Miley Cyrus — crass, crude, vulgar and shocking — has my attention.
And maybe my heart.
Cyrus, who first rose to fame as Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, recently told Marie Claire magazine that having to live up to Disney-prescribed standards of beauty contributed to a sense of body dysmorphia: a disorder in which individuals experience tremendous difficulty seeing past their perceived physical flaws.
"When you look at retouched, perfect photos, you feel like s---," Cyrus told the magazine. "… I get stuck on Instagram wondering, 'Why don't I look like that?' It's a total bummer. It's crazy what people have decided we're all supposed to be."
Cyrus' outrageous transition from teen star to pop music wild child always came across as a publicity-driven rejection of her wholesome Disney image. With these latest comments, however, we're realizing Cyrus may be justified in coming in like a wrecking ball on her past.
You might say Cyrus, 22, goes too far by appearing in controversial costumes. You could argue her positive message might resonate more if it wasn't laced with profanity and drug references.
But maybe we need shock and awe to change the unnerving way we objectify women and teen celebrities.
While Cyrus goes to extremes to shed the unrealistic standards imposed upon her, Willow Shields of the Hunger Games series recently told Times correspondent Virginia Barreda she's "learned never to take anything people say about you personally," even though her every fashion choice gets scrutinized.
On Monday, E Entertainment panned the outfit she wore to the recent Teen Choice Awards. People, she's 15 for crying out loud.
And then you have 17-year-old Modern Family star Ariel Winter, who recently chose breast reduction surgery because of undue attention. What's worse? The fact Winter felt compelled to get the surgery or the fact she felt compelled to tell the media.
As the father of a 13-year-old daughter — on the advent of back-to-school — these national stories about body image register on a personal level. I try to deter her focus on first school day fashion choices by explaining when I went to school, I intentionally wore old jeans and T-shirts for the entire first week.
Naturally, my archaic advice falls as flat as Will Smith's mom saying, "You go to school to learn, not for a fashion show." More than one female friend has told me, "You're not a girl, you wouldn't understand."
But I do understand that if left unchecked, the beauty industrial complex produces unintended and debilitating consequences. With social media and image (let me take a selfie) even more woven into the consciousness of girls, it can't be ignored.
The nonprofit organization Frameworks of Tampa Bay aims to deal with this and the broader challenges of adolescence by promoting social and emotional learning programs.
It emphasizes five components: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; responsible decisionmaking and relationship skills. It pushes kids to reject negative talk and affirm other people. Learn more at myframeworks.org.
Frameworks will be present in all of the county's middle schools this year and I hope every principal and teacher embraces the opportunity. Dealing with these complex issues requires a sophisticated approach.
As for Cyrus, she says her dream was never to sell lip gloss, it's to save the world. If she continues to promote self esteem and acceptance, maybe she can do just that.
And that would be beautiful.
That's all I'm saying.