Noah Cyrus performed at the CMT Music Awards on Wednesday while wearing a see-through bodysuit covered with strategically-placed crystals.
The 20-year-old has since received an influx of criticism online, with people calling her "trashy," "tasteless," and a bad role model.
The criticism mirrors comments that her sister Miley Cyrus has faced throughout her career, especially when she was Noah's age.
Professor of gender and sexuality studies Diana Blaine told Insider these comments can not only harm the musicians they're directed at, but also their fans and other social-media users.
Noah Cyrus performed at the CMT Music Awards on Wednesday, and she made a bold fashion statement while there.
For a performance of "This Is Us" with singer Jimmie Allen, Cyrus wore a see-through bodysuit with strategically placed crystals that created the shape of a small bikini. The 20-year-old also donned a studded cowboy hat, long gloves, and white boots that extended above her knees.
Almost immediately after she took the stage, people began to share negative comments in response to Noah's outfit, calling her everything from "trashy" to "tasteless."
Not only can such comments be sexist and harmful to viewers, according to a professor of gender and sexuality studies, but they also mirror statements that have been aimed at her sister Miley Cyrus throughout her career.
Noah Cyrus wore a sheer bodysuit, which some people called 'trashy' and 'tasteless,' at the CMT Music Awards
The outfit was custom-made for Noah by Saga NYC, a self-described "slow-fashion brand" that creates upcycled and made-to-order garments.
Speaking to Insider over email, Saga NYC founder Sandra Gagalo said she worked with Noah's stylist Phil Gomez to create the outfit, which was inspired by a similar look Noah wore in the "This Is Us" music video. She added that she's known for creating "sheer bodysuits with a specific layering technique" that she's been developing since 2014.
"This piece looks simple far away, but looking at it close up you would realize how many small pieces have been sewn together," Gagalo said. "The rhinestones were placed specifically to look like a floating thong and triangle bra so that it looked abstract."
"Phil always supports independent designers, and he wanted me to go for the sheer vibe and give her a futuristic look," she added. "Noah had her vision and we just helped bring it to life."
Still, some took issue with the outfit. CMT shared a clip of Noah's performance shortly after it aired, and the post was quickly flooded with comments from people who criticized the musician's appearance.
"Good performance, but her outfit was trashy," one person wrote.
"What a tasteless choice of an outfit for a country award show," another Instagram user said. "Her sister seems to be influencing her too much."
"This is an embarrassment to country music," someone else added.
People on Twitter also shared negative comments about Noah wearing the bodysuit during the awards show, with many making comparisons to her sister Miley as a dig.
Not a fan of @noahcyrus performance. I feel like she is trying to be like her sister. Plus, her outfit was inappropriate!! @CMT #CMTawards Tweet Embed:
Are we really that surprised though? Look at what her sister Miley has gotten away with. Neither one of them are what you could call good role models for young girls.
The controversy mirrors criticism that Miley Cyrus has faced throughout her career
Despite being the star of a hit Disney Channel show, singing popular songs like "Wrecking Ball," and starring in films including "The Last Song," Miley is widely known across the world as a controversial celebrity.
She received her first widespread criticism in 2008 at the age of 15 after she posed semi-nude with a satin bedsheet draped across her chest for a Vanity Fair feature. Continuing to break free of the Disney mold approximately one year later, Miley wore shorts and danced on top of a rolling cart — which featured a silver pole — during a Teen Choice Awards performance. At the time, Billboard reported that people were upset by the "risqué" number and Miley's "questionable dance moves."
It was her 2013 MTV Video Music Awards appearance, however, that really earned Cyrus her reputation. She famously stuck her tongue out, waved a foam finger, and twerked against Robin Thicke during their performance. There was, arguably, lots to critique about the occasion. Miley's dances have been considered examples of cultural appropriation, and the song she performed with Thicke ("Blurred Lines") sparked a debate about sexual consent.
Still, people were seemingly more transfixed by Miley's dancing and her two-piece latex ensemble, which closely matched the color of her skin. Not only did she receive criticism online in response to the outfit — with people calling her "trashy" and a bad role model — but she was also named as one of the worst-dressed celebrities at the event by some news publications, and voted the worst-dressed celebrity of the year in a TIME poll.
In March, Miley told Demi Lovato during a livestream that the experience discouraged her from wearing shorts and bikinis for years after the performance. She pointed out that edited photos of a turkey wearing her outfit particularly affected her.
"I basically went through two or three years where I wouldn't wear shorts," Cyrus said during their Instagram chat. "I stopped wearing skirts on stage, all this s--- because after the VMAs, and I had on my cute little nude bodysuit, everyone started comparing me to a turkey and putting a turkey in my outfit."
"I was just so skinny and so pasty and they kept putting me next to this turkey, and I was feeling so bad on myself that I did not wear a bikini for like two years and no one thought that would ever make me feel some type of way," she said.
Noah stands by her outfit choice, and those involved with styling her for the event feel the same
In a series of tweets on Thursday night, Noah responded to two critics of her CMT Music Awards outfit.
