I had no idea that I would ever write a story about Hannah Montana. This Miley movement has turned the internet on its head; the 20-year-old daughter of Mr. Achy Breaky Heart is making headlines. I have multiple opinions about Miley Cyrus, some in which have changed about her and then viewing her document on MTV, some of my opinions have stayed the same.
Here is a young woman to whom some believe, a: has grown up and is now wilding out hoping to shed her Disney image, b: the new outburst of nude photos/videos and vulgar tongue pictures are strategic career moves and c: that she is making a mockery of the black community by taking “twerking” and running with it- or twerking with it. I believe this new Miley the movement is all of the above but sadly I also believe that every time a white person does something “black” it crosses over to mainstream quicker than a singular twerk.
As a woman of color I’m not saying that twerking is exclusive to black people or even hip-hop, but for once can we get the credit when the credit is due without having to sell-out or “cross-over”? I look at Mike Will Made It who is fairly young, he is 24 and think it may possibly be that the younger generation sees past color lines and just want to create. But when he says things such as, “rappers aren’t always authentic, rappers lie,” to explain his working with Miley as said in an interview on Sway in the Morning, it’s as if he is trying to justify the fraudulent sound that he is creating with Miley.
I assume when someone wants to sound “black” when they aren’t, they are looking for a specific sound that is exclusive to black people. And if you are a lily white girl from middle America who grew up on Disney and whose Godmother is Dolly Parton, it is hard to justify the authenticity of her new sound. Or image. It’s as if she is trying to one up Rihanna or Teyana Taylor by pushing the sexy/raunchy/edgy envelope and it does come across as a young woman who is wilding out or trying to infiltrate into this edgy hip-pop bubble that Rihanna is queen of or ultimately the hip-hop culture.
When I spoke with Michaela Angela Davis, image activist, she explained when white people do something pertaining to a cultural shift, it’s bigger, “it’s just America,” she stated. “You take black music, culture and put it in a white body, it’s huge, it’s always have been,” Davis continued. The questions arise: why? And why do we seemingly allow them to be bigger than us when are the driving force? I say we allow them because we co-sign their actions for the sake of a paycheck. Would Miley still twerk if Juicy J said, “naw sweetie, I’mma get the twerk team or Caramel Kitten to come on stage” or what if Mike Will Made It put Teyanna Taylor on the song 23 since she is known for her tomboy swag? It seems that for the sake of the all mighty dollar we will bypass our own talented artists and put on the white girl or another white artist and then try to justify our actions by saying, Miley is about that life. “She smokes purp, I’ve seen her,” Mike Will Made It continued in his Sway in the Morning interview. Right, because smoking weed is exclusive to black people but hip-hop isn’t.
I spoke with Kristina Thomas, co-executive producer of the web-series, Losing It, who compared Miley’s actions to the act of black face and that black people are helping her. “Mike Will Made It knows how to get money, he is not a fool. He is making money off a white girl who is trying to be made,” Thomas stated. Thomas continued saying that latinas and white girls are replacing black women and that black women are no longer in and black artists/ producers are helping with the replacement of black women in the arts. “There must be a line drawn, how far do you go? How do you just sell yourself?” Thomas asked. Thomas’ thoughts on Miley’s rapping in the song 23? “MJ just threw up in his mouth,” she said. “Where was Teyana Taylor? Or Ciara?”
Davis had the best answers for Thomas’ questions. Davis said there is something provocative about crossing over into mainstream for black artists. “It’s about being a player in the game, you want your play and your playing space,” Davis stated. She continued by stating that she doesn’t believe it’s about selling out but more of business. “This is not about selling out, it’s about making records and there are levels to fame.” To make hot records, “why wouldn’t an artist get a hot black producer?” Davis questioned.
Tamara Johnson, fashion enthusiast, leans more towards the ideal that Miley is being used and they are using her so cunningly that she thinks being naked on a wrecking ball is her idea. “These producers know what they are doing, they are interested in getting a different type of money,” Johnson stated. I asked Johnson if they are getting their money but cheapening the black culture and Johnson replied, “Absolutely, she is being manufactured. There is nothing organic or authentic about this new Miley.” Johnson went on the compare Miley to a bootleg bottle of salad dressing. “You know you can walk into Wal-Mart and get the store brand of ranch or you can get the Kraft ranch, one has more favor,” Johnson stated.
All the ladies interviewed did not hate on Miley but they actually expressed genuine concern for her well-being. Thomas stated, “I want her to win, we should all want women to win, we just hope that they win in the right way.” I agreed. I love to see a woman utilize their talents in order to gain success. I however cannot get with the lack of appreciation of black expression and black culture. It’s as if black people cannot ineptly create in the level that Miley can. Davis explained this theory to me, “using Pharrell and Mike Will Made It on her album means we are driving the culture. We are gaining positioning; we are gaining power. This isn’t new. The difference is the visibility, we now know who artists are working with, not like where Elvis Presley stole our sound, this is progression.”
I want more progression, yes, we have Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and King Beyonce but that isn’t enough for me. I want more faces that look like me on the big screen, on television and more brown faces being able to create a movement like Miley. The thing is that no matter how hard Miley tries, black people will always be cooler. She may hang with Juicy J, she may have switched her Sketchers for Jays but she will never have that authentic coolness that blacks have. She can throw on her Jordans and wear the shortest jersey ever with a backwards snapback all she wants, the truth is she will never have swagger like us.
I remember at the top of the year I was covering the back stage beauty trends at New York Fashion Week for Vibe Vixen and as I was talking to the designers, make up artists and hair stylists who were forecasting next year’s trends, they couldn’t stop fawning over my hair and nails. Here are the industry “insiders” looking at my style. I remember leaving one tent and this security guard goes, “you leaving already? You’re taking all the favor.” Sometimes I believe that black people forget that we are the trendsetters, some of us are so focused on assimilating for that Miley money, that we forget that we are authentically cool on a level that cannot be duplicated. If we can just remember how fly and fabulous we naturally are, I believe we can be movement without taking our sound and giving a white face. In this case, Miley, I’mma let you finish but you’re not cooler than me.
Writer and Fly Girl
Find me on Twitter: @flycarla