90s kids had the best of both worlds – classic cartoons (‘Digimon’, ‘Street Fighter’, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’) and the most iconic sitcoms (‘Lizzie McGuire’, ‘Drake and Josh, ‘The Suite Life of Zack & Cody’). But from 2006 to 2011, Disney enthralled tweens with the fascinating double life of a regular teenage girl by day, mega-superstar by night, ‘Hannah Montana’. ‘Miley Stewart’s’ everyday struggles to cope with the social and personal issues of tweendom were relatable even if the complexities of her having to maintain her secret identity (all the while hidden with a blonde wig à la Clark Kent with glasses) were not. But the show was a commercial hit, with Miley Ray Cyrus soon finding her face plastered across the bedrooms of tween girls. Her time on the show may have brought her to the forefront of fame in the 2000s but it was a difficult time for the then 14-year-old. Cyrus, now 28, shared on Spotify’s ‘Rock This with Allison Hagendorf’ podcast recently that the show had more of a toll on her identity than it should have. She said of playing the iconic role:
“Talk about an identity crisis,”
View this post on Instagram
Cyrus said that she found herself playing Miley Stewart almost as much as she had time to be herself, and because of the concept of the show, it made her feel lesser when she was herself.
“Actually, the concept of the show is that when you’re this character, when you have this alter ego, you’re valuable. You’ve got, like, millions of fans, you’re the biggest star in the world, and then the concept was that when I looked like myself, when I didn’t have the wig on anymore, no one cared about me, I wasn’t a star anymore.”
Unfortunately, being that young and valuable as an asset to the company – the show quickly ranked among the highest-rated series and led to Cyrus going on tours and releasing albums as her character – she had to make a conscious decision “to break that” idea that nobody valued her when she wasn’t Hannah Montana. This lent to her desire to distance herself and differentiate from her Disney character. In 2009, Cyrus was seen incorporating a seductive pole dance into her Teen Choice Awards performance. In 2010, she released two controversial music videos for her songs “Can’t Be Tamed” and “Who Owns My Heart”. In 2013, she famously twerked on Robin Thicke at the VMAs.
“I never created a character where it wasn’t me, but I was aware of how people saw me, and I kind of played into it a little bit. Like when I noticed that people gave a shit that I would stick my tongue out. When they told me, stop sticking your f****** tongue out, I would do it more.”
View this post on Instagram
However, in December 2020, the ‘Plastic Hearts’ hitmaker has evolved in her relationship with the character, having once “felt like I was never going to amount to the success of Hannah Montana”. Instead, she’s come to terms with the fact that Hannah was Miley as much as Miley was Hannah. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Cyrus brought up how Hannah Montana inspired Lil Nas X and Troy Sivan and how that helped her accept that part of her life:
“Really, Hannah Montana was not a character. The concept of the show, it’s me. I’ve had to really come to terms with that and not be third-person about it. When my peers are having these experiences and accepting themselves because of something that I demonstrated while they were a kid, that’s when I go, ‘S***, I f****** am Hannah Montana,”
*Cover image credits: Instagram / @mileycyrus