Publicly addressing the uproar over his daughter Miley’s Vanity Fair photo shoot for the first time, country music star Billy Ray Cyrus said he wasn’t present when the most controversial shot was taken. But, he added, there’s nothing for him and Miley Cyrus to do about it other than ride out the storm and move on with their blockbuster careers.
“I didn’t know they were gonna strip her down and wrap her in a blanket,” Cyrus told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday in New York. He was referring to a shot of his famous 15-year-old daughter taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz in which the “Hannah Montana” star appeared to be topless, covered only by a sheet she held against her chest.
While Cyrus doesn’t approve of the photograph, which Leibovitz defended as “a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup,” he said there’s nothing that can be done about it.
“My dad always told me the more you stomp in poop, the more it stinks,” he said, reaching back to his Kentucky childhood for a colorful metaphor. “So I was just, ‘OK, this happened. We got to deal with it.’ ”
It comes with the territory of being a star, he said, harking back to when he was a brand-new star and an old hand told him how life is.
Advice from Kristofferson
“My mind also went back to 1992,” Cyrus told Vieira. “I had the number-one album on Billboard Top 200 for 17 weeks in a row. And with that positive thing going on, there was also that double-edged thing of a reaction. And I remember Kris Kristofferson stopped me backstage at one of my shows and said, ‘Listen, hoss, always remember: The turkey with the longest neck’s always going to be the one everyone’s shootin’ at.’ ”
After the controversy over the Vanity Fair shoot broke, Cyrus shared that advice with his daughter. “Me and Miley went for a little walk a few days later, and I told her what Kris had said. I said, ‘It’s just one of those things. You gotta kind of stand back and let it run its course.’ ”
In defending the photo, Vanity Fair pointed out that Miley’s grandmother and publicist were at the shoot, saw the picture, and didn’t disapprove. Billy Ray had even participated in the shoot, taking a picture with his daughter that was also criticized as looking more like a boyfriend-girlfriend shot than a father-daughter portrait. But, he said, he had to leave before the picture with the sheet was taken.
“I had just finished a movie down in Florida. I flew in because Annie had specifically asked that I come in and do a shot with Miley. I had worked with her before. She’s a great lady. She’s a good person, a great photographer. I was scheduled to be in Washington state the next day to play for the troops returning from Iraq and then the next day in Anchorage, Alaska.” He left early to catch a plane for that special concert.
He also defended the father-daughter photo, in which Miley, dressed in jeans and a top that bares her midriff, lounges across his lap.
‘Just a daddy who loves his daughter’
“I’m sorry if I offended somebody. That’s just a daddy who loves his daughter a whole lot,” Cyrus told Vieira. “Miley and I just got caught up in this adventure of this dream and what we do for a living and, again, we both love acting, we love making music, and we love each other. I’m her dad, she’s my daughter. If a daddy hasn’t hugged his daughter recently, I recommend he does.”
He went back to his philosophy that life has its ups and downs, and you have to ride them out.
“For every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction,” he said, speaking of Miley’s choice of career. “For every high, there’s a low. It’s just the way life is. She has a dream. She loves what she does for a living, she just loves it.”