Miley Cyrus Reveals the Real Story Behind Her Controversial 2008 Vanity Fair Cover

Miley Cyrus recently looked back at the controversy surrounding her 2008 Vanity Fair cover and shared more about the "behind-the-scenes, which is always much more meaningful."

By Elyse Dupre Aug 31, 2023 2:51 PMTags
Watch: Miley Cyrus Tells Real Story of 2008 Topless Cover

Miley Cyrus is taking a wrecking ball to the critics of her 2008 Vanity Fair cover

As part of her ongoing "Used to Be Young" TikTok series in support of her song by the same name, the singer revisited her then-controversial cover in which the then-15-year-old posed topless, covered by a blanket.

"We gotta go there—2008," she said in her Aug. 30 TikTok. "Everyone knows the controversy of the photo, but they don't really know the behind-the-scenes, which is always much more meaningful." 

As Miley, now 30, recalled, her family had been with her on the set. In fact, her then-8-year-old sister Noah Cyrus had been sitting on photographer Annie Leibovitz's lap "pushing the button of the camera taking the pictures." The Disney alum then shared more about the thought-process behind the portrait. 

"This was the first time I ever wore red lipstick because Pati Dubroff, who did my makeup, thought that that would be another element that would divide me from Hannah Montana," she added. "This image of me as a complete opposite of the bubblegum pop star that I had been known for being and that's what was so upsetting. But really, really brilliant choices looking back now from those people."

30 Fascinating Facts About Miley Cyrus

At the time of the photoshoot, Miley expressed her enthusiasm for the picture.

"No, I mean I had a big blanket on," she told Vanity Fair in 2008 when asked if she was anxious about the photo. "And I thought, This looks pretty, and really natural. I think it's really artsy."

However, amid the backlash around the cover, she soon issued an apology. 

"I took part in a photoshoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed," the Hannah Montana star said in a statement obtained by The Guardian at the time. "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."

Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Fast forward a decade later, and Miley retracted her apology by calling out the reaction to the photo. Resurfacing a 2008 headline that read "Miley's Shame" followed by the words, "TV's 'Hannah' apologizes for near-nude pic," the Grammy nominee tweeted in 2018, "IM NOT SORRY F--k YOU #10yearsago." 

She later elaborated on her social media response on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, simply noting "that's not a nice thing" for an outlet to do.

"A lot of things have changed, and I think the conversation has changed a lot," she continued. "Something that I really thought about was, you know sure, some people thought that I did something wrong in their eyes. But I think it was really wrong of someone to put on top of someone that this is my shame and that I should be ashamed of myself."

As for the reason The Last Song actress initially apologized? 

"I think at that time I just wanted this to go away, and I think I also was trying to balance and understand what being a role model is," she explained to Jimmy Kimmel. "And to me, I think being a role model has been my free-spiritedness and sometimes my unapologetic attitude for decisions that I feel comfortable with." 

And ultimately, Miley made it clear "there was nothing sexualized" about the photo shoot. 

"It was everyone else's poisonous thoughts and minds that ended up turning this into something that it wasn't meant to be," she said. "So actually, I shouldn't be ashamed. They should be."

Read on for more of Miley's most candid confessions over the years.

Would You Rather

Would she rather kiss Dua Lipa or Cardi B? When the juicy question was posed by Heart radio's Mark Wright, Cyrus reminded fans she's already shared a smooch with Dua for their song "Prisoners." 

"I've kinda already kissed Dua," Cyrus said. "Maybe Cardi. I like to do things that I've never done before, something new. I'd kiss Cardi."

"Adore You"

She's a Directioner! When asked whether she'd rather kiss Justin Bieber or Harry Styles, Cyrus chose the "Watermelon Sugar" singer. She confessed, "Harry Styles! He's looking really good."

She went on to say they share a lot of similar tastes, adding, "I think sharing a closet, sharing a life together—it just makes sense." 

