Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus expertly explains why the word ‘diva’ is so problematic

Posted by for Music

Reflecting on a recent experience she had at the VMA’s, Miley Cyrus pointed out the contrast between the way society treats men and women for knowing what they want.

Miley Cyrus certainly knows a thing or two about performing. Since the beginning of her career, she’s landed multiple number ones and claimed countless awards. But despite all of her experience, Cyrus says she still falls victim to sexist stereotypes. 

Speaking on a recent episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, Cyrus explained how knowing what she wants when it comes to her performances has led people to assume she’s a “diva” – something a man in her position would never be called. 

Reflecting on a recent experience she had at the VMA’s, Cyrus revealed how her lighting requests had been questioned by the show’s team, despite her knowing exactly what she wanted for the performance. 

“There was an interesting conversation in regards to lighting,” she explained. “I’ve been learning a lot from directors – I didn’t go to film school but I have been put through an education in that way, so I directed the last video and that’s kind of what I look forward to doing over the next 10 years. Now I have a better understanding of cameras and lighting operation, so I was just asking some questions – not even on some diva shit like ‘I only want to be shot from this side’ or whatever – I wanted the lights to be turned off and then the lighting of the room to just be lighting me. So no key light, no beauty light.”

She continued: “Beauty light is always used on women, so I said ‘turn the fucking lights off’ – you would never tell Travis Scott or Adam Levine that he couldn’t turn the beauty light off, I want this red lighting. And they said ‘OK, OK, we’ll just do the same thing [with the lighting] that we do with the guys’ because I was like ‘that’s what I want’.”

After fighting to get the lighting just the way she wanted it, Cyrus said she continued to face sexist comments from the people on set when it came to sorting out another moment in her performance.

“My bracelets kept getting caught in all this shit and they said ‘you wanted to be treated like a guy and lit like a guy, but we wouldn’t be dealing with this if a guy was doing it’.”

Asked how she handles these kinds of situations, Cyrus went on to explain how she’s always been kind but firm, and continues to fight back against the toxic assumption that knowing what she wants makes her a diva – especially when the same wouldn’t be said to male musicians in her situation.

“I don’t lose my kindness, but I also don’t become a mat,” she explained. “I am firm about what I want, but in a way that you might expect someone to say ‘oh man she was a diva or she was a bitch’. But again it’s like – OK, have The Weeknd come in here and say the same thing.”

She added: “No one would ever say that about Kanye West choosing what lighting he wants on a performance.”

Cyrus isn’t the only female musician to speak out about the toxic ‘diva’ stereotype which continues to prevail across Hollywood. Speaking on Zane Lowe’s Apple Music radio show earlier this year, Ariana Grande said the word diva was “an insult to strong female energy,” adding that there’s a double standard between men and women when it comes to taking control.

“It’s like when men express their opinions or defend themselves: ‘Oh, he’s being a boss. Oh, he’s taking control.’ And yet, it’s just so not the same thing with women, which I hope we can work on fixing,” she said. “I’m tired of seeing women silenced by it. I think there’s this thing where we’ll hear something, or be, ‘Oh, she said this.’ And then it really sits with you. And you feel like, ‘Oh wow. Should I not express myself anymore? Should I not have this fight that I want to have any more? Should I just say, OK, and let it be?’”

She continued: “And then it kind of fucks you up a little bit. Of course, it’s not an all the time thing. But it is definitely still prominent. But I’m trying to just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and let go of that trauma. Because I do have a lot to say, and I do enjoy talking to people. And I do want to do interviews and share with people, and not be afraid to be myself.

“I’m working on becoming that.”

It’s tiring that women are still dealing with comments such as these in 2020, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that stars like Cyrus and Grande aren’t playing around when it comes to dismantling damaging sexist stereotypes. You keep doing you ladies.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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