Miley Cyrus is reflecting on the long, strange trip it's been since she made her Hannah Montana debut.
Fifteen years to the day that the teen sitcom debuted on Disney Channel and made her star, Cyrus wrote a letter to her TV persona, on Hannah Montana stationery, reflecting on what the show meant to her.
"Hi Hannah, It's been a while," wrote Cyrus, who played average teen Miley Stewart who moonlighted as famous pop star Hannah Montana. "15 years to be exact. Since the first time I slid those blond bangs over my forehead in the best attempt to conceal my identity. Then slipped into a puke pink terry cloth robe with a bedazzled HM over the [heart]. I didn't know then... that is where you would live forever. Not just in mine but millions of people around the world."
Cyrus recalled filming her screentest against a white wall at her mom Tish Cyrus's friend's home in Nashville. Then she landed the part and compared the star-making role to "a rocket that flew me to the moon and never brought me back down."
Of Hannah, she said, "You + I have been through it all together my friend. We've shared many firsts. A lot of lasts. Ups. Downs. Tears. Laughs," she wrote, remembering her father and co-star Billy Ray Cyrus's dad dying just ahead of the show's 2006 premiere.
She also shared, "I experienced falling in love for the first time in those years," likely referring to Nick Jonas, her boyfriend from 2006 to 2007. "Embarrassingly started my period in a pair of white capris of course on the day a 'cute guy' was cast + asked to have lunch with me. Instead I spent it in the bathroom with my mom sobbing."
She shouted out some of the friends she made while starring on the show, saying castmates Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso and Jason Earles "became my family. I was seeing them more than my own," other than her dad, who she was seeing on set because he played her dad on the show.
She recalled driving to set once she got her permit at 15 with her grandma Loretta Jean "Mammie" Palmer, mom of Tish, who died last year. And how Palmer ran her fan club, Miley World, out of her dressing room until the show ended in 2011.
And when that show ended, "It was bittersweet knowing I would be leaving you (a huge piece of me)," Cyrus wrote to Hannah, "on Stage 9, which is where I say I grew up when asked. It was my home."
She said the final episode was appropriately titled "Wherever I Go," named after "a final song by the teen pop sensation herself. YOU. Me? Hannah Montana."
To her alter ego, she wrote, "Breathing life into you for those 6 years was an honor. I am indebted to not only you .... but everyone who believed in me from the beginning. You all have my loyalty and deepest appreciation until the end," referring to everyone at Disney, the cast, the crew, guest stars (The Rock! Kelly Ripa! Dolly Parton!), agents and managers. She also thanked her mom for taking her to auditions, then making the cross country move for the show, which her siblings "selflessly" went along with.
"Not a day goes by that I forget where I can from," she wrote. "A building in Burbank, Calif., with a room full of people with the power to fulfill my destiny. And that they did. They gave me you. The greatest gift a girl could ask for. I love you Hannah Montana. Forever."
Cyrus catapulted to fame with her TV character — boosted by Disney releasing albums of songs from the series. Her concerts (with hits "The Best of Both Worlds" and "He Could Be The One") were the hottest ticket for every tweeny-bopper at the time. She also starred in a Hannah Montana movie.
But Cyrus was growing up and experimenting — and the media was truly obsessed with her every move and possible misstep. We've looked back at the uproar over a photo shoot she did for Vanity Fair in 2008. She was fully dressed, but it was covered as "Miley's Shame," which included speculation her career was over because of it. A big fuss, and more shaming, was made over her smoking salvia in 2010. And photos supposedly showing her nude (they were never verified) were leaked that same year and that fed the outrage machine — though, looking back, the true outrage should have been anyone posting them online, as she was underage. There was just this constant media push to show the downfall of any Disney Channel star at the time, and Cyrus being forced to give apologies.
By the time it was announced Hannah was ending in 2010, Cyrus was ready to fly, having released "Can’t Be Tamed," and famously saying, “I can’t base my career off of the six-year-olds... I have to move on.” (At that time, she had also met Liam Hemsworth, with whom she would have along on-off relationship, on the set of The Last Song.)
Cyrus was looking forward to uncoupling with the Hannah Montana brand — and the attention it brought. She told Parade at the time, "I'm going to rejoice and be happy to finally not have to be... well, to not be somebody I'm not exactly. As I've grown into it, I’ve grown out of it. Does that make sense? When I was 12, I thought, 'I want to be famous all the time! I want everybody to recognize me!' Now I just want to be chill and have my private life. When they’re putting me in sparkles and in pink this final season, I have to grit my teeth. I can’t breathe looking like that anymore. A friend came by the set one day and said, 'You don’t look very happy.' I said, 'I'm feeling claustrophobic in all these frills."
In 2019, she told Elle that "the minute" she had sex for the first time, she felt she had outgrown the series, saying, "It felt ridiculous. I was kind of like, 'I can’t put the f**king wig on again. It got weird. It just felt like... I was grown up. "
Cyrus never escaped the attention that Hannah brought her, but she was able to carve out the career she wanted making music and movies. And just being herself —whether is being candid about her sexuality or shocking on stage.
And maybe she'll step back into Hannah's boots one day. In 2020, she was asked about bringing back the character and said, "You know what honestly, I try to put that wig on all the time. She’s just in storage collecting dust and I’m ready to whip her out… The opportunity will present itself."
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