Like all of us, Miley Cyrus has had to completely re-think her life during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. But unlike most of us, she has a major social media voice and she’s using it to good use as she tries to spread cheer, good advice, promote mental health and acceptance through her Bright Minded: Live With Miley Instagram talk show.
Cyrus hopped on the phone with the Wall Street Journal‘s magazine recently to talk about what it takes to write, direct and host the show and why her life as a child star helped prep her for the gig, as well as what she needed to learn to take it to the next level. “It’s hilarious people call this a TV show when it’s just Instagram Live,” Cyrus told the magazine from her home in Calabasas, California.
The show kicked off on March 16 — three days before California issued a stay-at-home order — with a chat featuring the singer’s longtime therapist, Dr. Daniel Amen, shot on her iPhone. Surprised that launching a show was that easy, she followed up with chats featuring Sen Elizabeth Warren, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Amy Schumer and Chef José Andrés.
The singer produces the show herself and she said she’s definitely learned some lesson along the way, especially since she reached out to fellow talker Ellen DeGeneres for some advice. “I texted Ellen and said, ‘Have you seen my show? Do you think it’s legitimate?’ ” Cyrus said. “She gave me the rundown of everything I didn’t have, including a sidekick and a DJ.” That resulted in Miley’s Shetland sheepdog, Emu, getting the sidekick gig and her recording a jaunty jingle to open each show.
The show quickly made news thanks to the real talk from guests like Miley’s old friend Gomez, who spoke openly about her bipolar disorder diagnosis, telling the WSJ that she really appreciated the “rawness” of the format. “I happened to catch it one day and loved what she was doing and knew I wanted to be a guest. I liked the rawness of the show,” she said. “I feel like people are yearning for that type of realism right now. Not something overly produced… Miley has never been afraid to take risks or put herself out there. This new role really seems to suit her, and you can tell she’s really enjoying herself.”
The show has been on hiatus since April 17, but Cyrus is planning more episodes and told the Journal that it has “evolved so deeply from trying to provide some escapism to actually the opposite: to not escaping, to diving into deeper involvement with our community.”
Check out seven important takeaways from the interview:
Miley got the idea for the show after a therapy session: “That is exactly what happened. Like a lot of people, I started experiencing anxiety, and I began calling my therapist. I know I’m in a unique position, and my experience with this pandemic is not like most everyone else’s in my country and around the world. So to be able to share his services for free and allow people to get this therapy, I thought was really important.”
She was initially afraid of doing the show: “Because I do not want to be a preacher or a teacher. I want to learn, and I want to listen. I want to just pass the microphone that usually is in my hands to someone who does not [have one]. Local activists fighting for their community don’t have the platforms I have, and I wanted to share that. I’m very, very cautious of ever claiming that I know best, because the one thing I know is that I don’t.”
Some of the guests have been recruited by DM: “I’m so involved in the show — writing the intro, writing the questions and making sure I know all the information about the guests — I didn’t have a lot of time to look at the way that the press was receiving it. I only knew my community was finding peace in it. Selena Gomez DM’ed me and said, ‘I love what you’re doing with this platform; I’m so inspired. I’d love to talk about my story and talk about mental health.’ Then the folks that I’m talking to now, the everyday activists, started sliding into my DMs and started saying, ‘Hey, we’d love to talk about Skid Row, and we want to talk about indigenous peoples, and we want to talk about the way that this is affecting the environment.’
“It was cool to see everyone coming into my direct messages. When my community and peers and local heroes and activists started reaching out to me, I knew I had something special that was actually doing what it was created to do. It was connecting people… I am the ultimate slide-into-the-DMs! This is the way that I have communicated and actually gotten things done for years. I ended up thinking, ‘S-t, I might as well send one to Reese Witherspoon. She’s probably not going to answer, but OK.’ And then she answered and said she would love to give me a couple minutes. That was awesome. [I did that] with people that I knew and people that I didn’t know.”
The Elizabeth Warren interview really rattled her: “Oh, my God! With Elizabeth Warren, I was so nervous I even put on a nice linen blouse. I don’t even own a friggin’ blouse! Everything in my closets is studded or leather or latex, honey. So I’m going through my damn closet, like, What am I going to wear to interview the friggin’ senator? That was my main stress, of course. How am I going to serve political realness? But a lot of the time it’s been important for me to be wearing what everyone else is wearing at home. I’m in my sweatpants and a topknot, just like everyone else. I’ve only washed my hair twice for the show: once for Elton John and once for Senator Warren.”
She has a superpower: “I’ve got a funny one and then my real one. My funny one is that I would walk into any place and I’d immediately get all the tea [gossip]. A little subtitle would come down to the bottom of my vision, and it would just tell me all the tea that’s going on in every group, and I could just be the nosiest person in the world. That’s why I’ll be a good talk show host, because I’m really just nosy as f–k. But for my real superpower, it would be for people to know their own power.
“I wish I could wave a wand or put a crown on someone who feels like they are not enough, and then they feel that they are. That’s another reason I wanted to start the show. I want to be able to give my sense of power to other people. And, yes, there have been times in my life I wished I could have even done that to myself.”
She has a dedicated room where the show is filmed, and a “producer” jacket: “This room in my house was my glam room but I rarely glammed. You know me: I’d put stickers on my face and call it a day. But I turned this room into an actual set. That was fun because I used a lot of materials I have. Not everyone has LED strips lying around, and that’s because I make things for my shows at home. I am always doing art. I love expressing myself with my own creations, so I created this set with materials I had, and I was also encouraging people to do the same thing at home. You know, take old scarves and create a garland. Even if you just rearrange a room with the same stuff you already have.
“It’s so easy to feel stagnant every day by being in the same place, so by rearranging the things you already have, you give it new life… I’m in there alone, and I wish I had a fly-on-the-wall camera of me doing everything. I bet it’s hilarious… I actually have a producer’s jacket. It’s a puffer coat that makes me feel like I’m in production. When I’m setting up my tripod and lighting and I’m on the phone getting all my updates, it’s a much different vibe. Then it’s like 3, 2, 1, and you’re on. It’s fun playing everyone on the show: I’m supplying all the catering, props, and I’m also doing hair and makeup and sound editing.”
She’s still working on new music: “Yeah, I kind of finished my record and I was ready to go to all these festivals, but it’s hard to feel appropriate releasing music at this time. But I made a record that’s kind of rock influenced, hence my mullet. This was not just a random Wednesday Tiger King haircut. This was to go with the new music, but now I’m rolling through Calabasas with a Joe Exotic mullet.”