It’s easy to try and define Miley Cyrus as an artist and person. It’s more rewarding to understand her complexities.
There’s a new collective line of thought that goes something like this: Miley Cyrus has shed her controversial ways, turned her focus to issues that matter, and more or less grown up. It’s a captivating narrative! It’s also very incomplete.
Two years removed from the start of her Bangerz era and Twerkgate at the 2013 VMAs, Cyrus has spent the past few months focused on a charity campaign, social politics, recording covers of rock classics and keeping her clothes on. Her Happy Hippie Foundation was founded to aid homeless youth and raise LGBT awareness, and has done so through taped “backyard session” performances alongside artists like Joan Jett, Ariana Grande and Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. In recent weeks, Cyrus has ripped Indiana’s discriminatory legislation, supported Bruce Jenner’s quest for transgender awareness and made some forward-thinking comments about gender norms, while also declaring that she doesn’t need a romantic partner to be happy. She’s also covered songs by the Replacements and Crowded House, earning a new avalanche of indie cred.
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In her Vulture review of Cyrus’ performance at the Adult Swim upfront party earlier this month, Lindsay Zoladz writes about spotting the look on someone else’s face when they realize that Cyrus “might actually be something more than a twerking, smirking, Gremlin-esque Horsewoman of the Apocalypse.” I, too, have come into contact with those looks — the moment it dawns upon someone that Cyrus is a pop personality no longer worth dismissing for her boundary-pushing antics. Often, they chalk it up to the passage of time. “She’s over 21 now,” one friend told me recently — as if being able to legally drink means that you’re an adult and no longer the spawn of Satan.
The reality is, Cyrus was never a demon, and she’s not a saint now. She’s both extremely articulate and gloriously messy. She’s neither a paradox nor an inconsistency. Cyrus defies categorization, like everyone does to some degree, and that’s perfectly okay. The sooner we can collectively accept that, the easier it will be to “get” what Cyrus is doing.
Crowded House frontman Neil Finn has given his stamp of approval to Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande’s new cover of his band’s 1986 classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
The pair’s video, which features them performing while clad in footie pajamas, hit the Web yesterday. It’s part of Cyrus’ “Backyard Sessions” to raise awareness for her Happy Hippie Foundation, which aids homeless and LGBT youth.
Cyrus recently surprised fans by covering Dido’s “No Freedom” on her own and the Replacements’ “Androgynous” with help from Joan Jett and Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace.
“What a life that song has had,” Finn tells Billboard exclusively of “Dream.” “I’m happy to see them enjoying it so much and hope it inspires some donations to a good cause.”
“Don’t Dream It’s Over” is arguably the best-known song in the catalog of Crowded House, who rose to fame in the 1980s from the ashes of seminal New Zealand rockers Split Enz. “Dream” hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1987 and has since been covered by everyone from Sixpence None The Richer and Susan Boyle to Faith No More and Diana Krall.
Crowded House split in 1996 but reunited a decade later, and has since released two studio albums and toured extensively. Finn tells Billboard he is writing songs for a new album, performing rare solo shows in Melbourne and Sydney later this month and has just produced an album for young New Zealand artist Jesse Sheehan. What’s more, “I’m studying volcanoes in my spare time,” he says.
When Miley Cyrus heard that one of her teenage fans in Lansing, Mich., was being bullied over a “Legalize Gay” T-shirt, the pop star picked up the phone and called her. “Someone at the school who is an adult and seemed more powerful than her told her that she wasn’t supposed to be wearing that shirt at school,” said Cyrus. “I just wanted to make clear that she had a legal right to express herself however she wanted.”
Cyrus’ call is part of the work she’s doing with the newly launched Happy Hippie Foundation, which supports LGBTQ and homeless youth. When Cyrus launched the nonprofit organization earlier this week, she spoke in interviews about her personal investment in the issue, saying she’d had relationships that “weren’t straight.” In conversation with TIME, she clarifies that she doesn’t label herself as gay, bisexual or straight.
“I’m not hiding my sexuality. For me, I don’t want to label myself as anything,” she says. “We love putting people in categories, but what I like sexually isn’t going to label me as a person.”
Cyrus says that she believes she should be judged based on herself, not who she is or isn’t dating. “It has a lot to do with being a feminist, but I’m finally O.K. with being alone,” she says. “I think that’s something we have to talk about more: that you can be alone.”
“There are times in my life where I’ve had boyfriends or girlfriends. And there are times where I just love being with myself and don’t want to give part of myself away to someone else … I think that’s a new freedom for women, especially. I don’t know that my mother would have been able to be 22 and secure in being alone. But my future doesn’t rely on having a partner.”
Still, Cyrus understands her rejection of such labels will be hard for people to accept. “There’s all this pressure to define yourself sexually, but why? Our world revolves around sex,” she says. “Like, when I did this photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz when I was 14 or 15, everyone jumped to make it this sexual thing. But I never thought of it as sexual. Annie never thought of taking a sexual photo of a teenager. But everyone made it something it wasn’t.”
