Former Disney star Miley Cyrus has grown up very quickly lately. The teen singer and actress previously shot to mega-stardom as the star of Hannah Montana. Back then ratings were high and Cyrus’s albums hit the top ten, with movies and multiple merchandising tie-ins. Miley was everywhere.
But as her recent MTV Video Awards performance can attest, those days are way over. With a close-cropped platinum ‘do, a barely-there outfit, and a wildly suggestive tongue, Miley sent a message: Hannah Montana no more.
Chat shows talked to experts and outraged parents about what happened to this teen idol. The truth? It’s not insanity, drugs, or child stardom gone awry. It’s a combination of savvy star and manager using an old PR concept: sex sells. Cyrus’s new song “Wrecking Ball” has Cyrus, naked, riding a wrecking ball while tonguing the chain in the video: woah. Result? Millions of views, morning shows full of talk, and a star laughing all the way to the bank.
THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Miley Cyrus. If the aim of one’s career is celebrity (rather than artistry), it matters less what people say than that they’re talking about you.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep it simple. There is never an easy way to go from teen sensation to twenty-something star; ask Justin Beieber. Cyrus cut to the chase with a series of drastic measures – chopping off her hair, dying it, and making provocative videos, which are the celebrity equivalent of sexy photos. In short, she’s doing everything her formerly teen audience is doing in their real lives. This awkward transition is less train wreck than well-orchestrated PR symphony.