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We're probably not ever going to live in a world in which Miley Cyrus is not a wildly divisive figure. That's fine. Certainly her bank account appreciates the good-girl-gone-bad reputation. But one has to look no further back than the past week of Miley's life to see that she is absolutely a force for good in our modern world.
There's her new foundation, of course, Happy Hippie, devoted to helping LGBTQ and homeless youth, but in promoting the non-profit, Cyrus distinguishes herself — at least within the media-trained world of celebrity — as something of a radical: rejecting any and all labels imposed on herself or others by a patriarchal society.
Speaking with the Associated Press, she noted that not all her past relationships had been "straight, heterosexual" ones. She told Out she resents the limitations of traditional gender roles: "I don’t relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that’s what I had to understand: Being a girl isn’t what I hate, it’s the box that I get put into." In Time, she rejects the idea that a person needs to be in a relationship to feel complete. "It has a lot to do with being a feminist, but I’m finally O.K. with being alone," she says. "I think that’s something we have to talk about more: that you can be alone."
While these ideas aren't exactly revolutionary and that third statement especially might sound obvious to an adult, who else is telling young girls they don't need a man to be human? Rachel ends up with Ross, "You Belong With Me," even Annie Hall moves on with someone new.
Cyrus's choice of personal crusade is also special. Homeless LGBTQ youth are one of the most invisible elements of our society, despite accounting for 40 percent of all homeless youth. (In contrast, LGBTQ people make up less than 10 percent of the general American population.) Most end up on the street after being kicked out of their homes simply for who they are, a nearly unimaginable existence most Americans are completely blind to. A person like Miley Cyrus — controversial, boundary-pushing, attention-grabbing — is uniquely positioned to lend these children a voice.
And she's already done so. At the 2014 VMAs, just one year after she'd ignited the American outrage machine with her performance of "We Can't Stop"/"Blurred Lines," Cyrus sent a homeless teen to accept Video of the Year on her behalf. If the 2013 VMAs was Cyrus's Streetcar Named Desire, the 2014 VMAs was her Sacheen Littlefeather moment. And it took Marlon Brando 22 years to transform from sex symbol into activist.
If all of this highlights more Miley Cyrus the Celebrity and less Miley Cyrus the Artist, look no further than this cover of "Different" she recorded with Joan Jett, in support of Happy Hippie.
Miley has been a lot of things — Disney starlet, the FCC's worst nightmare — but really, what's more revolutionary than being exactly yourself, 100 percent of the time?