Miley Cyrus reflects on ‘upsetting’ controversy surrounding her 2008 Vanity Fair cover

Miley Cyrus has reflected on the “upsetting” controversy surrounding her 2008 cover for Vanity Fair, where she posed in only a white sheet.

The 30-year-old singer discussed the controversy in a recent episode of her “Used To Be Young” series on TikTok, in which she looks back important moments throughout her career. In the episode - released in honour of her newest single, “Used To Be Young” - she reflected on how much she enjoyed doing the photoshoot, which was first met with criticism in 2008 when it was released.

“Everybody knows the controversy of the photo, but they don’t really know the behind-the-scenes, which is always much more meaningful,” she said. Along with the photo of Cyrus, then 15, draped in a sheet, the 2008 photoshoot - captured by photographer Annie Leibovitz - included snaps of the actor with her father, Billy Ray Cyrus.

During the “Used to Be Young” episode, Cyrus went on to praise Leibovitz, while also recalling the sweet moment that another one of her family members helped take the photos.

“My little sister Noah [Cyrus] was sitting on Annie’s lap and actually pushing the button of the camera taking the pictures,” she said. “My family was on set and this was the first time I ever wore red lipstick.”

Cyrus revealed that her time on Disney Channel had ultimately encouraged her makeup artist to put red lipstick on her for the shoot. “Pati Dubroff, who did my makeup, thought that that would be another element that would divide me from Hannah Montana,” she said.

The “Wrecking Ball” singer continued to describe the meaning behind the Vanity Fair cover, which she claimed was a reason why people criticised it.

“This image of me is a complete opposite of the bubble gum pop star that I had been known for being, and that’s what was so upsetting,” she said. “But, really, really brilliant choices looking back now from those people.”

When Cyrus was first met with backlash in 2008 for posing in only a sheet, she issued an apology for the photoshoot. “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,” she said in a statement at the time. “I never intended for any of this to happen, and I apologise to my fans, who I care so deeply about.”

However, 10 years later, she took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to rescind her apology. In the 2018 tweet, Cyrus posted a 2008 cover of the New York Post that featured her and wrote: “I’M NOT SORRY…F*** YOU #10yearsago.”

Prior to her “Used To Be Young” episode, Cyrus has previously opened up about her past controversies, and her feelings towards them. During an interview with British Vogue in May, she confessed that she used to blame herself when she faced criticism at the start of her career.

“I carried some guilt and shame around myself for years because of how much controversy and upset I really caused,” she said.

However, she acknowledged that, once she got older, she had a change of heart. “Now that I’m an adult, I realise how harshly I was judged,” she said. “I was harshly judged as a child by adults and now, as an adult, I realise that I would never harshly judge a child.”

She recalled moments when her appearance was scrutinised, such as when a tabloid magazine once shared a picture of her acne along with the headline: “A Breakout Year!”

“Like who thought that I was not a person who would be hurt by that? Like I was clearly a 20-year-old girl,” the “Flowers” singer said. “Sure, at 20 I was like every 20 year old. You think you’re grown, but now I’m like: ‘Oh, no, I was fully a kid.’”

In a different episode of her latest TikTok series, she also reflected on rise to fame as a child, with the singer discussing the hectic work schedule she had when she was just “12 or 13” while starring on Hannah Montana.

Opening up the schedule on a tablet computer, Cyrus saw her day started at 5.30am, with “hair and make-up in my hotel”. Her schedule throughout the day continued with tasks like, “meeting with editors”, doing an interview with her father, and doing a photoshoot. The day had ended at 6.15pm with “another interview,” after already doing a different “kids online interview” at 6pm.

“Then the next day starts at 7am and ends at 7.30pm,” she said. “When I fly home to go to Hannah [Montana], that’s on a Saturday. And then Monday, be back at work in the morning.”