To Whom It May Concern:
Your client, Miley Cyrus, is big. So big that I'd be willing to wager that the vast majority of 6-18 year olds in the United States know her name if not her face, and to many of them she's the ultimate celebrity, the epitome of teenage girldom, the star they would most like to meet, to dress like, to be. Ms. Cyrus is so big that I can't walk 10 feet into my daughter's elementary school without seeing her face on backpacks, notebooks, t-shirts, even paper plates and napkins for a first-grader's birthday cupcakes. Your client, Miley Cyrus, is everywhere. She's inescapable. And whether it be for her talent, her looks, or her enormously successful publicity machine, she's admired by millions of starry-eyed young girls who follow her every move on TV, in magazines and online.
But you already knew that.
What you apparently don't know is just who those millions of starry-eyed girls are. Do you know that they have brown skin and ivory skin and every shade in between? That they speak Spanish and English and Mandarin and Russian and Indian and Cantonese? That they have big eyes, small eyes, round eyes and almond-shaped eyes? Do you know that they think Miley Cyrus loves them because they love her? Because they watch her shows and go to her concerts and read her blogs. Because she says she loves her fans and they are her fans.
Or maybe you do know all of that and it simply doesn't matter. Maybe it doesn't matter that thousands of girls with almond shaped eyes who wish they could be just like Miley Cyrus have now seen their hero pull back the corners of her own eyes in a gesture they've seen before, on playgrounds, in classrooms, on school buses. A gesture they know means they're not like her, they're something different, something other, something less. And maybe it doesn't matter that thousands of other girls who wish they could be just like Miley have learned from their hero's own blog that such a gesture is "in no way...making fun of any ethnicity," and to be hurt or insulted by it is "trying to make something out of nothing." Maybe all that matters is that they watch her shows and listen to her mp3s and buy her backpacks and wear her t-shirts and eat off of her paper plates and wipe their mouths with her napkins.
Your client, Miley Cyrus, is only 16. Should she know better? Of course, but it's you, her public relations representatives, her managers, her "handlers," who should have made sure she did. Had you done your homework you would have given your client better media training, instructed her that cameras would be on her at all times, just waiting for moments exactly like this, instilled in her that with success and fame comes great responsibility to her fans, like it or not. If you cared about anything but your client's paycheck, and your own, you would have thought about those fans the moment the now infamous photo turned up on the internet. You would have explained to Ms. Cyrus that what she did belittled the very girls who have made her huge and insisted on a heart-felt and immediate apology. Had you thought beyond the deals and dollar signs, you would have told your star that her fans who were offended are not making something out of nothing and that to say that they are is to insult them even more.
A week after the photos of Miley's eye-pulling gesture were leaked, I'm heartened to read a more recent blog post in which she claims to have "learned a valuable lesson" about the effects of her actions. Better late than never, I suppose. Will the lesson stick? We'll have to wait and see. The lesson her fans with almond-shaped eyes have learned won't be soon forgotten.
Board of Directors, Families With Children From China of Greater New York
Follow Deborah Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/debann2000