An Open Letter to Miley Cyrus After Her Performance on the 2013 MTV VMAs

Dear Miley Cyrus,

I understand that you are legally an adult now, and want to sow your oats/express yourself/get in touch with your sexuality in a public forum to become more memorable as an artist.


I have the pressing need to tell you that you absolutely do not have to finger yourself with a foam #1 onstage while wearing flesh-toned latex underwear to be memorable.

You have other options.

Lady Gaga — only four years older than you —  opened the MTV VMAs with a routine that included her being undressed and dressed and undressed again by a gang of spandexed men, which resulted in her dancing in the spotlight donning nothing but a flowery g-string, two strategically-placed seashells and a short wig. Yet, the routine did not feel obscene or overtly sexual in an uncomfortable way. It felt artistic and engaging. We, the audience, were a part of it.

Taylor Swift — only three years older than you — wore a skintight dress with a cleavage slit that almost grazed her navel. Yet, the outfit walked a perfect balance of sexy and classy. We, the audience, were wowed by her overall style and beauty. Not by her funbags.

As I watched you, I was embarrassed for you. I was embarrassed for your family and fiancé. You were out there like a stomping vagina, screaming I KNOW WHAT SEX IS OH YES I SURE DO.

I have spent almost forty years observing peoples’ behavior, and most of the people who leave an impression of “sexy” do so without throwing it in the faces of their audience.

If you want sexy staying power in this industry, I have some homework for you: Go down to your basement and watch footage of Mary J. Blige’s career for the past twenty years. I have never met a man or woman that did not find her undeniably sexy, yet you will not see much of anything in her repertoire that includes her walking around with her tongue hanging out dry-humping plushies and refusing to wear pants in public for a six-month stretch. She lets her brains and talent draw everyone in, while flashing a slither of skin here, a curve of her body there. Her home is filled with Grammys. Her bank account is filled with Benjamins. She has the respect of fans and industry people of both genders.

Teasing, winking, being sly, laughing, clever lyrics, a shake of the booty: these are things that get the people drawn into your flirtation.

Leaving the rest up to their imagination is what keeps them there.

Right now anyone who has seen your performance on the VMAs is aware of exactly how long your tongue is and that you are comfortable with mimicking flicking your bean in public. You didn’t stick it out and flick yourself once. Or twice. It was over and over and over again, to the point that even the most die-hard frat boy would have thrown in the towel if either of those things were part of the house’s Sunday night drinking game.

It was exhausting watching you try so hard.

Are you talented? Absolutely.

Do you have a smokin’ bod? Yep.

Do you have the right to be sexual? Of course.

I’m just sayin’ that you and your audience deserve better than to watch you dive down a raunchy hole people less talented and cushioned by fortune/fame have dived down, feeling it was the only hope for clinging onto a dying spotlight.

You are better than what you just smeared the stage with tonight.

If you rein yourself back in and let your talent do the talking instead of your tongue/fingers/itty bitty scraps of clothing, I think you’ve got a long career as a sexy, well-respected artist ahead of you.

I’m rooting for you.

No #1 foam finger needed.


Kim Bongiorno 

Miley Cyrus on MTV VMAs 2013 by Kim Bongiorno @LetMeStart

ETA: I have since been advised that Mary J. Blige is having recent financial troubles. Since I believe this has to do with her inability to properly manage the money she has made, and nothing to do with her ability as a performer, I’m leaving my letter as-is.

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  1. says

    She just showed the world the difference between sexy and trashy. The woman who can keep someone intrigued by the ‘less is more’ part of sex appeal is classy. She just took classy, regurgitated it for a while and barfed it up on stage. Never liked MC before and she just sealed the deal forever.

    Thanks for posting what the majority of us are thinking. xoxo
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  2. Court says

    God this article is what’s wrong with the public
    She can do what she wants just because you don’t enjoy it or feel it isn’t artistic enough doesn’t mean other people can’t appreciate it.
    She is a woman let her do what she wants to, thanks a lot Kim for reinforcing stereotypes that women can’t do what they want to unless they’re covered up or deemed what society thinks is classy
    Get a hold of yourself and stop judging.

    • says

      That’s not what I mean at all, though I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
      What I AM saying is that there are singers out there that don’t have the talent, brains or financial backing that she has that resort to trashy-shocking stuff because it’s the only way for THEM to grab the spotlight.
      SHE could have sealed the deal on her sexiness in a way that shocked the audience in a clever way, but didn’t bother. She could have won the whole audience over, young and old. She didn’t. She went for cheap and easy.
      Justin Timberlake has a huge, global, long-lasting sex appeal because of his sexy videos, sexy lyrics, yet he doesn’t cross the line into trashy – she could totally do this. She has the chops to do that.