Speaking about personal issues has helped Cyrus gain a passionate social media following that looks to her for advice or help, as that young fan did after hearing that Happy Hippie had a mission to empower young people through social media. The girl was ecstatic to hear from the star, who she’d followed since Cyrus’ days on Hannah Montana, and cried when she saw Cyrus call the issue out on social media. “Without Happy Hippie, maybe that story wouldn’t have been heard, and she would have changed the shirt,” says Cyrus.
The principal of the Michigan school tells TIME that she intends to speak with the person in question — who was neither a teacher nor an administrator — and that the school allows students to exercise their First Amendment rights.
Other than them both being massive stars, what do George Clooney and Miley Cyrus have in common? Country roots and a Christmas special.
Earlier this week, George was spotted chatting with the pop star at the Met Gala in New York City, and Thursday, at his “Tomorrowland” junket in Los Angeles, George told Access Hollywood’s Liz Hernandez about his connection to Miley.
“I worked with Miley Cyrus,” he said. “Bill Murray has a Christmas special coming out next Christmas and I ride in a sleigh with Miley Cyrus, pulled by The Rockettes, I think — or something like that,” George said.
“So I’ve gotten to know Miley and we have a little Kentucky history together,” George continued (Clooney is from Kentucky and Miley’s dad, Billy Ray, was born in Kentucky).
George said teaming up with Miley for the Bill Murray holiday project was a blast.
“She was fantastic to work with, I’m telling you like fantastic and fun and a real pro,” he continued. “And Bill Murray and I had drinks a few nights ago and he was just talking about how impressed he was as an entertainer and also just as a — just in general as a pro, how professional she was. I really liked her.”
Two other celebs George and his wife, Amal Clooney, were spotted conversing with at the Met Gala were Sofia Vergara and her fiancé, “Magic Mike” star Joe Manganiello.
“That was fun,” George said. “Joe’s huge, man!”
“I’m 5’11 and I literally felt like… you’re like, ‘Oh my God. You’re a giant!'” George continued (Joe is 6’5″). “He’s huge and she always makes me laugh. I’ve seen her for years and she has the greatest sense of humor. She’s fun.”
In George’s new film, the actor plays a curmudgeonly inventor who goes on a sci-fi adventure with Britt Robertson’s character to Tomorrowland. Inside Tomorrowland, there is a lot of action and adventure, and Clooney’s character definitely gets into some scrapes.
“Oh no, that’s not fun,” George said of the fight scenes and flying ones. “I don’t enjoy all that stuff. That ticks me off, because it used to be, in my thirties, I was the guy throwing all the punches and I was the guy winning the fights, but now I’m at the age where I lose every fight — every single fight I get punched and fall on the ground and whine.
“And it’s really fun getting older and doing those,” he joked. “But I really did enjoy the stuff just driving around the truck with Britt and Raffey [Cassidy] was really fun. …Those young women were just fun and smart and really fun to hang with. I really enjoyed that.”
“Tomorrowland” hits theaters on May 22, 2015.
In December of last year, Leelah Alcorn, a young transgender girl, committed suicide. It hit me as hard as if I had known her. I felt connected to her. For a year, my focus has been on helping homeless youth, and it was heartbreaking to hear that 40 percent of homeless teens identify as LGBT. The more I learned about what life can be like as a transgender person, the more I realized how especially woven into homelessness that is. Acceptance is a huge step towards eradicating youth homelessness. Being who you are and who you want to be has nothing to do with gender, sexuality, body type, race, or age.
I haven’t been quiet or shy about discrimination issues towards the LGBT community because by alienating people, it makes it harder to work, live in society, have a home, have a family, and can result in homelessness. I wanted to learn more about other challenges in the LGBT community, like violence against transgender women, HIV/AIDS and family condemnation. Anything beautiful on this planet takes time, and with time comes change. That’s why I’m launching the Happy Hippie Foundation — because every life is valuable and we should make sure those who question their value feel protected.
Art starts as a blank canvas and has to be painted on by someone with a vision to become a piece of art. We are our own canvases — we should be free to create anything we want our lives to be!
The Happy Hippie Foundation is encouraging people to be the artists of a picture of true freedom, freedom of self-expression… freedom to be true to themselves. The fight to be free isn’t over. We have to rally together and fight injustice. Being a happy hippie means making others happy, even those unlike yourself! Happy Hippie Foundation isn’t just focusing on one problem; I am young and there is so much to fight for, learn, and be passionate about. Homeless youth and young people experiencing the negative effects of being LGBT in our world today is an issue that is very common and extremely current. I am honored to be a part of this movement and living in a time to witness the revolution! Bruce Jenner spoke beautifully about using his platform and fame to DO GOOD and to make real change, and I want to do exactly that!
Change is what we need and what young people are counting on! Living a life untrue to who you really are makes life unbearable for human beings with feelings and emotions — like love, maybe the greatest one of them. Pointless judgment and its consequences are unfortunately way too common. All humans have valid feelings and rights!
No one should have to hide who they really are, no matter what his or her name, gender, status or orientation. That’s why happy hippies are here to say that every life is valuable and it is our mission to make sure those who question the value of themselves and their lives feel protected and loved by us… which they very much are.