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.]