In December 2007, pictures began circulating on the Internet showing then-15-year-old Miley Cyrus and a girlfriend sharing a Twizzler in a way that came close to a kiss, which prompted a brief flurry of lesbian rumors. Six months later, in a Vanity Fair cover story accompanied by a come-hither Annie Leibovitz photo shoot, writer Bruce Handy asked Cyrus if she felt betrayed by the person who posted the pictures.
“It was me, on my Myspace,” she replied. “But they got spread around. Like, someone copied and pasted and said, ‘Oh, my God, look at this,’ and blah, blah, blah. I was just like, it didn’t affect me. Everyone’s like, ‘Maybe she’ll learn her lesson this time.’ Nope!”
Even then, at the height of her Disney-choreographed, Hannah Montana popularity, Cyrus knew what buttons needed to be pushed. And she’s been Twizzling and twerking her way to the bank ever since.
As 2013 comes to a close, Cyrus may not own the Internet, but she’s leasing the penthouse. This year, she got the term “twerking” into the Oxford English Dictionary. Her album “Bangerz” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Her nude music video for the hit single “Wrecking Ball” has more than 400 million views on YouTube. She’s one of Barbara Walter’s “10 Most Fascinating People.” And she’s headlining the Y100 Jingle Ball Friday night at the BB&T Center.
Perhaps none of this would have happened if not for her much-reviled pas de deux with fellow Jingle Baller Robin Thicke at MTV’s VMA show in New York on Aug. 25, not coincidentally the same day the single “Wrecking Ball” was released. The inevitable scandal was a gamble that paid off, as Forbes magazine observed: “Anything short of extreme would have missed the mark for Cyrus. Her goal was to once and for all shed the squeaky-clean Hannah Montana image and reset our relationship with her. Mission accomplished.”
But, especially for young female performers, the mission — to learn, grow and evolve as a person and artist, your audience faithful, and new fans lining up beside them — also can fail. Shirley Temple and Judy Garland were trapped by their youthful success, and the contemporary pop-culture landscape is littered with the broken dreams of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes.
On the Jingle Ball bill, Cyrus is joined by three performers who know these challenges firsthand: Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Avril Lavigne. Each is at a different point in the arc of fame.
Before 2013, Grande, a former Boca Raton resident, was best known as the naive Cat on teen-oriented Nickelodeon sitcoms “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat.” But then, her debut album, “Yours Truly” (produced by R&B magician Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds), happened, and her Mac Miller duet “The Way” shot up the charts.
Grande, 20, has kept her squeaky-clean image intact, and much of the online conversation about her focuses on her reputation as a classy fashionista. She has acknowledged being on the edge of making music full time.
“I started in musicals, because I wanted to sing,” Grande told Complex magazine last month. “I never liked acting. I auditioned for TV to get a platform to get a record deal. And then, I fell in love with acting, because it was fun. After I’m done playing Cat Valentine, I don’t see myself doing much acting.”
Lovato first appeared in front of the young TV audiences of “Barney & Friends” and “Camp Rock,” and had a gold album by the time she was 16 (“Don’t Forget”). But fame was a stimulant she couldn’t handle: Drug and alcohol abuse, and an eating disorder, made her a tabloid cautionary tale.
But she’s 21 now, a couple of years removed from rehab, and the album she released in May, “Demi,” was a critical and double-platinum-selling hit, with the single “Heart Attack” embraced by a club crowd who probably doesn’t even remember “Barney.” Lovato just concluded a year as a judge on the reality hit “The X Factor,” and also is the author of a new memoir on responsible living, “Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year.”
In it, she writes: “The best advice I can give to anyone going through a rough patch is to never be afraid to ask for help.”
Long before Miley Cyrus was making parents nervous, a 17-year-old Avril Lavigne was flipping the bird at authority in the video for her hit single, “Complicated,” from the 2002 album “Let’s Go.” She soon had a punk-inspired clothing line, a perfume, a celebrity husband (Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley) and appeared poised for arena-rocking stardom. Yet while a string of hit singles followed (including “Sk8er Boi,” “I'm With You,” “Nobody's Home” and “Girlfriend”), Miley-model fame has not.
Lavigne seems fine with that.
Earlier this year, the now-29-year-old singer-guitarist released a well-received single that was accompanied by a video that showed her skateboarding through a high school in heavy black eyeliner, cutoff T-shirt, black shorts and tie: a spot-on homage to her look in the 2002 video for “Complicated.”
The song is titled “Here's To Never Growing Up.” And, yes, her middle finger makes an appearance.
IF YOU GO: Y100 JINGLE BALL
What: Annual concert tour with Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, Austin Mahone, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Armin Van Buuren, Enrique Iglesias, Fall Out Boy, Flo Rida and Avril Lavigne
When: 7 p.m. Friday, with 2 p.m. pre-party on the plaza with Travie McCoy, Austin Mahone, Tegan and Sara, Jake Miller and Fifth Harmony
Where: BB&T Center, 2555 Panther Parkway, Sunrise
Contact: 954-835-7000 or TheBBTCenter.com