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

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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
      iris de mallemarok recently posted..She will never let your spirits down once you get her off the streetMy Profile

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.
    The Shoe Diva recently posted..Monday fashion assignment: win free shoesMy Profile

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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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