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Oliver: Even pop stars should listen to their elders

Learning from the mistakes of others seems to be an acquired skill, one that requires being observant and humble.

Not everyone gets it, but those who do can be saved from a host of heartaches.

When young people bristle at the advice of their well-meaning elders, well, I find myself shaking my head at their missed opportunity. Or worse, angered at their self-inflicted stupidity.

Pop princess Miley Cyrus, I’m looking at you, sweetheart.

Granted, it’s a little late to bring this up, but there’s a larger point here and it’s been gnawing at me.

Don’t get me wrong, Cyrus has the right as an adult to do whatever she wants, to dress the way she wants and to make a complete idiot of herself if she so chooses. Even in front of millions of people, as she did with that unseemly display of tongue-wagging and “twerking” at the recent Video Music Awards.

After all, she’s not breaking any ground. Madonna and Britney Spears are just two of the attention-seeking tartlets who went before her. Some prospered despite their scandals and others imploded under the weight of their bad choices.

Cyrus seems to have paid at least some attention to history, citing Sinead O’Connor in a “Rolling Stone” interview as an inspiration.

Of course, what probably was meant as a compliment to O’Connor brought a far different response from the artist best known for her work in the 1990s.

O’Connor penned an open letter to Cyrus, warning her of the dangers of allowing herself to be exploited by the music industry, particularly in overly sexual packaging.

She implored Cyrus to let her music and artistry speak for themselves and not allow herself to be “prostituted” by record executives more interested in dollars than in the artists themselves.

Sadly, this sage advice fell on deaf ears.

Worse yet, Cyrus responded by mocking O’Connor’s history of mental illness. And the “feud” has devolved from there.

But O’Connor’s admonition about the example Cyrus and other female artists set as role models for other women was spot on.

Too often young women don’t fully understand the consequences of dressing provocatively. They somehow think that the only ones who will see them when they show too much skin are the boys they are trying to attract.

Problem is, they aren’t the only ones who are getting a show. 

It’s a message I try to pass along to the younger women around me. After all, I was young and naļve once, too.

Our appearance sends a message about who we are and how we value ourselves, whether we want to admit it or not. And it’s too easy to demean oneself in a delusion of “empowerment.”

Perhaps Cyrus will grow up and put this sordid chapter behind her before she does any permanent damage to herself.

Because if she doesn’t, the only tongues that will be wagging will be those of the tabloids breathlessly relating her sad demise.

But she won’t be able to say that no one tried to stop her.

• Joan Oliver is the assistant news editor for the Northwest Herald. She can be reached at 815-526-4552 or by email at joliver@shawmedia.com.

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