Sinéad O’Connor Pens A Powerful Open Letter To Miley Cyrus

"[The music business] will prostitute you for all you are worth"

In her current Rolling Stone magazine coverstory interview, Miley Cyrus revealed that the music video for her single Wrecking Ball was inspired, in part, by Sinéad O’Connor‘s iconic early 90′s music video for her worldwide smash hit song Nothing Compares 2 U. Having said that, O’Connor started getting requests from the media to comment on Miley‘s revelation … which inspired O’Connor to pen an open letter to Cyrus. As you can read below, Sinéad gets right to the point and tries to make plainly clear to Miley that she has the utmost concern for her well-being and offers her the best advice, I think, a fellow (and more wizened) female musician can offer to another (younger, more inexperienced) musician. Click below to read Sinéad‘s open letter to Miley in full.

Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your “Wrecking Ball” video was designed to be similar to the one for “Nothing Compares” … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way “cool” to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.

I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.
The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, “they” will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men oggling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a fuck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a fuck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted.. it’s so not cool Miley.. it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherfucker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

Altho a bit long, I can’t say that I really disagree with a single point that Sinéad is trying to make. I suspect detractors will make a ridiculous claim that Sinéad is trying to get press for herself or some such thing but I don’t believe that for one second. I can read the genuine concern in Sinéad‘s words … concern that I fear will fall on deaf ears. Unfortunately, at Miley‘s age and level of fame (and adoration), she is extremely unlikely to take any of this advice to heart. I fully believe that Cyrus will completely disregard every word of this letter, if she even bothers to read it in full in the first place … and that’s a shame because, again, while I may not agree with every single word that O’Connor wrote, I will say that I agree with the message that she is trying to get across to Miley. It would be amazing if Miley took any of this advice to heart but I don’t really see that happening. My guess is that she may come to realize the wisdom offered her in this letter somewhere down the line, after the fact … when Miley experiences the things that Sinéad warns about in this letter. Still, I commend O’Connor for writing and releasing this letter. She may not have been asked for her opinion/advice but we all know she is never one to shy away from doing (and saying) what she thinks is right.

What do y’all think of Sinéad‘s letter to Miley?

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  1. Scott

    Why not just send it to Miley directly? Why does she need the world to read her words? Although I do agree with some of it, I think there is a bit of publicity seeking going on as well.

    • Lulu

      Because a lot of the world could benefit from reading these words. That is why.
      Thank the Lord I have no daughters.

    • Lulu, ‘Because a lot of the world could benefit from reading these words.’ I completely agree. It’s directed at Miley but this should be read in every feminist college course, every high school sex ed class, every place, everywhere… LOL.

    • @Lulu Exactly. Like Trent, Miley won’t probably take any of it to heart. The concern is not only for Miley, but about the message of whatever she’s doing right now inevitably influences her audience and, most importantly, Miley herself.

      Plus, let’s be clear, Miley is the one that has consistently brought Sinead into the conversation, making references about her haircut and music video. Sinead’s response didn’t come out of nowhere. [I mean, it has nothing to do with this letter, but Miley was also the one that brought "race" into the conversation by making ignorant comments about how she wanted her album to sound black, etc. The whole debate about cultural appropiation didn't come out of nowhere either, no matter how she and others try to spin it. Meh.]

  2. sillysoolly

    Yeah, that’s going through one ear and out the other (if at all), which is too bad. But it’s a good letter — I know some un-famous teen girls who could probably benefit from some of those words as well.

    I give Sinéad props for writing it. I think Miley will be learning this the hard way.

    • Miley’s tweets suggest as much. She’s clueless and acting like a total asshat. I may have really reached my Miley limits with this one. I bet she’s loving it, but NOT COOL.

  3. JennVerde

    I really think bottom line, Miley is desperate. Her voice is far from pleasing to the ear so shock value is all she can ride on to cover up the fact that her voice can’t cut it on her own. It’s similar to Britney’s career – she relies on entertaining as her schtick. I’ll stick to concerts where actual singers can sing with their God given talent.

  4. whit

    Trent–you were right. Deaf ears :

    Before Amanda Bynes…. There was…. pic.twitter.com/6JZPVnunPc
    — Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) October 3, 2013

    Tacky response.

    • Joanna

      Tacky is exactly it. Don’t say someone is your role model/influence and then stick your middle finger up at them when they say something you don’t want to hear.
      And maybe all of those things that Miley posted in response are something which Sinead went through as a result of spending years under the vicious media eye, and thus are something to take heed of.

      These kids need people to tell them they are wrong, and don’t know best. That is life.

  5. Gillian

    I absolutely love this letter. I feel like every young girl/boy needs to hear this – it should be mandatory (especially if you plan on entering the show biz world. Kinda like how when young football players go from being dirt poor to millionaires overnight – they have them take a class on how to be responsible with their money, so they don’t end up bankrupt 2 years later

    PS – does anyone else have the urge to go listen to some Sinead on their iPod now too?

