The singer looked back on the biggest moments, milestones and controversies of her life and career in the spotlight
Inspired by her new single "Used to Be Young," Miley Cyrus looked back on her 30 years of life in a series of TikTok clips. She reviewed some of her earliest career milestones — like nabbing the lead role in Hannah Montana and sharing the stage with her dad — and some more personal moments, including her split from Liam Hemsworth.
As the singer made her way through her youth, adolescence and adulthood, Cyrus got candid about some of the more scandalous, surprising and memorable moments to date. From her flirtatious encounter with Ariana Grande to the backstory behind her topless Vanity Fair photoshoot, read all of the biggest reveals from Cyrus' video retrospective.
She Performed on the Day She Decided to Split from Liam Hemsworth
Well into her TikTok series, Cyrus said she needed to "slow down" to discuss something a bit more serious: her divorce from Liam Hemsworth. The singer-songwriter candidly explained how she made the decision to end their marriage on the day she performed at Glastonbury music festival in 2019.
"That was another moment where the work, the performance, the character came first,” she noted. “I guess that’s why it’s now so important to me for that not to be the case — that the human comes first.”
Her Decision to Marry Liam Came from a Place of Love — and 'Trauma'
While elaborating on the reasons she decided to end her marriage in the same TikTok, Cyrus pointed to the fact that the couple's Malibu home had burned down in November 2018, which caused the two to decide to take their relationship to the next level the following month — perhaps before they were ready.
“Me and Liam’s commitment to being married, of course came from a place of love first because we had been together for 10 years, but also from a place of trauma and just trying to rebuild as quickly as we could,” Cyrus said.
She 'Didn't Make a Dime' From Her 'Bangerz' Tour
Cyrus revealed that she fully funded her 2014 Bangerz Tour as "an investment in [herself]." She said that due to the "outlandish" nature of her ideas, people were hesitant to support her in performing the album around the world.
"I didn’t make a dime on this tour because I wanted the tour to be excellent," she says in the clip. "When everyone kept saying, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re going to do like 100 shows and not going to make any money.’ I said, ‘There’s no one I would rather invest in than myself.’ So I paid for it all to make it exactly what I thought I and the fans deserved.”
She Flirted with Ariana Grande in 2015
Cyrus made some cheeky commentary while reviewing a clip of her and Ariana Grande covering Crowded House's 1986 classic "Don't Dream It's Over" in 2015.
"This is as serious as it can be, me and Ariana Grande performing in onesies in the backyard," Cyrus said while revisiting their performance, which has over 114 million YouTube views, for the TikTok clip. She added playfully, "I was flirting with her, and she was a little scared."
The former Hannah Montana star continued on to praise her fellow singer: "Ariana's a real friend. There's never been a time where I've asked her to do something that was important to me that she didn't come through, and same thing for me with her," she said.
That Wasn't a Stripper Pole at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards
Cyrus faced some harsh criticism after her performance of "Party in the U.S.A." at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, with some criticizing her use of a "stripper pole" on stage as a 16-year-old. Nearly a decade and a half later, the singer set the record straight with her "Used to Be Young" video series: the pole wasn't a stripper pole at all. It was only there to provide stability for Cyrus as she danced atop an ice cream cart in high heels.
She Was Unaware of Sinead O'Connor's 'Fragile Mental State' During Their Feud
The "Flowers" singer looked back on her "Wrecking Ball" music video from 2013 and the backlash she received from fellow artists, namely Sinead O'Connor. At the time, late artist wrote an open letter expressing her concerns about Cyrus being "pimped" by the music industry. The then-20-year-old pop star responded by making fun of O'Connor on social media.
Looking back, Cyrus views her actions as a result of immaturity: "I had no idea about the fragile mental state that she was in," she said on TikTok. "And I was also only 20 years old. So I could really only wrap my head around mental illness so much."
She continued, "All that I saw was that another woman had told me that this idea was not my idea, and even if I was convinced that it was, it was still just men in power’s idea of me and they had manipulated me to believe that it was my own idea when it never really was. And it was. And it is. And I still love it."
Her 'Vanity Fair' Photoshoot Was Controversial — but She Stands By It
As Cyrus said in her retrospective, "everyone knows the controversy" that followed her topless photoshoot for Vanity Fair in 2008. But Cyrus defended the moment for what it meant to her — and had the support of her family on set.
One of her most notable memories from the experience was wearing red lipstick for the first time. "Pati Dubroff, who did my makeup, thought that that would be another element that would divide me from Hannah Montana," Cyrus recalled in the clip. "This image of me is a complete opposite of the bubblegum pop star that I had been known for being and that’s what was so upsetting [to others].”
And despite the scandalized public reaction that followed, Cyrus shared a more wholesome side of the experience. “My little sister, Noah, was sitting on Annie [Leibovitz]'s lap and actually pushing the button of the camera, taking the pictures. My family was on set." she said.
Her 'Black Mirror' Performance Later Caused Her Anxiety Attacks
According to Cyrus, she filmed a traumatic Black Mirror scene in South Africa at the same time her Malibu house was burning down. In a climactic moment from the episode, Cyrus' character is strapped down to a gurney hysterically begging someone not to inject her with a mysterious liquid drug.
"Two or three years later after this happened, I didn’t understand, but I had this anxiety attack with a vision attached where I was strapped down to a gurney. I would have these dreams any time I would go to perform, and I thought that was just an anxious vision that made no sense," she said, noting that she later made the connection between her real-life trauma and the scripted trauma seen on-screen.
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