It was 1992 when country singer Billy Ray Cyrus first cradled his newborn daughter, Destiny Hope, in his arms. She was perfect; and as he counted her tiny fingers and toes, he imagined great things for her future.
She was given the name “Destiny Hope” because her parents believed she would do great things. She acquired the nickname “Smiley” (later shortened to “Miley”) because as an infant, she smiled so much.
It was important to Billy Ray that his new baby know about God; so he raised her in the Southern Baptist church. As a child, Miley lived with her family on a 500-acre farm in Franklin, Tennessee, and attended Heritage Elementary School. As a teen, she wore a purity ring—signifying her intent to remain a virgin until marriage.
But that was then, and this is now.
The former star of Disney’s Hannah Montana, who officially changed her name to Miley Ray following her grandfather’s death in 2006, ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Internet this week, with her obscene performance at the MTV Video Music Awards; but that was only the latest in a string of moral missteps which have reshaped the career of this troubled star.
At fifteen, she reportedly posed topless for a Vanity Fair photoshoot by photographer Annie Leibovitz—although the New York Times later clarified that she had actually been wrapped in a bedsheet.
In 2008, her gmail account was hacked and several provocative photographs of Miley clad only in underwear were distributed on the web. At her 19th birthday party, she addressed fans with an obscenity-laden message that “You know you’re a stoner when your friends make you a Bob Marley-themed cake. You know you smoke way too much f***** weed.” And she has been an advocate for gay rights; in 2011 she got a tattoo on her finger, two stripes symbolizing her support for alternate lifestyles.
And now this: the nude swimsuit, the tongue action, the twerking with celeb Robin Thicke, were so atrocious that even Hollywood types reacted like this:
Through the controversy this week, I’ve remembered the old Miley Cyrus, wholesome role model for young girls; and I’ve wondered about her famous father’s reaction.
This is what I’ve found: That despite his extreme disappointment at the course her life has taken, he loves his daughter and is supportive. Some followers believed that he was holding steady in a tweet he posted, shortly after Miley’s scandalous VMA performance. Still the steady, positive-focused father, Billy Ray wrote:
In a February 2011 interview, though, the country star spoke honestly about his fear for his celebrity daughter and about his personal regrets. Although the website Hollywood Gossip demeaned the singer’s concerns, Billy Ray expressed his conviction that Satan was attacking his family. Cyrus was concerned that Miley’s early stardom on Disney’s Hannah Montana had not been good for his daughter. He said:
It’s the way it is. There has always been a battle between good and evil. Always will be. You think, ‘This is a chance to make family entertainment, bring families together….’ And look what it’s turned into.
He acknowledged that Miley had a lot of people around her who were putting her in a great deal of danger. He wished that he could get her sheltered from the storm, could ‘stop the insanity just for a minute.’
Asked whether he regretted encouraging Miley’s career as Hannah Montana, Billy Ray was emphatic:
[It] destroyed my family…. I’d take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just everybody to be okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah, I’d erase it all in a second if I could.
Billy Ray voiced his concern that Miley could die, and likened her rise to meteoric fame to that of drug-using rock star Kurt Cobain. “I’m concerned about Miley,” he admitted. “I think that Kurt Cobain’s world was just spinning so fast and he had so many people around him that didn’t help him. Like Anna Nicole Smith—you could see that train wreck coming…. Michael Jackson. I was trying to reach out to Michael Jackson.”
Whether the concerned father is able to reach out to his own daughter remains to be seen. With an annual income in excess of $25 million, the 21-year-old former pop princess clearly is not financially dependent on her dad; and she apparently doesn’t turn to him for advice, either. She seems to be on a crash course toward greater and greater degradation.
Sometimes for a parent, the only thing you can do when older children veer from their moorings is pray. And not just the “only thing”—for indeed, prayer is the most powerful of weapons. I’d imagine Billy Ray has offered many humble prayers for his daughter, but he has no choice now but to entrust her to her heavenly Father, who also loves her with an unabiding love.
One of the more interesting commentaries I’ve seen, following the whole Miley scandal, was from a website called Roadkill Goldfish. There, a blogger identified only as “a mom, wife and PR pro with a major case of TCB and a little bit of OCD” penned an open letter from God, titled “Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you.” Here is the letter; click on the link to see the original website.
To my dear daughters,
May you truly be the best you can be, without needing to compare yourself to others to make you feel better about yourself.
May your behavior be authentic and reflective of the choices you have personally made yourself. May you own your choices, not live off the back of someone else. May they be sound and healthy choices made for the right reasons. Because you respect yourself and others, and your God.
May you look to Jesus as your example, of kindness, gentleness, goodness, but most of all love.
Where ever you go in the world, may you be graceful and kind to others, especially those whose behavior is not like your own. May you love people who you don’t agree with, because relationship is more important than being right. Righteousness is not rightness, and can be undone by a bitter, unloving, ungraceful heart and a tongue that is not bridled.
There are many people, all over the world, in churches, out of churches, in shopping malls, at the zoo, in schools and colleges that think and behave differently too you. Love them any way. Love them the way you would want to be loved by them. But do so in a way that allows you to remain true to who you are and your own convictions. This is how Jesus loved. Wholly and purely, truthfully and relation-ally.
Never look at someone else to make yourself feel good about yourself. There will always be someone better or worse than you. Listen to the quiet voice in your heart and make the changes you need to make, based on who YOU are and who you are meant to be.
You are brave, you are smart, and you are courageous, each of you.
I love you, ALWAYS, in good times and in bad, when you make good choices and when you make bad. My love for you never changes, it is unending, it is not conditional upon who you are, but on who I am.
I love you always
Dear Miley, you really screwed up this time; but God loves you.