  6. I have to say that there’s really no “right” thing that Miley could do in response to this except keep her mouth shut. As the pressure will be on, I don’t think that’ll be happening. I don’t follow her on Twitter so I haven’t seen her tweets, but the one posted by Whit suggests that she is actually making fun of mental illness (as Sinead is bi-polar and she is comparing her with Amanda Bynes) which is just the lowest thing she could have done in my opinion.

    Sinead did not intend, though, to be anything less than harsh in her hammering of the word “prostitute”.

    I have to say that I’m pretty much fed up with this entertainment industry machine that makes a woman’s talent nothing and her body everything. The last three music video’s I watched (Miley, Britney & Rihanna) were nothing but cheap hyper sexualized biographies of women who don’t seem to know who they are or how to make an impact if they aren’t spreading their legs. And the whole Miley situation makes me sad because I think she has one of the grittiest and coolest voices in the current music world. Nobody sounds like her and unfortunately she just blends in with every other scantily dressed young woman who is not empowering herself, but empowering a bunch of music producers and promoters that want to sell her body and not her music. SO I guess there Sinead hit the nail on the head.

  7. Karen

    This is an amazing letter. So powerful. I’m glad she made it public and I hope many teenage girls and young women read it.

    I’m sure Miley is dismissing it, probably making fun of it. That’s too bad for her and for any fans of her that will follow her lead.

    I wish I could define what the difference is for me between owning one’s sexuality and exploiting it, but I don’t think I can. Maybe both are possible at the same time. But I do think girls and women have to own and value themselves as people on some (also undefinable) level first. I don’t know.

    I know women (and men) who absolutely are empowered by being objectified in a really stark way — but that’s part of their kink… It’s for certain times and places and with certain people. It’s not their entire identity and for the whole universe. And they know themselves so well. They’ve done the work to get to the point where it’s healthy for them.

    Well I’m just babbling now. Such a good letter. Love Sinead for writing it. So much!

  8. Amanda Palmer wrote an open letter in response to Sinéad’s and she made other interesting points, in case anyone is interested: http://amandapalmer.net/blog/20131003/

  9. Did you see those new nude photos of Miley by that creepmeister Terry Richardson? Full nipple, creepy poses, creepy tongue, creepy outfits, creepy everything. Ew.

    • Rens

      Yes, ick. You’re such a revolutionary, no one has ever tried to be shocking before. One day she will realize how immature she looks at this moment.

  10. I agree that this came from a place of genuine care and concern, and it is honestly heartwarming to see someone like Sinead reach out to a younger woman and try to help her like this.

    But, as much as I don’t like most of what Miley has done lately, I don’t totally agree with everything Sinead said. Amanda Palmer wrote an amazing open letter to Sinead about this, which details why it’s kind of problematic for Sinead to be telling Miley that she needs to cover up, and assuming that Miley isn’t making her own decisions here (however misguided they might be).

    I don’t think I’m allowed to post links in the comments here but everyone who has a couple of minutes to spare should really check out Amanda Palmer’s letter.

  11. Sam

    just chiming in with Ella about Amanda Palmer’s letter, I think she made some good points.

    Personally I haven’t been too shocked by anything she’s done recently. There were always hints of this sort of personality in her personal photos when they got leaked. I think she’s having fun and she knows how to get attention and make people talk.
    Terry Richardson on the other hand, seems like a total creep.

  12. James

    Hmm. Some of it I agree with, but some of it.. OK, for one thing she is body policing. The more she says Miley shouldn’t let her sexuality define her, the more she is in fact defining her by her sexuality; the more she is ostracizing every woman who embraces their sexuality regardless of what society says. Perhaps what Miley is doing is contrived, but Sinead seems to be implying that a woman shouldn’t be able to do with her own body whatever she wants, because that’s “prostituting herself.” I take issue with that. Madonna “prostituted herself,” wearing bondage gear and crawling on the floor on a leash, and she’s also considered to be one of the most feminist figures in pop culture. The gist is that Sinead O’Connor says women are defined by what other people say. That idea needs to be rejected, because that idea perpetuates patriarchal slut-shaming. Literally the only issue I have with Miley is her ignorant borrowing from black culture, and refusal to admit to appropriating. If she wants to take her clothes off, it’s society that lets that define her, not her, and it’s society that needs to be combatted and changed, not a 20 year old woman with the title “role model” thrust upon her.

  13. Nathan

    I think Sinead missed the boat on this one, and I understand Miley’s anger. HOWEVER, Miley’s response was cruel and insensitive–posting tweets written by a woman desperate for mental health assistance is not funny, nor is it an appropriate subject to mock. Why do I think Sinead missed the boat? She has an excellent message to convey: empower yourself and stay strong. Don’t use sexuality in a negative way. But calling her a pimp, a bad influence on young women, and a prostitute isn’t the “loving, motherly” tone poor Sinead claims she is trying to convey. It is condescending, sex-phobic, and insulting. Do we know for sure Miley has been manipulated? Maybe Miley conceived of this herself? Who knows–beginning by telling her it’s obvious she cares nothing about herself is no way to gain a young woman’s attention and respect.

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