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Is Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair Issue a Repeat of Brooke Shields in the 80's?


Yesterday I got into a discussion with a good friend who said he believes Miley's parents are in on the "artistic prostituting" of their daughter. That conversation got me thinking back to the 1980's.

My friend made some excellent points.

He said Disney owns the Hannah brand, her parents are making the decisions for her, they are in on the whole fake "I'm embarrassed" plea, and asked the question: Who had access to the raciest photos, the ones she took herself in her boy short panties in the bathroom and on a bed, and leaked them to the media? He thinks it is all one big fat PR stunt with the parents in the "pimpin'" driver's seat. Could he be right?

Before Britney and Lindsay and Miley, there was beautiful, thick browed, 15 year-old Brooke Shields. She was over exposed and exploited in Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon and her sexy innuendo-packed Calvin Klein ads caused quite a similar ruckus in the 80s.

I remember the cover of People magazine vividly: Brooke and her co-star in The Blue Lagoon in nothing but loincloths, Brooke with only her long hair covering her breasts, and holding each other tight. The picture, and even more so some scenes in the movie, was very sexual. And what about that oh so famous picture of her in Calvin Klein Jeans with her top unbuttoned that was the talk of the town back then? Claims that her mom, Teri, was behind the sexing up of her image and career were rampant.

But Shields, and I am hoping Cyrus, had more to offer than the persona or brand crafted by the adults around her. Brooke went on to graduate from Princeton in 1987 and headlined her own critically applauded NBC sitcom, Suddenly Susan. She has two beautiful children, appeared on Entourage and Nip/Tuck, and is now on a hit show that I watch on NBC -- Candace Bushnell's (author of Sex and the City) Lipstick Jungle. The optimist in me wants to believe that Miley can take the bull by the horns, find her voice and turn this into a very positive learning experience and share that with others, particularly young girls who have no idea what a PR Machine (no, it isn't a new gaming device like Wii) is.

I am not trying to rationalize what is going on with Miley. As a parent of a 15 year-old daughter myself, like I said before, I am scratching my head at it all. And in the car on the way to school this morning when we heard Miley mentioned on the radio, my daughter said, "Mom. It seems like fame got to her. She isn't a good role model anymore. She is doing all this stuff when her biggest fans are like 10 years-old and even if she wanted people our age to like her more, that isn't the way to do it. "

My daughter isn't perfect by any stretch and is at the stage, as I am sure Miley is, of self-discovering her blossoming body, boy crazy and eyeballing more revealing clothes in the stores. I just had to put the brakes on an outfit choice at Tilly's last night due to it being more like a long shirt and less like a dress. She is even like most other budding teens with a camera taking pictures of herself and her friends like crazy. But it was good to hear her say that she thinks Miley, or her "handlers," have taken her image too far into the saucy side too fast and told me the "whole underwear thing is pretty trashy and seems kinda desperate."

Did Miley's fame get to her in a negative way? Is this a big PR stunt to get Miley out of the tween zone and launch her into a more mature audience with the old shock factor approach? I don't know. But I do know that teen girls, famous or not, are feeling the pressure of just how sexual everything has become in society these days. Being "attractive" or "pretty" has been replaced by being "hot" and "sexy" and in my opinion, it isn't healthy to have that mindset at age 15.

Miley is faced with another choice right now and is at one of those very definitive forks in the road. She can go one way in the direction of Lindsay-type disaster or, like Brooke Shields, choose the direction that will stop the speeding train before it jumps completely off the track. If she truly was uncomfortable at the photo shoot she can become a spokesperson and share with young girls the importance of self-esteem and how to use your voice when you are asked to do anything, even by your parents, that makes you uncomfortable about yourself, your body and the message you are sending out into the world. And if the pictures she took of herself were her expressing normal teen curiosity about her body and never meant to be shared, she can attest to the dangers of taking such pictures and posting inappropriate content online or in text messages. Bottom line: She, and her parents, have to cop to the mistakes, be honest and grow in a more positive direction in order to stop the train from derailing.

And what about the long term effects? I think Miley could learn a thing or two from Brooke and wonder if Brooke, in hindsight, can or has traced back any of her much publicized mental health struggles with what happened when she was 15 and standing in the limelight in a loincloth? Let's go a bit deeper into the issue and talk about the possible long-term effects of these choices. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I know personally how childhood trauma (physical, verbal or emotional) can show up in adult life in the form of a mental health disorder.

I hope we all will take a moment to learn more and seek to understand the reality of Depression (including Postpartum), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other terrifying mental health disorders among youth and adult survivors of domestic violence, violent crime, child abuse, trauma, and other causes.

For more information, visit www.michelle-renee.com or www.nmha.org