The star of Disney’s tween hit Hannah Montana has issued a public apology over photographs that appear alongside an interview she granted to Vanity Fair.

Miley Cyrus, the 15 year-old daughter of C&W singer Billy Ray Cyrus, is pictured in various poses as part of the magazine spread.

The photographs by Annie Leibovitz that have caused most consternation show her apparently topless and wrapped in a blanket.

The teenager’s apology is for “letting herself, her family and her fans down” and she states: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed.”

The might of Disney has also weighed in to protect their teenage star and have accused the magazine of trying to manipulate Miley Cyrus in order to sell more magazines.

Vanity Fair has countered by pointing out: “Miley’s parents and/or minders were on the set all day. Since the photo was taken digitally, they saw it on the shoot and everyone thought it was a beautiful and natural portrait of Miley.”

It does seem odd that in these times of slick PR machines, both Miley’s own and the mighty Disney operation, such an apparent gaffe has been allowed to slip through so easily.

The impression we always get – and I’ve experienced to a lesser extent – is of PR people always buzzing around such interviews and photo-shoots and jumping in at regular intervals at what they consider to be “sensitive issues”. More often than not, the star being protected by such a machine gets just as frustrated as the interviewer and photographer.

But it has become accepted practice and with an important and lucrative tween brand like Hannah Montana, I’m surprised all the cogs and wheels of the PR machine were not whizzing around in top gear.

That is why I have very little sympathy for Miley herself – and absolutely none for Disney who have singularly failed to protect one of its most billable stars. Who exactly is manipulating who in this story?

But there is a bigger and more worrying issue at stake and it doesn’t mean Vanity Fair are off the hook.

Is it right for a 15 year-old – any 15 year-old, not just such a global star – to be photographed in such a way?

The sexualisation of children starts at a much earlier age now than ever before. Many of Hannah Montana’s fans are much younger than 15, so this is not the sort of image we should be exposing them to.

These fans might not be avid Vanity Fair readers, but generally they are much more computer literate than their parents and so will have no trouble tracking down the interview and photographs of their favourite star online.

Children these days are already being bombarded by mixed messages over body image and Vanity Fair’s decision to publish these photographs of a 15 year-old girl add another new, unhealthy dimension to the issue.

The fact that Miley’s “people” were apparently in favour of the shots is another unpleasant twist.

No-one comes out of this story favourably.

[Edit: Childline's latest figures showing up to 50 calls a day are coming from 12 year-olds asking for advice on sex adds a sobering twist to this story.]

17 responses »

  1. Ursula says:

    You raised an issue which gets me hopping mad. On one hand today’s children are made paranoid by being told not to speak to “strangers”, on the other, mothers dress their under ten year old daughters like a sexy mini version of themselves, on the prowl to pull.

    As to that photoshoot, I haven’t seen the photos neither have I heard of the girl involved, but her parents really need to examine their motives. It’s not the girl who should apologize. She is no Lolita – her exposure being orchestrated by the adults in her life.

    Leibovitz is a great photographer and Vanity Fair has been groundbreaking in many respects; however, I believe that we need to take moral responsibility in what we depict. That old chestnut “artistic” does not give licence.

    U

  2. [...] Vanity Fair and Hannah Montana The star of Disney’s tween hit Hannah Montana has issued a public apology over photographs that appear alongside [...] [...]

  3. lifeoutside says:

    Honestly, the pictures aren’t a big deal, she’s showing her shoulders! What is the harm? Plus she was photograhed by the famed respectable artist Leibovitz.

  4. Teen Quiz says:

    I personally believe Disney took part in this publicity twizzle, as well as all of the other parties mentioned. After all of the years of Disney’s models going berserk, they have came to the conclusion that if an artist steps out they just downplay it as an accident and that everything is okay.

  5. Paul Groves says:

    lifeoutside: They are harmless photographs, if the subject was an adult.
    The pose, the make-up, the lighting, her expression are all a big deal and the reputation of the photographer makes this worse. Miley Cyrus is a 15 year-old girl and the message being sent out is an obvious sexual one – whether the person viewing them is a 10 year-old Hannah Montana fan or an adult seeking some other gratification.
    The positioning of the Miley photographs on the website, alongside a preview of the Madonna interview – in which she is naked, draped in a blanket and sprawled on a bed – is also less than subtle.

    Teen Quiz: As I said in the post, I’m not sure who is manipulating who in this story.

  6. Ramble On says:

    My girl is only eleven and she adores Miley. All this time I thought that Miley would be the best role model but with the latest pictures of her, I doubt that. And what were her parents thinking when they were there all along during the photo-shot?

  7. raincoaster says:

    She’s not just showing her shoulders. She is NOT wearing a top, she’s holding rumpled bedsheets to her naked chest. Honestly, she looks like she just finished shooting the Story of O.

