On Tuesday, Miley Cyrus took back the apology she issued after her June 2008 photoshoot with Vanity Fair, which showed the then-15-year-old as seemingly topless under a blanket. Ten years ago, the photo elicited a flurry of controversy that, in retrospect, has not aged well. It's hard to believe that had the photo been released now the public would have treated it with the same kind of disdain.
"A lot of things have changed and I think the conversation has changed a lot," Cyrus told Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night. This change is good and necessary, of course, because women are no longer encouraged to be ashamed of their bodies, or immediately sexualized whenever they wear something that shows their midriff. It's people like Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski who we have to thank for these changing morals, but we can't leave behind the women like Cyrus who fell victim to the shaming because it happened to occur on the wrong side of the revolution.
"Sexualizing Miley: Are Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus Letting Her Be The New Lolita?" one headline read following the release of the Vanity Fair pictures. "The Miley Cyrus Pics: Damage Control" Time Magazine wrote. The New York Daily News described the photos, in which Cyrus' shoulder is showing, as "R-Rated." This backlash, laughable now, mounted into such a thing that Cyrus told Kimmel that she was basically instructed to apologize.
"My goal in my music and my acting is always to make people happy," she told People Magazine that year. "For Vanity Fair, I was so honored and thrilled to work with Annie [Leibovitz]. I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed."
Now, however, she's singing a different tune — and she should. The shoot itself was tasteful and innocuous, and "it was everyone else's poisonous thoughts and minds that ended up turning this into something it wasn't meant to be," she said.
It wouldn't be crazy to assume that moment in her career ended up informing the transformation she went through the following years.
"So they wanna know why I come on TV shows with no shirt on," she told Kimmel. "Blame them."
Cyrus began deliberately toying with the taboo, going on to do much more than just show her shoulder, including her suggestive performance with Robin Thicke at the 2013 VMAs. She was loud and brash and sometimes problematic, but one thing she wasn't was sorry.
"For me, being a role model has been my free-spiritedness and sometimes my unapologetic attitude for decisions that I feel comfortable with," she told Kimmel.
While we can't go back in time, we can hope that Cyrus' revelation can open up the door for apologies that are overdue for the many other women who were punished over the years for behavior that society hadn't caught up to yet — and let's hope that ten years from now, we won't be making the same reparations.
Watch the full clip below.