For teen pop fans, it’s déjà vu all over again: Young pop starlet rises to fame on the wings of virginal Disney (or Nickelodeon) goodness, only to shock us when she suddenly goes bad.
But for some reason, the firestorm over the seemingly topless photos of the squeaky-clean Miley Cyrus in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair have risen to a new level of hysteria, much of it, admittedly, fanned by the media. (See what Cyrus tourmates the Jonas Brothers and idol Hilary Duff and a perceptive 21-year-old MTV News intern have to say about the provocative pics.)
All this hullabaloo begs the question: Haven’t any of you been paying attention over the past few years?
For those of you who may have missed the earlier signposts on this well-traveled road from not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman-hood, here are some of the previous red flags thrown up by teens who were in a big hurry to grow up.
The Good Girls Gone Bad
Britney Spears: As if the jailbait-in-a-Catholic-schoolgirl-miniskirt video for Brit’s breakthrough 1999 hit “… Baby One More Time” weren’t enough of a break from the former Mouseketeer’s innocent past, her Lolita-like cover shot for Rolling Stone magazine that same year, when she was 17, had tongues wagging. In addition to spreading rumors that she’d had breast implants, the shots showed her in just her underwear sprawled on a pink satin sheet, clutching a Teletubby doll and talking on the phone.
Christina Aguilera: The fellow former “Mickey Mouse Club” member also debuted in 1999 with an album of come-hither pop tunes, like “Genie in a Bottle,” but with a (slightly) more demure persona than Spears’. She began kicking the image to the curb two years later by appearing in sexy lingerie in the video for the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack remake of Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade.” She then made the light-speed jump from good girl to very, very bad one with her 2002 album Stripped, which featured raunchier songs, including the first single “Dirrty.” The infamous video for that track had Aguilera modeling chaps and a red bikini, showing off her new tattoos, body piercings and multicolor extensions amid images of mud wrestling, foxy boxing, contortionists and other sexual fetishes. The image makeover peaked with a 2002 Rolling Stone cover in which she appeared nude with only an electric guitar covering her body.
Lindsay Lohan: This Disney star has set the low bar for the tumble from pixie cutie to tabloid target. From her debut in 1998 in “The Parent Trap” at age 12 to 2003’s “Freaky Friday,” Lohan was on track to become the biggest teen/tween star of her era. For Lohan, the crossover from girl to woman wasn’t signaled by a sexed-up photo shoot, though, but by her presence at nightclubs years before her 21st birthday, rumors of substance abuse , multiple arrests , three trips to rehab and an endless string of panty-less photos that at one point rivaled Spears’ own commando assault .
Vanessa Hudgens: After making her name in such family-friendly fare as “Quintuplets” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” the star of Disney’s “High School Musical” (hmm, is there a pattern emerging here?) was 18 when she hit the big time, reveling in the attention from the massive hit TV movie. Less than a year after rising to superstardom, her rocket ride hit a snag when provocative photos of her surfaced online, showing the teen star in lingerie and totally nude.
Jamie Lynn Spears: Like Cyrus, Britney’s 17-year-old little sister made her name as the star of a kid-friendly TV show, in Spears’ case, the Nickelodeon series “Zoey 101.” But just two years into its run, the teen announced that she was pregnant with her first child by her boyfriend, 18-year-old Casey Aldridge.
Avril Lavigne: If all of the above are cautionary tales about teen girls who are in a big hurry to shed their virginal “good girl” persona and morph into sexy women before they could vote (or, in some cases, drive), Canadian singer Lavigne is the antidote to that bullet train to hormone-ville. Debuting at age 18 with Let Go, the singer’s skate-rat image included baggy pants and T-shirts with her then-ubiquitous men’s tie instead of body-hugging miniskirts and dresses. For years, Lavigne studiously avoided sexing up her image, playing the role of tomboy, until around 2006, when the now-married 23-year-old began wearing more revealing clothes and posing for photos in provocative outfits. She really upped the ante in a recent Blender cover on which she was seemingly topless with a banner headline across her chest that read, “Hell Yeah, I’m Hot!”