Mining the Headlines

Dishing about the legal and psychological implications of the day's news

Advice to Miley Cyrus

An Over-the-Top Cry for Help?

It’s been over a week since Miley Cyrus gave the world something to talk about with her super-sized sexual performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Cyrus seemed desperate to shock, stripping to her underwear, grinding against a big foam finger (and duet partner Robin Thicke), and twerking with giant teddy bears. Judging from audience reaction and the resulting flood of press, commentary, and social media buzz, she succeeded in getting what seems like much-needed attention.

Granted, the MTV Video Music Awards have historically been the place to push the envelope and “make history” with over-the-top stunts, but the overwhelming majority of people who have weighed in on the ex-Disney channel star’s performance, many of them performers themselves, seem to think that Miley’s gross display was a bid for attention, and maybe a sign of emotional trouble.

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From my perspective as a health and wellness expert, I would agree that Miley’s performance is a not-very-well-disguised cry for help. There’s some evidence that she’s dealing with some tough transitions, which might be behind that attention-seeking behavior.

 

Not daddy’s little girl any more?

Is it a coincidence that the Sunday of the VMA awards was also Billy Ray Cyrus’ 52nd birthday? Ironically, Billy Ray sits on the advisory board of the Parents Television Council, a group that has been really critical of the MTV award show and Miley’s performance. Billy Ray Cyrus volunteers his time to support the Council in its mission to “protect children from graphic and gratuitous programming and to restore responsibility to the entertainment industry.”  Although he has made it clear that he supports his daughter, and says that he “loves her unconditionally,” he has to be feeling a little awkward vis-à-vis the PTC.

 

Goodbye Hannah Montana!

Miley isn't the first person to struggle with the transition from squeaky-clean child star to young adult actor or pop star.  Just a few days before Miley’s performance, Lee Thompson Young, who’d starred in the Disney Channel’s “The Famous Jett Jackson,” committed suicide at the age of 29.  Former Nickelodian actress Amanda Bynes has been in and out of jail and rehab, and there are many others in the same group who have fallen prey to drugs, alcohol, depression, and suicide.  Child celebrities, who achieved fame at a young age, have to work hard to stay in the public eye—and sometimes get there with illegal or antisocial behavior.

 

Life out of Balance?

Depending on what interview you read, Miley is either downplaying her actions, or lamenting her messed up life. “I don’t have a normal life," Cyrus recently told a London paper, "I take a hiatus every now and again, but I’m not good at that.” She also says that she rarely sleeps or takes time off, explaining “All I do is work, so I eat to live and to keep going.”  That lack of a normal life balance might be taking a toll, even this early and I speak from experience: I had cancer at 25, and I know it was the result of burying my emotions and running from them 24/7.

If Miley Cyrus wants to avoid crashing and burning like so many child stars before her, here’s the advice I’d give her. I hope she’s listening:

  • Figure out what your purpose in life is. If that’s dancing with giant teddy bears, fine, but don’t feel like you have to push the envelope or shock everyone in the room to be a viable entertainer. 
  • Take some time off, and get some sleep. Going without sleep can cause a whole host of mental and physical problems, and can even impair your judgment. While you’re at it, embrace healthy eating and exercise.
  • Deal with any untapped emotions. Show biz kids usually don’t have “normal” childhoods, so take some time to get in touch with your feelings with a trusted coach or therapist. 

There are so many benefits to fame, but it can be tough to handle, especially when it comes at a young age.  More often than not, child stars don’t make the transition gracefully and wind up struggling with their inner demons as they get older.  My latest book, Entangled in Darkness: Seeking the Light, deals with how to recognize and overcome darkness and live in the light. http://www.amazon.com/Entangled-Darkness-Seeking-Deborah-King/dp/...

It would be a great choice for anyone in circumstances like Miley’s!

Deborah King, New York Times best-selling health & wellness author, speaker, and attorney.

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