If we look back on the last nine years of Miley Cyrus's life, it's been a whirlwind of fake wigs, neon, smoke, and glitter. In 2015 we know Miley as a social media savvy, hammer-licking, teddy bear twerking feminist who, whether we like it or not, has captured the attention of the world.
But when most of us first met the little southern starlet, it was a far cry from the young woman we see today. As the titular role of the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana, Miley stood for all things wholesome, a pretty stark contrast from the sexually liberated pop sensation we see today.
While some people might see this seemingly obscure behavior as a downward spiral into infamy or a cry for attention. Perhaps it should be looked as a means of becoming comfortable with who she really is, and empowering others to do the same.
The Hannah Montana Days
Other than the highly unbelievable premise of the show - I mean, really, Miley's friends couldn't tell that this ultra-famous pop star looked exactly like their best pal? - Hannah Montana provided fans with entertainment from 2006 to 2011. The acting-singing crossover worlds also warranted multiple albums and a feature-length film.
Like most Disney Channel stars, Miley went from an aspiring actress to a household name seemingly overnight. In the early 2000s, and in the midst of multiple child star scandals, the Cyrus family stood as a pillar for child acting done right. Miley and her famous father, Billy Ray Cyrus, even graced the cover of People Magazine boasting that fact.
But this celebrity persona cultivated by Disney was just the start of Miley's meteoric rise to fame.
She Can't Be Tamed
At the same time as she was filming Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song and starting her now famous relationship with her co-star Liam Hemsworth, Miley was recording her third studio album, Can't Be Tamed. This album can be seen as a pivotal moment in her career, marking her transition from child star to adult performer.
Donning a black leather unitard and feathers, the caged Miley declared her adult independence loud and clear for the world to hear. At the time, the world thought "Wow, she's gone too far" but this was just her version of toeing the line.
Hair Today Gone Tomorrow
Another crucial moment in the public's perception of Miley Cyrus was over one of the more superficial thing the singer has done: Cutting her hair. In 2012, she garnered attention from the media after cutting her previously long, dark hair and opting instead for a platinum pixie cut.
In an interview with Toronto Sun, Miley revealed how chopping her luscious locks led to a serious life change. She also used this interview to describe the kind of words thrown her way. Instead of taking this as a "woe is me" moment, she turned the insults into compliments, and used them as a vehicle to enlighten readers.
I didn’t plan a haircut to change my life. I just cut my hair and then it really changed my life. There’s something about having no hair that it screams being confident. And I think especially because people like to put people in a box, I mean the names I’ve been called since I cut my hair.
Everyone said I was a lesbian but I’m like, ‘Being a lesbian isn’t a bad thing. So if you think I look like I’m a lesbian, I’m not offended. You can call me much worse.’ I’ve been called much worse. Being a lesbian is a compliment more than what else they call me.
She Can't Stop, and She Won't Stop
The next year Miley continued to shock audiences after releasing her fourth studio album, 'Bangerz,' which went on to go platinum. In tandem with the album, and Miley's road to self-discovery, came two of the most talked about music videos of the year, 'We Can't Stop' and 'Wrecking Ball.' Both of which were noted for their lack of clothing and abundance of tongue wagging.
At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, Miley went from show-stopping to jaw-dropping. The singer performed a version of 'We Can't Stop' that felt like a fever induced dream in which proceeded to twerk on Robin Thicke to his 'Blurred Lines.' In short, the performance got people talking.
After the shock wore down, Miley went on The Ellen Show to discuss her album and VMA performance, and revealed that 'Bangerz' mirrored her split with fiancé Liam Hemsworth. She found that the breakup, while difficult, was ultimately freeing.
This is one of the earlier instances in which she spoke on happiness she had found in being independent.
I keep saying I'm the happiest I've ever been -- and that's not even a dig -- I'm just really genuinely happy with myself and I think sometimes it takes you separating yourself from someone else to really be happy with who you are.
She's Just Being Miley
Today, Miley's statement of being happy with who you are has become mantra that rings true to her fans.
Her non-profit charity, The Happy Hippie Foundation aims to fight injustices committed against marginalized youth groups like the homeless, the LGBT community, and other vulnerable populations. She's also known for her work as an animal rights activist, a proponent of veganism, and an speaks candidly about feminist issues.
There are a lot of things about Miley Cyrus that won't please the masses. She's bright, loud, can be a bit rash in her decision making. But at the end of the day, she's a 22-year-old girl, trying to find herself and helping people along the way.
Is she an exceptional role model for young girls? Probably not. But then again, that's not her target demographic anymore. As she said in her Marie Claire interview:
There is so much sexism, ageism, you name it. Kendrick Lamar sings about LSD and he's cool. I do it and I'm a druggie whore.
I don't really stress too much about being out there. There's nothing left to catch me doing. You want to hack my e-mail so you can find my nude pictures? I'll just fucking put them up.
Given her advocacy for multiple causes and her widespread promotion of self-acceptance, she's far from the worst person to grace our headlines. Perhaps vilifying her isn't really worth anyone's time.
Maybe it's just time we stop examining this girl under such a harsh microscope and scrutinizing her behavior. How about instead learn to say, "she's just being Miley," and let it go.