LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Another “wholesome” teen icon gone bad? Or was U.S. television star Miley Cyrus’ blunder in allowing herself to be photographed wrapped only in a bed sheet simply a mistake that will be forgiven by her young fans?
The 15-year-old star of the Disney Channel hit TV show “Hannah Montana” laid low on Tuesday as the furor over her Vanity Fair photo shoot left some commentators wondering if she would ever live it down.
“If you are Miley Cyrus you can’t really lie low. She is a phenomenon,” Us Weekly editor in chief Janice Min told Reuters. “This magazine is going to be on newsstands for an entire month.”
Cyrus rocketed to fame on the show about a girl who leads a double life as a teenager and singing sensation. Her “Best of Both Worlds” concert tour last year sold $36 million in tickets, and generated a hit 3D film, but venues sold out so quickly and scalpers sold so many tickets at such high prices that angry parents filed suit and politicians launched investigations.
The actress quickly apologized over the Vanity Fair picture, taken by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, which showed her with tousled hair and apparently wearing nothing but a sheet clutched over her breasts.
Additional photos released by the magazine included one of Cyrus, with a bared midriff, resting on the knee of her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
“This picture disturbs me. It looks like his daughter is his girlfriend. He’s trying to be hot,” radio host Howard Stern said.
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, 49, herself a former child star, said she wished Cyrus’ guardians had protected her better.
“She is a young girl. She shouldn’t have to deal with any of this. I don’t feel that she was duped ... there were people at the shoot that should have been looking out to make sure this didn’t happen,” Curtis wrote in the Huffington Post blog on Tuesday.
Min said she did not think Cyrus would suffer any long-term consequences from the pictures, which she saw as symptomatic of the pitfalls surrounding young celebrities who sell an “almost impossibly perfect, wholesome image.”
Other U.S. teen stars to have fallen from grace in recent years include actress Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of singer Britney Spears and an actress on the youth-oriented Nickelodeon network, who became pregnant at age 16 — and Vanessa Hudgens, a star of Disney’s “High School Musical,” whose image took a thrashing when full, frontal nude pictures of her appeared on the Internet.
“I think Miley’s young fans are probably more forgiving of this than the parents of those fans and the media. Who at 15 did not do something she regretted?” Min said.
Celebrity crisis consultant Michael Sitrick said Cyrus’ parents should portray the shoot as isolated bad judgment.
“I’d advise the parents to shoulder the blame. I’d go on ‘Oprah” and ‘60 Minutes’ and say that while they are sorry, it doesn’t mean she is any less wholesome ... and ... that it is outrageous that people are making such a big deal of this,” said Sitrick, who advised socialite Paris Hilton after her jail stint last year.
“She is not exposing any more than she would if she wore a bathing suit or a junior prom press. I would have a bunch of models in prom dresses on ‘Oprah’ with me and say — tell me the difference,” Sitrick added.
Former Disney teen star Hilary Duff, who became an icon five years ago through her TV character “Lizzie McGuire,” declined to pass judgment on Cyrus.
“It’s always a tough position to be in, to be young and have so much attention on you, Duff, 20, told reporters in New York. “I know what that’s like. I just wish her the best.”