In September 2013 Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth announced they’d broken off their year-long engagement -- and, I would argue, that was a really good call.
Less than two years later, it’s impossible to watch Cyrus' current “Backyard Sessions” and not come to a pretty clear conclusion: Not getting married allowed Miley to become whomever she is right now -- and that person is doing some pretty interesting, important things.
At the time, however, the breakup -- and Miley's transition from Disney star to risque pop star -- was all anyone was talking about when it came to the "We Can't Stop" singer. There were rumors of infidelity and every song on Bangerz was dissected for clues and hints about what went wrong. Was she pregnant with Juicy J's baby? Was Liam not into her short hair and party girl persona? Or, perhaps, as she has now hinted, she wasn't all that into beefcakes to begin with...
Whatever the real reasons, somewhere between dancing teddy bears and Robin Thicke’s crotch, the young couple decided to cancel their trip down the aisle -- and, instead, Cyrus began an entirely different, personal journey of her own.
The Freedom To Miley
At only 22 years old, Miley’s current worth is an estimated $160 million, mostly thanks to her “Hannah Montana” days. In the last few years, she's purchased a $5.5 million horse ranch in California, dated a Kennedy (among a bunch of other hot people), won an Artist of The Year award, and is currently on track to be one of the highest earning female performers of all time.
Despite all this success, Miley's ascent hasn't been without its downsides. It was also less than two years ago that she came under fire for her overt sexuality. Conservative groups called her tongue-wagging antics “disgusting” and dubbed her the “anti-role model.” She was slut-shamed profusely for her 2013 VMA performance with Robin Thicke, and MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski went so far as to claim Miley is “obviously deeply troubled, deeply disturbed, clearly has confidence issues, probably eating disorder.”
But here's the thing: If she and Liam had gone through with a lavish wedding and Miley was now pregnant, she’d be a 22-year-old with a husband and (maybe) a baby on the way, and her newest fans would (likely) be the same conservative critics who were uncomfortable watching her twerk and grow up on her own terms. She would have "calmed down," thus satisfying the likes of presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, who called her VMA performance "disgustingly pornographic," but ultimately, she wouldn't have been sticking to her own beliefs on womanhood, which are more in line with the current rise of feminism, and the cultural push towards the destruction of gender binaries. "Being a girl isn’t what I hate," Miley recently told Out Magazine. "It’s the box that I get put into.”
When Miley croons “There’s no love without freedom,” in her recent “Backyard Sessions” video, she reaffirms the fact that isn’t really the type of girl who lets someone else’s version of “right” rule her life -- and as young as she is, she seems smart enough to know that by not getting married, she was able to retain complete creative, professional and sexual freedom, which is its own kind of maturity. Even if she and Liam were very happy together, there’s no way their union could guaranteed the concept of personal growth Miley has embraced and benefited from as her signature brand. At this point it's nearly impossible to imagine Miley being Miley while also being Mrs. Hemsworth.
What's more (and much to the chagrin of those critics), Miley’s ability to take the heartache and haters and put them into her work -- and to be both the silly stoner friend and a socially conscious megastar -- has ended up making her an obvious role model for most women under 30.
She’s like the “Broad City” girls -- but with a blank check for the art projects and charities of her choice. She gets to have sex with whomever she wants and make experimental music with her friends in her own backyard without anyone bothering her. It’s hard to find a life goal that tops that, and Miley knows this.
She also knows that her original fanbase, the girls and boys who have been following her from the get-go, are marrying much later in life, delaying having children and tossing out traditional gender roles faster than you can say, "Party In The U.S.A." They don't care if Miley is gay, genderqueer, has short hair or zits. They just want to feel like they know her, the way they feel like she knows them.
That’s why we're all lucky (Miley especially) that there was no wedding. Instead of a wholesome ideal, we’ve been able to watch Miley be Miley in a way we can all identify with. If Liam was her high school boyfriend, then Bangerz was her hard partying freshman year, and the “Backyard Sessions” and her upcoming album with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips is her subsequent leap into social justice, experimentation and personal exploration. Her Peace Corp, if you will.
Miley’s post-breakup journey from grappling with a wrecking ball to becoming a Happy Hippie is a universal experience for a lot of women, and the lesson she seems to have learned from it shouldn’t be kept a secret: It’s OK to change your mind, take risks and screw up. Life goes on, and you get better because of it.