• Living
  • Culture

5 Things We Learned from Miley’s Elle Interview

6 minute read

ELLE magazine asked 17 year-old blogger-journalist Tavi Gevinson to interview Miley Cyrus, 21, for their Women in Music cover story this month. Cyrus was excited to be interviewed by someone even younger than herself. “It’s kind of why I was excited for you to be interviewing me,” she told Gevinson. “I sit with a lot of old people that try to get me to explain culture. I’m like, ‘I don’t know how—you’re just not living in the same world I’m living in.'” And indeed Cyrus’s explanations for many of her more shocking behaviors (highights are below), can be summed up in that statement. Miley performs for herself and her teen fans and simply does not care if she offends old fogies (you know, 24-year-olds).

And yet ELLE magazine is not a teen magazine. According to its website, the median age of its readers is 36.4. In fact, I would venture to say that a large percentage of ELLE‘s readers are moms—the exact demographic which Cyrus says hates her most. Still, Cyrus refuses to be unapologetic and makes no overtures to parents. In fact at times during the conversation, she sounds even younger than her age thanks to some bombastic and often contrary statements on everything from sex, to race to feminism. If anything is to be learned from this interview it’s that in order to understand Miley, we have to get into a younger mindset because she doesn’t seem to have any plans to mature.

Here are five of her more eye-brow raising comments:

1. She says she’s not profiting from the Bangerz tour.

Honestly, like, I’m not making any money on this tour—I put all the money into the tour. My managers all think I’m bat-s*** crazy, but I think it’s good for me in the long run

2. She believes she’s guiding her fans through a sexual awakening…like the Beatles did for their fans

MC: When I was [on tour] in Vancouver and in Washington, it almost made me feel like I was the Beatles. Girls were throwing bras and underwear at me, and, like, totally turned out. And it’s funny because some people act like I’m pushing my fans away by what I do, but—

TG: They’re making the same discoveries.

MC: They’re going through it, yeah. When I do things that would get someone old to shake their head, my fans go ape shit. Like when we bend over or take our shirts off, we’re giving them that freedom. And that’s what rock ’n’ roll always was. Like, people snuck out to go see Joan Jett, and their mothers would be pissed. And I’m honored to be that girl that gets people out of their comfort zone. I tell a lot of people this, but I don’t give a f***.

3. She has struggled with depression.

MC: It’s totally okay to feel sad. I went through a time where I was really depressed. Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down. It was a lot to do with, like, I had really bad skin, and I felt really bullied because of that. But I never was depressed because of the way someone else made me feel, I just was depressed.

4. She believes black culture is everyone’s culture now.

MC: Somehow a lot of people thought I was exploiting black culture [during her performance at the VMAs with African-American backup dancers]. The reason why I hired those girls for the VMAs is because they’re not white, skinny girls—they’re healthy-looking girls. Like, moms—usually they hate me—but they come up and they’re like, “Thank you so much for having girls that look like my daughter dancing for you.” Those girls have danced together since they were six years old—I could never be like, “Hey, I’ve got to break you up ’cause it’s politically correct to throw a white bitch in here.” I was on the Disney Channel, where you need to make sure there’s, like, an Asian girl and a black girl and a Puerto Rican girl in every scene. And that isn’t life!..

A lot of people who have made those comments are older—they were living in a world that was more defined by color. Now that isn’t black culture—that’s just culture in general. That’s pop culture; that’s the way we dance. These pissed-off moms on the Internet—they don’t understand that when you go to a club now it’s not about being black or white or heavy or thick. I’m shaking my ass because I want to shake my ass, not ’cause “I’m dancing like a black girl!”

5. Miley’s interpretation of feminism is…confusing.

Some have had a hard time reconciling Cyrus’ actions (objectifying backup dancers, getting naked in “Wrecking Ball”) with her feminist declarations. But she has an explanation.

TG: I read that you consider yourself a feminist. What does that mean to you?

MC: I’m just about equality, period. It’s not like, I’m a woman, women should be in charge! I just want there to be equality for everybody.

TG: Right! And that’s what feminism is.

MC: I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all f***ing day and have hos around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman—I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.

Is she really a feminist? Is she broadening the definition of feminism to include objectification of “hot model bitches?” Or would that really mean using “hot model bastards?” These are just some of the questions that the feminist blogosphere will be chewing on for many months.


More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com