How Miley Cyrus turned getting cancelled into her personal brand.

Miley Cyrus is having a moment.

The former child star just won her first Grammy, which then turned into her second Grammy, with Cyrus picking up both the Best Pop Solo Performance and the prestigious Best Record of the Year for her hit song 'Flowers'

She also had quite the evening, rocking up in a bedazzled gold dress with a Bridget Jones blowout, giving a high-energy (and rather rogue) performance of 'Flowers', and telling the crowd she 'forgot to wear underwear' as she accepted one of the 2024 Grammys biggest awards.  

In previous years, Cyrus' chaotic antics may have induced eye-rolls from onlookers. But the thing is, Miley is passed the point of drawing outrage from people; she's been cancelled so many times, it's now part of her brand. 

Cyrus' first controversy came in 2008 when a controversial Annie Leibovitz photoshoot featuring the then-15-year-old draped in a bedsheet appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. 

Following swift backlash over the sexualisation of the underage Hannah Montana star, she released an apology. "I feel so embarrassed," she said in a statement at the time. "I never intended for any of this to happen, and I apologise to my fans, who I care so deeply about."


In recent years, Cyrus has taken back any apologies she made as a teenager. In a 2018 tweet, Cyrus posted "I’M NOT SORRY… F**K YOU."

She has since played down whether it was inappropriate to have a topless teenager wrapped in a bedsheet covering a magazine marketed to adults. "Everybody knows the controversy of the photo, but they don’t really know the behind-the-scenes, which is always much more meaningful," she said recently in her 'Used To Be Young' series on TikTok.

"Really, really brilliant choices looking back now from those people."

Then in 2010, the Disney star was photographed smoking from a bong. TMZ posted a leaked video of Cyrus laughing along as she inhaled the psychedelic herb salvia from a bong, telling her friend she was "having a little bit of a bad trip." 


Given the child actor's squeaky-clean reputation at the time, this was her biggest scandal to date. "I'm not perfect," Cyrus told Marie Claire at the time. "I'm disappointed in myself for disappointing my fans."

These two early incidents, while the singer was still a teen, would mark the beginning of Cyrus' brand being flipped in the coming years as the pop star became a vocal advocate for marijuana and sex positivity. 

Off the back of kid-friendly singles in the mid-noughties, Cyrus reigned in a new era with her Can't Be Tamed album in 2010, a noticeable shift towards a sexier image. 

This was only the beginning — in 2013, she would release her most contentious album to date: Bangers. 

The record was made all the more divisive due to Cyrus' performance of the lead single 'We Can't Stop' at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. 

Dressed in a flesh-toned latex two-piece, Cyrus rubbed an oversized foam finger against her crotch before wagging her tongue and twerking on a then-36-year-old Robin Thick, who at the time was riding his own wave of controversy from his misogynistic 'Blurred Lines' song. 

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform at the 2013 MTV VMAs. Image: Getty. 


The performance left people stunned, with shots of the VMAs audience showing celebrities like Rihanna looking confused. Back in 2013, most of the blame was laid on Cyrus, despite the fact she was much younger and less experienced than Thicke.

However, there were still moments in the performance that drew ire even before Thicke entered the equation. Cyrus' newfound Bangers aesthetic hinged entirely on appropriating Black culture, with the pop star surrounded by four plus-size Black dancers at the VMAs. In the music video for 'We Can’t Stop', Cyrus sported gold grills, a bandana and acrylic nails, as a group of Black dancers twerked around her.

The controversies continued when Cyrus released the music video for the second single 'Wrecking Ball' which was directed by Terry Richardson, despite the director having been accused of sexually assaulting models.


Considering 'Wrecking Ball' was her most intimate music video to date, as she swung on a literal wrecking ball in her underwear, the choice to hire Richardson felt particularly misguided — if not intentionally provocative. 

By the end of 2013, Miley's metamorphosis was complete as she lit up a blunt on stage while hosting the MTV Europe Music Awards in November. RIP Hannah Montana, the new Miley Cyrus has arrived. 

Miley's controversies mostly worked in her favour — something not always afforded to her non-white counterparts. Despite the reviews for Bangers being mixed, the album proved to be one the singer's biggest hits while 'We Can't Stop' and 'Wrecking Ball' would become two of the singer's best-selling and most-streamed songs to date. 