    • R says

      I disagree. When you get into showbiz, you have a responsibility to the public whether you like it or not. This young woman knows the scads of little girls watching her and to put on a display like that on such a huge public platform, well, for lack of a better word, icky. Do what you like behind closed doors not on the worlds stage. In my opinion anyway… :)

  3. Brittany Smith says

    I totally agree. I felt embarrassed for her and her family. I’m sure her dad was disappointed, I know he raised her better then that.

  4. Deborah says

    So very true. Everything you said was correct. It was really disgusting and terrible. Why would she do that to herself? Horrible everything.

  5. says

    It’s like watching someone jump out of an airl plane without their parachute. You want to stop them but all you can do is watch…knowing this is not going to end well.

  6. says

    This is quite possibly the *nicest* review of her performance I have seen online so far. And very well put – she does have talent, but she is trying like hell to screw it up for herself. She’s coming across as a moron more and more these days. And I don’t even WATCH this stuff – I’m getting this impression based on what I see posted by people who DO watch celebrity stuff. (I didn’t even know the VMAs were on – Nick Jr. does a terrible job at keeping me informed of this kind of stuff.)

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  7. says

    From what I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter, the majority of viewers agree wholeheartedly with you. I’m trying to decide if she was deliberately trying to be trashy or if it was simply the result of her not possessing the talent necessary to pull off those moves in the same manner as, say, Rihanna or Gaga – or even Madonna. Sad and uncomfortable all at the same time.

  8. says

    Love this post and agree with every single point. As a mom, the whole time I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her parents. There is a fine line between sexy and raunchy and she certainly wasn’t able to blur that line – pun intended!

  9. says

    Well, you know what they say in the business: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. This certainly has people talking around the water cooler the next day. It will go down in history, along with Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White at the Oscars, and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl nipple slip.

  10. Jayme says

    I get it. I really do. Britney had the phase around the time of Toxic. Christina turned into Xtina. Janet Jackson had Nasty and her whole nasty phase. Madonna rolled around on stage in a wedding dress. Cindy Lauper has She Bop. Most female artists go through some sort of sexually explorative phase. And that’s okay. However this was not like those. This was a blatant and pathetic attempt to try and prove to the world that she is an adult and can do whatever she wants. It felt like a kids throwing a temper tantrum. Like she was saying “Haha, f you everybody, I can do whatever I feel like. Deal with it.” I have seen strippers dance more appropriately. To me it was like a giant balloon of insecurity just exploded on stage. No art, no talent, and no self respect was displayed on that stage. At all.

  11. says

    I didn’t watch the VMAs b/c a) I don’t watch MTV and b) I’ve been boycotting them since “Smelly Cat” by Phoebe Buffay was snubbed years ago. But of course, I’ve seen the footage.

    For what it’s worth, I agree that she looked trashy and cheap, but I also wouldn’t expect much more from the VMAs, to be honest. And I’m not sure who her core demographic is anymore, but I didn’t really see many people who looked too impressed–old, young, male, female–and I’m sure both her fiance and Thicke’s wife weren’t thrilled.

    So looking past her being young and skanky–something I agree she doesn’t need to do for success–what was HE thinking? This wasn’t a surprise performance, and unless she went off the script 100 percent, he was on board with their, um, moves. Big faux pas on both sides, but it will blow over when another celebrity does something stupid which has probably already happened…
    Abby recently posted..That’s What Friends are ForMy Profile

    • Apryle says

      Abby, I agree. I’m not sure what people expect out of the VMA’s. It has always has a performance that made tongues wag the next day. This was no different. Yes it is hard to see a Disney princess fall from grace, but she is at that age.

  12. says

    Love it a million times my friend… I hope she is able to read this and realizes just what she has done.

    You stated everything so well…

  13. Michelle says

    I didn’t watch last night but when I saw the video of her today was just shocked. Sad to think that’s what a young woman thinks she has to do to maintain her fame and success. Her family and friends must be humiliated… she shoudl be humiliated.

  14. says

    Oh, so well said. I only have seen clips and even then I am looking through my fingers as I have my hands up to my face as I do during horror movies, unable to look away, unable to completely watch because it is so disturbing.
    She should have listend to Ashton Kutcher when he accepted his teen choice award and told all his fans that there is “nothing sexier than being really really smart”.
    She should listen to Ashton and make some smarter choices!

