I had the, um, privilege to talk with Miley Cyrus backstage after her provocative MTV Video Music Awards performance. She didn’t really answer any of my questions and left a big welt on my forehead (more on that later).
The VMA ended four hours ago. I left half an hour early to get in line for the VIP area where I would be interviewing Miley Cyrus, but no one was allowed in (the bouncer mumbled something about Lady Gaga giving a sermon).
It is now 3 a.m., and I am finally inside. There are a few scattered celebrities about, reclining in the red leather booths and complaining about the food (PopChips was the only sponsor, so there are half-eaten bags of the stuff strewn about the floor). I think I see Macklemore in the corner, but it turns out to be a burlap sack filled with potatoes. Eventually, I spot Miley Cyrus at the bar, still wearing the flesh-colored get-up from her performance. I work up the courage to sit next to her.
At this point, I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with her publicist regarding this interview. “Um, hi, Miley,” I say. “I’m Will.” She doesn’t move. “From the YDN.” She turns and scans me: “How did you get in here?” I brandish my press pass, and then her eyes light up. “Oh, you’re that snowboarding guy, right? With the red hair?” I pause for a moment, then nod gently. Security thought I was Rupert Grint.
As I sit down, Cyrus loudly asks for vodka and Red Bull. Instead of bothering to ask for her fake ID, the bartender just sighs and makes the drink for her. There is a straw in the glass but instead of using it she sticks her tongue out and laps it up. “So, um, I guess this a good time to ask …” She looks up occasionally to check if anyone is looking at her. No one is. I try again: “Um, I wanted to ask what was with you sticking your tongue out for half of your performance?” She considers the question for about two seconds. “It just, you know, symbolizes how I’m grown up now, you know? Like, I can stick my tongue out and do what I want, because I can’t stop and I won’t stop.” I refrain from mentioning that sticking out your tongue is something that five-year-olds do, or that quoting your own lyrics is not an appropriate way to answer a question.
My mind is still swimming from witnessing her performance tonight, so I ask about her music video for “We Can’t Stop.” “Yeah, we just decided to go crazy, like ‘Ah, this is so crazy.’ And I think people really enjoy when I twerk, so I just did my thang.” “Interesting,” I reply. Fearing that I’m being too obsequious, I take a different tack — unsuccessfully. I’m halfway through asking her if she is at all aware how much her performance appropriated black culture in a vulgar and cruel way when she throws a travel-size bottle of Pepto Bismol at my face. “Sorry,” she says flatly. “I’m being sponsored by them, so I have to, you know … what was the question?”
After the bartender hands me an icepack, I try another approach. “What was it like performing with Robin Thicke?” I ask, not because I’m interested in hearing her answer, but because it’s my last question (since I crossed out the one before that about undeserved entitlement). She finishes her drink and frowns. “Who’s that?”
I take a look at my notes, hoping to find something salvageable. It’s a total mess, a fury of scribbles on lined yellow paper. Then it hits me: She was trying to teach me a lesson. She’s just a confused human being without direction, and she showed me that I was just as confused, with no idea how to frame the interview and do my job as a reporter.
But then I snap out of it and tell myself that Miley Cyrus is a terrible interview subject and an even worse human being. Even before I excuse myself, she says, “Nice meeting you, Rupert. CAN I GET ANOTHER VODKA RED BULL, PLEASE?” I’m not in the mood to correct her about my name, so I get up from my seat. As I near the exit, I hear behind me: “Hey, is that Macklemore?”