When one person said Noah's sheer bodysuit was "not appropriate" and would make her feel uncomfortable watching the performance with her granddaughter, the musician replied: "Honey, your granddaughter will wear that someday."
Honey, your granddaughter will wear that someday https://t.co/rRDWNisYFe
In another tweet, one critic told Noah that she "loved" the song, but felt the musician should have "put some clothing on" because her look was "not a good choice." Noah retweeted the message and added: "My body my choice, b----."
my body my choice, bitch. https://t.co/U4ydSuG6I0
Gagalo, who designed the controversial bodysuit, said that "every woman should express herself as she pleases."
"We wanted to bring fantasy to the CMT Awards and I believe we accomplished that," she said, adding that she didn't think this outfit was "anything more revealing than what Cher, Britney Spears, or Jennifer Lopez regularly wear."
Gomez, one of Noah's stylists, echoed Gagalo's statement in an email sent to Insider. He said that Noah's outfit was created with women they idolize in mind, and cited Cher and Dolly Parton as major inspirations.
"These women are legends because they are talented and use their bodies as part of their art form," Gomez said. "Noah is no different."
"In my opinion, 'young impressionable children' would benefit more from body positivity rather than shaming," he continued. "The problem is those who choose to sexualize and criticize women's bodies, not the other way around."
Professor Diana Blaine says the negative comments directed towards both Cyrus sisters can be extremely damaging to the musicians and their fans
Diana Blaine, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Southern California, told Insider that women are often "caught in a double bind" when it comes to figuring out how they want to express themselves.
"On the one hand, we are told we are valuable primarily for our looks, including our sexual attractiveness," she said. "Failing to live up to mythical norms of beauty can cause us to doubt our worth as humans, no matter what other talents and skills we possess."
Still, women are expected to dress in ways that relate to "old codes of morality and religious beliefs," according to Blaine, so they can "easily become too attractive" or "too appealing" by trying to mirror societal norms of attractiveness.
"It's no less painful to be attacked for being sexual as it is for lacking sex appeal," she said. "Either way, your body is public property, not your own to enjoy."
While such comments can impact celebrities — including the Cyrus sisters — they can also send the wrong message to fans and other social-media users. After all, fans of celebrities often "want to be like them and want them to be liked," Blaine said, and can, in turn, internalize the negative comments their favorite stars receive.
So when stars like Noah and Miley are called "trashy," viewers might start to believe that "being a sexually appealing female is dangerous, that being criticized is part of the experience of being female, and that we must be deserving of criticism, especially when coupled with race and class stigma," Blaine said.
"Girls learn to police not only their own bodies, but those of other women," she added.
Of course, Noah likely has yet to reach her peak fame the way Miley had back in 2013 during her VMAs performance. But Noah does have access to more social-media platforms than her sister did at the time. That difference, according to Blaine, is what makes the criticism towards Noah so "pervasive."
Those criticizing the fashion of female musicians are ignoring talent at best, and making sexist remarks at worst
The criticism Noah is now facing shows how little the public opinion of female celebrities has changed in the past seven years. As Blaine described it, the US in particular "remains deeply ambivalent about the body, nudity, and female sexuality."
"Sex still sells, and just as Miley Cyrus was able to generate attention by wearing provocative outfits, Noah Cyrus is as well," she said. "The main changes in the last decade relate to the rise of participation in social media by non-celebrities."
"Nearly all young women are online now, and the pressure on them to appear perfect in their photos has increased exponentially," Blaine said.
In that same vein, no one benefits from the contradicting expectations placed on female musicians. When women like Miley and Noah wear revealing outfits onstage, they're placed on worst-dressed lists and labeled "tasteless." But when the Red Hot Chili Peppers make naked performances a part of their repertoire, their "Greatest Shirtless Moments (Some Without Pants & Underwear, Too)" are celebrated.
And whereas provocative performances lead female celebrities to be described as "bad role models," bands like Blink-182 can create an iconic image by going nude in music videos and hosting awards shows without clothes.
Placing so much attention on the appearance of female celebrities can also cause people to miss what artists like Miley and Noah are accomplishing
Noah in particular has the potential to make it big in the music industry after releasing her debut album "The End of Everything" this year. She has more than 12 million monthly Spotify listeners at the time of writing, and is gaining even more recognition after collaborating with her sister for a performance of "I Got So High That I Saw Jesus."
Miley, on the other hand, is finally being recognized as a standout musician. In recent months, her single "Midnight Sky" made a splash, and her covers of classic songs like "Heart of Glass" and "Zombie" have gotten major buzz online. She's now planning to release her first rock album in November.
Of course, that's not to say there's no room to discuss the fashion of Noah, Miley, and other celebrities. Not only do stars influence pop culture, but they also spark trends that are mirrored by retailers and younger generations.
But to place more importance on their appearance and fashion choices is to minimize their work and gloss over their sheer talent.
Representatives for Noah Cyrus declined to comment, and representatives for Miley Cyrus did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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