  15. Diane Parsons says

    Miley, It is so difficult to believe that you previously played to the audience as Hannah Montana and everyone wanted to be just like you. I have no idea what audience you are playing to these days… you are becoming downright raunchy and you are way better than that. You are a very talented young woman and I’m not understanding, along with many other people what it is you are trying to become, but it is not becoming at all. Please change your ways and take pride in who you are and the talent you have. You are well liked, but not like this!!!

  16. Babs says

    love, Love, LOVE this letter to Miley. Perfectly stated and on point. I like her look, love the song, dislike the video and now HATE the MTV VMA performance. #embarrassed4Umiley

  17. mrshmlow says

    I haven’t seen it, but am gathering that she has made Adam Lambert breath a sigh of relief over his fiasco.

  18. says

    I like this letter better than so many of the other ones… I was grossed out by the video, but she reminded me SO much of Madonna or Lady Gaga in her earlier years (only a little misguided… like she was enjoying it a little bit too much) I wanted to give her a hug, not a spanking… she seems a little lost. Hard to not root for her, when you see her crashing and burning… too much like Lindsey Lohan… Thanks for being gentle with her…
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  19. says

    not that this article is wrong but you r comparing her to artists that can sing. and everyone knows miley cannot. so ya i am embarrassed for her, but not surprised she overcompensated.

  20. Message says

    As a mother of a four year old who loves music so much and we love watching all the music shows and missed watching the VMAs last night. After seeing this whole Commotion on you~tube and fb regarding Miley was glad we had missed it. What were the producers thinking. I totally agree with this. I truly feel so sorry for you, your family and all the millions of people who had to watch your performance. I’ll I can say is wow you totally blew it you look like a tacky little girl on drugs.

  21. Tonia says

    Yeah, I’m all for individuality, self expression and non-conformity, but seriously? To say it was raw is being generous. It was lacking in talent (she prob should have lip synced), creativity, direction, execution, and, um…. it was inorganic. That’s not who she really is….just some manufacturing, whether it be from Hollywood agents or just a by product of Hollywood living. I felt manipulated vs in the presence of greatness. Big difference. She’s no Madonna or Lady Gaga, never will be. ‘Jus sayin’ !

  22. JAS says

    Although I do agree that Miley was the most “cringeworthy,” I wonder if our society has become so desensitized to indecent human behavior that the likes of Lady Gaga and others don’t even bother us anymore. They are all talented, no question, but it seems that they feel the need to up the ante at these award shows for the shock value, and we’ve become complacent and accepting of it. I only saw partial clips from the VMA’s and was disappointed in not only the performers that degrade themselves, but also the majority of the audience for cheering her on. Perhaps it was simply a show of embarrassed support, but the only consequence that seems to work is when people stop reinforcing these antics and stop watching, stop purchasing their music, stop allowing certain channels on your tv set, and stop being ok with where we are going as a society! It’s an incredibly slippery slope and we are cruising down faster and faster all the time! WE are better than this. We can’t force Miley, or Lady G or Rihanna or any of these people to change, but there’s a lot to be said for taking a stand and boycotting filth from entering our homes and the minds of our children!

  23. says

    Flicking her bean…now I can never undo the visual…. And believe me, ever since witnessing her car wreck on stage, I’ve been trying. Excellent letter to Smiley. I hope she gets it, and realizes we like her….just not flicking her bean with a #1 foam finger.

  24. says

    Well said. And I noticed a comment or two saying that she has a right to do what she wants. That is true but just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean its a good idea. Its about balancing self-expression with self-control. We can say ‘dont’t judge her/anyone’ and it sounds good, but the truth is, we all make hundreds of judgements a day. Miley”s display spoke to me of how lost, insecure and out of control our youth is. Her antics overshadowed her talent and undermined her as a woman. She was trying way too hard to be something she is not. If girls/ women want to be taken seriously in any industry they cannot act like out of control nymphos. They need to display their intellegence,confidence and class at all times.

  25. Micki says

    When other performers sitting in the audience have to look away or look appalled you know that you missed the mark. This goes down as an epic fail. There was no talent or ability shown here. Sad. Disappointing. Disgusting. I didn’t find any art in this performance at all. I’m glad my daughter is old enough to know this is not the way any person with any amount of class acts.

  26. Tracy says

    Although I agree with everything you have said, there is an awful double standard revolving around the VMAS. Yes Miley was disgusting, and it’s clear her career is on a downhill slope, but what about Mr. Thicke? I think critics needs to actually listen to “Blurred Lines” and take a peek at the music video. It’s contribution to rape culture has been completely lost behind Miley’s performance, and I believe both sides need to be acknowledged.