    Annie Leibovitz has gotten in trouble before for the overt sexualization of women; her Hollywood VF covers of women are lingerie or swimsuit-clad, or less. Her male coverboys are always clothed. Annie has…issues.

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  9. wendytatum says:

    Well there goes the last viable role model for young girls. My nine year old daughter adores her and I never minded because she has always displayed morals and has never taken herself too seriously. Now what? We subscribe to VF and will hide the mag as soon as it shows up in the mailbox, but my kid will still hear about all the hype at school, on the news or newsstands. Just like she did when Brit’s sis got preggers. It is getting harder and harder to shield them from issues they are not yet mature enough to process. Whether you think the photos are sexual or not (and they are, who sleeps in that much eye make-up?) our kids are still going to hear about the “sexual nature” of the photos and associate Miley with such, all while they continue to worship her.

  10. rachelcartwright1995 says:

    even though i’m 13 years old, i don’t like Miley Cyrus!
    i don’t like Hannah Montana b-cos dat show is 2 baby-ish 4 me. but Miley, NAKED! EWWW, PLZZ can she give it a rest cuz we Guys don’t want 2 c her any more!
    P.S: i’m into GANGSTA RAP, not puny pop music ya kno!

  11. lwayswright says:

    I feel like the media is trying really hard to find anything and everything they can to make miley cyrus one of “those” teenagers who have gone the wrong way. The continue to show pictures of her simply having fun with her friends but trying to make those pictures seem wrong and dirty, even a picture of her eating McDonald’s french frys was turned into a media frenzy of horror. When did it become a crime for a 14 or 15 year old to eat french fries??? Pictures of her sitting witha boy with his arm around her was scandoulous. For pete’s sake. I, personally, wouldn’t have wanted the picture of my daughter to be like the one in vanity fair. However, I have seen teenagers in lifetime movies, or even regular movies, doing love scenes, kissing scenes, cussing etc, that is much worse then that one picture and no one says anything about that cuz it is just “acting”. What about all those TV shows like Beverly hills 90210 that depicts highschool kids no older then miley cyrus having sex? Or the OC, again about high school kids having sex? There are teenage rappers that use language in their music that is so inappropriate it makes me ill…what about that?? Or is that okay cuz it’s for the sake of music? She had more on her body in that picture then she would have on the beach. Let’s face it, she had more on her body then most girls have on when they go to school in the morning. Let’s keep our focus on the truly important things people! I think we’re losing focus and dropping the ball a bit! Just my opinion.

  12. Paul Groves says:

    rambleon and raincoaster: Thanks for the comments.

    wendytatum: Role models don’t have to be TV-based, but I guess these days peer pressure and celeb-obsession point towards the hundreds of channels we’re now exposed to.

    rachelcartwright1995: I’m honoured.

    lwayswright: I’m not trying to point the finger at the 15 year-old girl in this story, rather the so-called responsible adults that buzz around her supposedly protecting the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus brands (the fact a 15 year-old is a global brand is depressing enough). I agree that there are countless other examples and the sexualisation of children is nothing new, but it is seemingly starting much younger these days. The fact that so many of Hannah Montana’s fans are a good deal younger than 15 is especially worrying. This is the latest and most high-profile example of a damaging trend – that is why I am focused on this particular important issue and all the others we’re facing too.

  13. Ursula says:

    wendytatum: The issue is not “role models”.; anyway, role model for what exactly?

    There is nothing wrong with sex. We are all sexual beings from the beginning, slowly, steadily growing into our sexuality. It’s hardly as if one moment you are a five year old playing with a barbie doll and then emerge as a fully fledged butterfly at 18.

    The contention over the photos is how adults exploit children for their own gratification (under the label “artistic”); children and teenagers are hardly the target market (and don’t hide the next VF when it hits your doormat. Listen to your daughter’s take on anything she sees on those pages, and give your own view – not in parental tones just as a woman).

    As I know from a reliable source (my own sixteen year old son) it is astonishing what goes on in the world of, say, myspace. Girls, as young as 14,15, baring their all in front of a webcam to complete strangers. But that is their choice, if somewhat misguided, rather than being coaxed into it by parents, a famous photographer and the picture editor to sell a magazine.

    rachelcartwright: I speak several languages but I yet have to crack texting; not that I am putting much effort into it.

    U

  14. Paul Groves says:

    Ursula: Thanks, as always. May I suggest you travel to rachelcartwright’s blog for a crash course in txt spk, it could be illuminating or depressing.

  15. wendytatum says:

    I obviously should not have used the term “role model.” I simply meant someone she identifies with as a young girl. Fortunately she is an avid reader and TV excess is never an issue. As far as the subject of sexuality goes we are open and honest. As a matter of fact we discussed the photos and all is well. My daughter did note that she looked like she didn’t feel well. I guess I over reacted. I guess everyone did. If hype is what they wanted, they got it.

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