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The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Let celebrities grow up, too: The burden of public image

Like+many+others+her+age%2C+senior+Addie+Kerkhoff+dressed+up+as+Hannah+Montana+for+Halloween+as+a+kid.+
Ree Walter
Like many others her age, senior Addie Kerkhoff dressed up as Hannah Montana for Halloween as a kid.

Watching shows such as “Hannah Montana” and “Shake it Up” on Disney Channel, Gen Z has essentially grown up with its favorite on-screen celebrities. But while fans of stars such as Miley Cyrus and Zendaya have begun to enter the late stages of their adolescence, these young talents continue to be burdened by their youthful reputations. 

Teenagers on the brink of adulthood often experience nostalgia for their younger years, but childhood stars truly understand the reality, and the detriment, of not being able to grow up. Maturing faster than their public images, many of these young actors take drastic measures to transform their brands. 

One of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon is “Hannah Montana” star Miley Cyrus. Many Gen Zers remember watching Hannah Montana live a double life on their screens with the show being a childhood favorite for many. 

Senior Ava Kwak recalled watching the show with her sister. “As a kid, ‘Hannah Montana’ was my go-to show. I watched it probably every day with my sister, and we thought it was hilarious,” she explained.

Building off her childhood success, Cyrus hoped to launch herself from the acting world to pop stardom. But with a seemingly unbreakable bond to her role on “Hannah Montana,” Cyrus would have to do something big to break loose from the restraints of her reputation – so, naturally, she swung on a wrecking ball naked in a music video for her song “Wrecking Ball.”

“When Miley Cyrus started not to care what people think, it was kind of shocking to us,” Kwak elaborated. “It felt like it came out of nowhere and was completely opposite of the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana that we had grown up with. We were kind of sad to see her suddenly viewed as inappropriate and crazy because she inspired us so much.”

While this music video seemed to be the tipping point, defiant songs such as “Can’t Be Tamed” and “We Can’t Stop” accompanied Cyrus’s paradigm shift in reputation. In a scathing 2013 article titled “Miley’s Downfall,” HuffPost contributor Daniaja Davis questioned Cyrus’s drastic change. “It’s kind of the same tragic tale: A young, innocent girl rises to stardom through Disney Channel, and as soon as that phase is over, she desperately wants people to view her as a mature adult,” she said. “So what does she do? She wears less clothing, she sings more provocative songs and takes on more sexy acting roles.”

Davis continued, “Honestly, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting to mature in your career – that’s natural. Where Miley went wrong, is that she went from one extreme to another.” Around the time of this article’s publication, many shared the same sentiment as Davis, believing Cyrus was heading down the wrong path. But today, that could not be further from the truth.

With the honor of being named one of Forbes 30 under 30 this year, Cyrus’s career has certainly not gone down the drain. While she has had her fair share of scandals, Cyrus has established herself as an adaptive pop icon. With a music career, a re-entrance into the acting world and a non-profit organization known as the Happy Hippie Foundation, she has seemingly been served well by her “shattered” reputation. 

But Cyrus is no anomaly.

Zendaya’s recent success on hit show “Euphoria” has proven to be an escape from her more family-friendly roles on Disney Channel and even as MJ in the latest Spider-Man movies. Her early success on shows such as “Shake It Up” and “K.C. Undercover” garnered the actress a young following but inevitably tied her to the outwardly wholesome brand of Disney.

Externally, it appears Zendaya has made a flawless transition from Disney to heavier, more mature shows such as “Euphoria,” but for the young talent, getting the confidence to believe she was capable was no simple feat. 

Zendaya explained her apprehension. “I was really nervous because I wanted to do well. It’s like going from nothing to everything –  there were no steps in between. That’s why people think it’s such a stretch for me to play this character,” she told The New York Times. “There’s a lot of people who probably think I can’t do it because they don’t truly understand my personality. And I get it: I’m a Disney kid. There’s a lot to prove.”

And while Zendaya has been largely successful in proving herself, she must still be conscious of her young platform. Before the premiere of the second season, Zendaya took to Instagram to post a warning. “I know I’ve said this before, but I do want to reiterate to everyone that Euphoria is for mature audiences…” the actress wrote. The objectively sensitive content of “Euphoria” paired with Zendaya’s young following justified the necessity of such a message.

While celebrities such as Cyrus and Zendaya may be grateful for the platforms Disney gave them, breaking free of their wholesome reputations has been quite the challenge. But this phenomenon extends to other forms of media, as well. 

Popular YouTuber Emma Chamberlain recently made waves by going on Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy, a controversial podcast with sexual subject matter. Beginning her YouTube career at just 16, Chamberlain rose to popularity for her humor and authenticity. 

Today at 20 years old, Chamberlain owns a coffee company, has established herself as a fashion icon and possesses millions of followers across social media platforms. However, in many people’s eyes, Chamberlain is still the same 16-year-old girl she was when she got her start on social media. 

“I have been on the internet for so long that people know me as a teenager, and I’m 20. I’m about to be 21…I’ve been really trying to grow in the public eye because I can’t stay a teenager in everybody’s mind forever…” Chamberlain told Cooper on the podcast. Talking about relationships and sex, Chamberlain attempted to show the public that she has grown and is continuing to do so. 

Senior Hannah Harrison has watched Chamberlain’s platform grow over the years. “With her being a part of my life while I was growing up, I guess I never realized she was growing up as well,” she said. “I think we as viewers forget that creators also grow up and their brands won’t be the same as before.”

While the podcast opened Harrison’s eyes to Chamberlain’s growing pains, not all fans are as willing to accept that their favorite creators are bound to change over time. 

But why must these celebrities bear the mental strain of a seemingly unshakeable reputation?

Indeed, young talents and internet sensations consciously sacrifice normalcy by getting involved with big projects at a young age, but the ability to grow up is not a privilege. And at the end of the day, celebrities are humans, too.

As we grow up, we leave our childhoods behind us, and with them the Hannah Montanas and Rocky Blues of children’s television. But similarly to how we evolve throughout adolescence, young celebrities hope to do the same. We must not let our childhood associations dictate the careers of beloved actors and talents.

As consumers of media, we must let celebrities grow up, too.

 

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Jayne Abraham
Jayne Abraham, Editor-in-Chief
Jayne Abraham is the Editor-in-Chief for the Spartan Shield. She has written for the shield for two years and enjoys writing in her free time. Jayne is also heavily involved in several organizations at PVHS including the Positive Place Club which focuses on discussing diversity and inclusion in the PV community, and Girls Learn International which discusses current social justice issues in the world. When she isn't busy with school and her leadership position for the shield, Jayne keeps her schedule full with her job as a host and expo at Steel Plow. One of her passions is soccer, and she plays for the PV girls soccer team as well as club soccer for Sporting Iowa East. Jayne is also a member of the Iowa Youth Congress, and some of her favorite pastimes include reading, listening to music, travelling, and spending time with family and friends. As Editor-in-Chief, Jayne is very excited to lead the shield staff this year.
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Let celebrities grow up, too: The burden of public image