Miley & Minnie

"I was attracted to girls way before I ever was attracted to guys," she shared with Call Her Daddy podcast host Alexandra Cooper in August 2020. "When I was like 11 years old, I used to think that like Minnie Mouse was super f--king hot, which is so good I ended up on Disney, so my chances with Minnie went up by like 100."

"She was super hot to me," Cyrus continued. "I always thought that the female characters in movies were way hotter than any of the guys. I actually never really understood what these girls were doing with these, like, idiots."

Sobriety Realities

During an interview with Howard Stern in December 2020, the performer candidly opened up about the detriments for her of not living a sober lifestyle. "It really, really affects my relationships," she told Stern. "I'm not the best partner; I'm not the best daughter; I'm not the best sister. I can be a little unreliable. So if that's an alcoholic—if we're not measuring it by how much we drink but how we perform as a human being—then I would say alcohol is a problem for me because I'm not at my best."

Lessons of Love

"One thing I've learned about marriage from my parents: Nothing and no one stays the same," Cyrus shared with Cosmopolitan in 2017. "Grow, evolve, change with each other and celebrate your love's journey!"

FaceTime "Cybersex"

During her Dec. 2018 interview with Howard Stern, Cyrus explained that Hemsworth "got a lot of action for saving the animals" in the devastating California wildfires. And what about getting action when they're not together? "That's what FaceTime's for," Cyrus told Stern. "Cybersex."

Birthday Message

To celebrate Hemsworth's 29th birthday, Cyrus wrote him a love letter, sharing her favorite things about her hubby. "I love taking turns and sharing with you," Cyrus told her beau. "I love taking long drives, sometimes going nowhere. I love how you'll sit and listen to me pluck out a new tune on the guitar for hours….I love the way you mumble out loud when you read a new script or book. I love how you learn and grow. I love writing songs about you on the piano. I love how you let ME be ME."

"You and Me baby…. let's take this dark place head on and shine [through] with the light of L.O.V.E. Thank you for giving me the happiest days of my life," Cyrus concluded. "Yours Truly, M."

"Mine Does"

In response to a meme that read, "No man has all five: -good dick game -empathy -a height above 5'9 -no hoes -common sense," Cyrus replied, "Mine does! Don't give up!"

"Hunky Hubby"

When her "hunky hubby" was suffering from kidney stones in Feb. 2019, Cyrus attended the premiere of his movie, Isn't It Romantic?, in his honor. "So happy to see him shining in this comedy! He is the funniest person I know, and the world now gets to see the Liam I wake up to every day.... luckiest," the singer wrote to her fans on social media.

In another post, Cyrus posed in front of a poster from the movie, showing Hemsworth playing the saxophone. "Getting sick blows. But so do I," Cyrus captioned the post. "Get well soon babe. I love you. Play that sax you sexy f--k."

"Complex" Marriage

"I think it's very confusing to people that I'm married," Cyrus said in Elle. "But my relationship is unique. And I don't know that I would ever publicly allow people in there because it's so complex, and modern, and new that I don't think we're in a place where people would get it. I mean, do people really think that I'm at home in a f--king apron cooking dinner?"

"I'm in a hetero relationship, but I still am very sexually attracted to women," the "Wrecking Ball" singer continued. "People become vegetarian for health reasons, but bacon is still f--king good, and I know that. I made a partner decision. This is the person I feel has my back the most. I definitely don't fit into a stereotypical wife role. I don't even like that word."

"Not Allowing Anyone In"

"Guys, I was being a little too, like…hard-core feminist vibes and, just like, I don't know, not allowing anyone in, but now I am," the singer said during an Instagram Live video with Cody Simpson, which took place about two months after her split from Hemsworth. "There are good men out there, guys. Don't give up. You don't have to be gay. There are good people with dicks out there. You just gotta find them. You gotta find a dick that's not a dick, you know what I mean?"

She then said, "I always thought I had to be gay because I just thought, like, all guys were evil, but it's not true. There are good people out there that just happen to have dicks. I've only ever met one…and he's on this Live."

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