Matt Lauer didn't go easy on Miley Cyrus when she appeared and performed during Today on Monday, Oct. 7. The co-anchor asked the pop star about everything from her risqué photo shoot with Terry Richardson to her war of words with Sinéad O'Connor—and Cyrus maintained her composure throughout the interview.
The TV journalist began by asking Cyrus about the constant controversy surrounding her name. "Are you surprised by the attention you're getting right now?" Lauer asked.
"Not really," the singer shrugged. "I mean, it's kind of what I want. I'm an artist, so I'm hoping that I get a little attention or my record sales might be a little sketch."
Lauer then asked Cyrus if her now-infamous MTV Video Music Awards performance was intentionally meant to shock viewers. "I don't ever really plan to offend people, but sometimes that just happens because I think people, they're not open to what they don't understand," the performer said. "But that's why when I'm singing for my fans, because they're all really young so they understand what I'm doing."
"Did it go exactly as you planned?" Lauer asked.
"It went exactly as I planned," Cyrus, 20, answered. "I mean, it's a month later and we're still talking about it, so it definitely went as planned."
"We talked about the performance, and obviously a lot of it was very provocative. I'm never going to go to a sporting game and look at a foam finger the same way...Add to that some of the photos I've seen of your recently on the internet. You had the naked shot on the video for 'Wrecking Ball.' It's very clear that you are...attempting to navigate tricky territory right now," Lauer said. "A lot of people have tried this in the past between child star and adult performer. Is it harder than you thought it would be?"
A confident Cyrus replied, "Nah, because this is just, like, who I am. I think it's only hard if you're trying to be something you're not. Being who you are is really easy if you're really true to that."
Lauer, 55, continued to grill the former Hannah Montana star, asking, "Is this a phase? Is the sexual side of you that we're seeing a lot of right now something that's going to be around for a while and then you move onto something else?"
Liam Hemsworth's ex-fiancée seized the opportunity to make a joke at Lauer's expense. "I heard when you turn 40, things start to go a little less sexual," she began.
"Don't say that," Lauer said with a smile.
"Probably around that time, I heard that's when people don't have sex anymore," Cyrus continued. "I guess maybe around then." Lauer then asked, "Do you know how old I am?"
Grinning from ear to ear, Cyrus responded, "I'm gonna guess 40." Lauer then asked Cyrus if she would do anything differently given the opportunity. "You can't change anything about it. I do a lot of things, but I can't change the past," she explained. "If I can't control it, I don't really think about it. I just live my life and I don't really think about anything."
Lauer then asked Cyrus how it feels to have people she admires, like O'Connor, trash her name online. Instead of using the moment to retaliate, the Tennessee native took the high road and praised the "Nothing Compares 2 U" singer.
"I think she's an incredible artist, I think she's an awesome songwriter, and I was really inspired by her for my 'Wrecking Ball' video, which was what started the whole thing," she explained. "I don't know how someone can start a fight with somebody who said, ‘Hey, I really respect you. And I really love what you what you did.' ‘You know what? You suck! I don't like you!' That was kind of crazy. But as I said, I'm a big fan of hers, so it doesn't really matter."
"It's all good. You can write as many open letters as you want," Cyrus added. "That's really what blogging is. I get open letters every day. It's nothing too new for me."
Lauer noted that even Cyrus' biggest critics can't deny her musical abilities. "Do you ever worry that some of the things that go on around you draw people's attention away from that talent?" he asked.
"I don't really worry about anything because I know who I am and I know that I'm an artist, and I know that I put all this time and this effort into my record, and my record is proof of really who I am," Cyrus said. "For me, the most important thing is being a really good person, and that doesn't depend on what you do onstage. That depends on how you treat people when you're offstage, and I know how I treat people, so I'm not really too worried about it."
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)