    • says

      This. This. THis. I didn’t watch this spectacle, because I value keeping my nerve endings unfrayed, but here’s the best response I’ve read to it:

      Dear Society,
      If you think a woman in a tan vinyl bra and underwear, grabbing her crotch and grinding up on a dance partner is raunchy, trashy, and offensive but you don’t think her dance partner is raunchy, trashy, or offensive as he sings a song about “blurred” lines of consent and propagating rape culture, then you may want to reevaluate your acceptance of double standards and your belief in stereotypes about how men vs. women “should” and are “allowed” to behave.

      Dr. Jill
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  27. says

    Dear Kim,

    I love that you use your sense of humor & writing talent for Good.

    And, speaking of talent, why has nobody told Miley that dancing is not one of her strengths? I honestly don’t mean that in a snarky way, I mean it in a she-pays-a-lot-of-people-a-fracklot-of-money-to-ensure-she-puts-her-best-self/work-forward-s0-what-the-hell-gives? way. Simply put: if you and your “people” decide twerking in front of the whole world is indeed a great idea, said twerking should at least be good twerking.

    Thanks for penning an Open Letter to MC that so many of us feel as if we “co-authored.”


    *Yes, I know, I actually said “good twerking.”

    **I believe it’s accepted that the point of twerking is to appear sexy. So, in the case of twerking that makes people – men & women alike – want to hide their eyes and/or run away, that would seem to be categorized as bad/unsuccessful twerking.

  28. Jon says

    no no no no no no
    If you’re going to have a problem with her performance, dislike it FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. Who are you to judge someone for how they express their sexuality? And for that matter, what makes you an appropriate figurehead to define an appropriate level of “sexiness”? Where’s your criticism of Robin Thicke – who, by the way, is much older than MC and should know better? Ridiculous double standards.
    The right reasons for disliking the performance: 1. it was poorly planned, messy, and the girl has little to no rhythm. 2. she is grossly and inauthentically using aspects of black culture to further her move into adulthood.

  29. says

    I want to say kudos to you for this well written piece. I caught a small glimpse of her performance & just the little I managed to see was painful. It hurts when people are actually talented & go through all this nonsense in what seems more to me to be an act of rebellion against their parents than a performance where she is being true to herself. I listened to her being interviewed on the way into the VMA’s & thought, why does she sound like she has no sense? She looked like a hot mess & then got on stage and performed like a hot mess. I hope she sees the backlash & realizes she can salvage her career & doesn’t have to behave like a streetwalker to do it.
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  30. Bernice Hendry says

    You need to see the video for Robin Thicke’s newest video I am not saying she was right in doing this but the blame should also go to him based on his newest video I think he was not the innocent person since his video contains the striped suit, scantily clad women and the foam finger stuff.

  31. RobinAnne says

    While this performance has generated much talk of the downward spiral of the life of a person we have seen grow up in the spotlight, it amazes me how so many people gloss over what else was happening on stage.
    We have morals and values – that is why we are disturbed by what we saw. But as well as a 20 year old letting us all know she is aware of what SEX is, and the fact she has a tongue as long as a giraffes, there was a 36 year old married father of a three-year old son on the stage allowing this young girl to do obscene things to him. The lyrics of these and previous songs are equally as disturbing. By promoting this lewd behavior, we are telling impressionable people, mainly the youth of today, that this is okay. Think you will see this happen again? Sure you will. 4 year old little girls will gyrate in their living rooms and sing, 9 year old little girls will want to wear what they saw, and 11 year old little girls will want to grind themselves against someone – all because they see a role model do it on television. You can imagine what it turns into as they get older. Boys will react in the same way, females are objects and hey, come grind on me! The language of today has already taken on so many words that were not even spoken 10 years ago, the majority of which are slang.
    We need to use this highly spoken about performance as an axis for a positive turning point to help educate the impressionable. Help our young men and ladies know that they are important, valuable, beautiful and unique young people. Express why you were disgusted, let them hear what is acceptable and what is wrong. Our society is only as strong as we build it up to be.
    Also, I too am rooting for the positive turn around for Miley Cyrus.

  32. Andrea says

    the only thing i want to asked her if she want to be the next Lindsay Lohan’s. I am not happy to said those thing, but i was very mad, when i saw her in MTV.Also where are they? Miley’s Mom and Dad.Thank You

  33. Nicole says

    This is awesome and says exactly what everyone was thinking while watching her performance. Thank you for writing this.

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