”
As people have brought these things up to you over the last year, has it changed your personal thinking about race?
Someday, someone’s going to tell Miley Cyrus what intersectionality is, and then we are all in for a real treat.