Miley Cyrus’ Haircut and What it Says about Youth Right Now

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 @ 01:39 PM

56386418When it comes to trend spotting, sometimes it makes sense to head right to the top…of the head. When we say “80’s” music, shoulder pads, or neon jelly bracelets may come to mind, but almost undoubtedly you think about hair. Big bangs, tight curls, macho Mohawks, creative colors. They all serve a more symbolic purpose than it may seem. It’s not uncommon to hear a cohort characterized by the way they wore their locks – bobs, pompadours, bee hives, feathered locks, afros, and “poofs” – or a star to transcend because of their hair – Farrah, Dorothy Hamil, Mr. T, “Rachel,” Vanilla Ice, Snooki, and, of course, the Bieb.

And, if you want to understand a cohort’s connection to convention or to read into their beliefs and values, you may want to pay attention to the changing look and length of youth’s locks!

Like Samson, girls know that hair holds power. So, what does it say that Miley Cyrus just got rid of hers? Is she too young to remember what happened when Felicity lost her trademark tresses? Is Miley’s bright blonde shade and punked-up style a personal statement, PR move, or, possibly, a ploy to just fit in? We think it could be all three.

Of course, Miley might be engaged in a very age-appropriate search for identity, and she just happens to be doing it under the spotlight (see our blog post about the first time Miley started to explore). It’s possible that she’s trying to shock us to ensure that she stays on our minds. But, could it also be that Miley’s look is part of a bigger statement being made by many youths right now?

It was just a few months ago that Katniss’ feminine braids – which created an intriguing contrast with her powerful persona – dominated fashion. Taylor Swift, with her twirly tresses, dominated our list of top musicians. Stars stopped hiding their use of extensions and started showing off the ways they made their hair longer with ease.

Now it seems hair has flipped with even Willow Smith foregoing whipping her hair back and forth for a shorter look.  Miley’s move may be more about asserting her independence from the haters who question why this 19-year-old needs to get engaged to finance Liam Hemsworth, who, ironically, shared the screen with Katniss’ braids in The Hunger Games. Rihanna recently donned a daringly short do as she courted controversy by embracing her ex, Chris Brown. Perhaps, like getting over an ex, getting a haircut just helps you get over hurtful words and the scrutiny of the public and the press.

Or perhaps this look is about a bigger trend? It seems that 2012 is the year of girls empowerment: from the Fab 5 of Olympics fame and survivalist stars like Katniss, to the empowered sounds of Selena Gomez, Pink, Beyonce and Rihanna. Girl power isn’t new but what may be new is what it looks like right now. It’s a trend we’ll be watching, but right now it seems most characterized by:

  • Substance over style. Power gained through ideas or talents, not through press.
  • Physical strength, along with feminine fortitude.
  • Savvy over sass. Think less sassy sayings on their backsides and more smarts about managing their career, image or relationships with authenticity.
And focus over frolic. We don’t see Lindsay on this list. We don’t see scandalous celebs making their presence known. Instead, girls’ re-empowered might be a reclaiming of girl power by real girls – even if they are still famous ones.

Tags: Social Issues, girls, kids tweens teens, Miley Cyrus, olympics

What to Make of Miley: The Tween Stars Transition and What it Really Tells Us

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 @ 10:46 AM

For the past few months, we’ve been watching with, well, everyone, to see what Miley Cyrus will do next. While most have seen her recent performances at Canada’s MuchMusic Awards and the MTV Music Awards as shedwater moments in the young entertainer’s life, we’ve been watching her shed her softer side for a while. (Remember that infamous pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards?)

In the beginning of 2009, we began to hear kids tell us that Miley’s days were numbered. But at the same time – and throughout 2009 – Miley remained kids’ and tweens’ choice for “favorite” celebrity. But were they reacting to the time-old tale of tween icon turned teen iconoclast?  Probably not. More than likely, Hannah Montana was just less new than it once was. And with Nick’s iCarly showing a more relatable slice of life (and perhaps even more aspirational, with many tweens fantasizing about hosting their own webcast over starring on stage), Hannah seemed to be losing steam.

But then Miley started pushing boundaries. And things started to get interesting.

As Laura Holson wrote in a NYTimes article last Sunday, Fans of Miley Question Her New Path, kids and tweens have been left in the dust while Miley leaves them behind. For kids and tweens, who often feel a deep connection to the characters they watch, Miley growing up feels a little scary, and a bit like a snub. While we might think of todays’ kids and tweens as edgier, more sophisticated and more experimental than in the past, at the heart of it, they’re terrified of taking that next step into the teen years. They may appear to be dressing seductively, but the kind of overt sexuality that Cyrus has put on display is more intimidating than inspiring.

So what’s a tween to do? Well, we predict they’ll do something surprising – tune in to the final season of Hannah Montana, if only to reminisce about the way things “used to be.” But will they stick with her and look up to her when she’s off air? Probably not. For every Miley (Britney, Christina) who grows up, there’s a benign starlet waiting in the wings (Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Selena Gomez and everyone from Glee!). And for teens, Miley (who just nabbed a Glee-tying total of 19 nominations at the Teen Choice Awards for TV, music and fashion) might be hitting their radar for the first time since they left their own tween years behind.Miley Cyrus

If the lesson for kids and tweens feels somewhat moralistic, what’s the message to brands? First, people might be brands, but when they’re still developing, those brands will – will have to – evolve. As much as marketers and fans might like Miley to stay the way she is, wouldn’t we be a bit worried about her if she did? Second, if you’re a brand, kids and tweens own you – not the other way around. Before your brand changes, check in with your most critical customers: tweens. And finally, recognize that what your youngest consumers want is not to grow up faster or “get older younger,” like so many marketers have mantra’d in the past. For many kids and tweens, the “right now” is comfortable, cozy and confidence-building. And speaking to where they are sometimes requires as much following as it does leading.

So in the next few months, as the frenzy over Miley’s every milestone reaches its peak, we’ll be watching. But instead of seeing her as a brand taking a risk, we’ll be watching as a teen takes on the challenge of finding out who she is and who she wants to be. That seems to us like a story in the making.   

Tags: kids, Nickelodeon, movie, music, TV, Miley Cyrus