But then she started giving interviews that spoke volumes about her view of Black music and entertainers. Cyrus got involved in an infamous beef with Nicki Minaj over the nominations for the 2015 Video Music Awards, an award show that she hosted.

Miley Cyrus arrives to host the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. Image: Getty. 


Minaj had tweeted her disappointment with her song 'Anaconda' and her collab with Beyonce 'Feeling Myself' being left out of several categories, including Video Of The Year. 

"If I was a different 'kind' of an artist, 'Anaconda' would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well. When the 'other' girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination," she wrote. 

"If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for Video Of The Year."

While Minaj didn't call out anyone specifically, fans assumed she was referring to Taylor Swift's 'Bad Blood' video, which did go on to win the category and featured 'slim' supermodels, Gigi Hadid, Martha Hunt and Cara Delevingne.


However, Minaj and Swift quashed any claims of any beef by performing a duet at the awards.  

Miley did not hold back in her views on Minaj's comments. "What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite, I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love," she told the New York Times.

"You made it about you. Not to sound like a b***h, but that's like, 'Eh, I didn't get my VMA'. It's not anger like, 'Guys, I'm frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.' If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that but don’t make it just about yourself."

Miley's comments were dragged online. The way she instructed Minaj to speak was considered tone-policing and ignorant to the wider issues around historic racial prejudice in the music industry.

And Minaj was not having it. When she won the Best Hip-Hop Video for 'Anaconda', she turned to the host and said "Now, back to this b**ch who had a lot to say about me the other day in the press," she seethed. 

"Miley, what's good."

Nicki Minaj calls out Miley Cyrus as she accepts award for Best Hip-Hop Video. Image: Getty. 


A shaky Miley could only offer back "Hey, we're all in this industry. We all do interviews and we all know how they manipulate s**t. Nicki, congrats-f**kinlations."

After the awards, Minaj opened up to the New York Times about Cyrus' comments. "You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important? Come on, you can’t want the good without the bad," she said. 

"If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that."


In 2017, Miley claimed in a Billboard interview that she’d been “pushed out” of the hip-hop scene after Bangers. “I can’t listen to that anymore," she said.

"It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’ – I am so not that.” 

Her remarks sparked backlash which she eventually addressed in a 2019 comment for a YouTube video called 'Miley Cyrus Is My Problematic Fave… Sorry'. She wrote back, "I want to start with saying I am sorry. I own the fact that saying ‘this pushed me out of the hip hop scene a little’ was insensitive," she wrote. 

"Simply said; I fucked up and I sincerely apologise."

But like earlier cancellations, the controversies only appeared to strengthen the pop star's influence. She released a loving dedication to her then-husband Liam Hemsworth with 2017's 'Malibu' and then bounced back post-divorce with the breakup song 'Slide Away' in 2019. 

WATCH: Miley Cyrus discusses the stigma of divorce. Post continues after video.

Video via Sirius. 

By 2021, Miley's reputation as the most cancelled artist became so universally accepted that she released cancellation merch. “MILEY IS CANCELED!!!!” posted the singer, alongside images of a tracksuit that reads “Miley is cancelled" and track pants with the slogan “F*** Miley Cyrus”.


Cyrus stitched her many cancellations into a shield of armour — as a result, she's become impenetrable. 

In the following years, Cyrus has released consistent music and is bigger than ever with her 2023 hit 'Flowers' hitting number one on charts around the world and securing herself two Grammys. 

This doesn't mean she plans to tour. In 2023, Cyrus revealed she simply "can't" do live shows anymore. 

"After the last [headline arena] show I did [in 2014], I kind of looked at it as more of a question. And I can't," she told British Vogue.

"Like singing for hundreds of thousands of people isn't really the thing that I love... There's no connection. There's no safety."

If another artist declared they had zero interest in performing in the future, this would be met with disillusionment from fans — Swiftes would actually start an uprising — but the news was circulated with only mild outrage. 

Miley built her brand around getting cancelled so this is just the deal she's struck with her loyal fans (the Smilers), who will still buy her music in droves. 

As the singer crooned in her first hit single 'See You Again, the pop star can't help it — "she's just being Miley."

Feature image: Getty. 

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