Has Vanity Fair gotten under the skin of The Walt Disney Co.’s “Hannah Montana” franchise?
The June issue of Vanity Fair features a photo of 15-year-old Miley Cyrus, the wholesome star of Disney Channel’s hit show, Hannah Montana, which has spurred a multimedia and consumer goods franchise worth hundreds of millions of dollars, topless, but with a sheet or blanket covering the front of her torso. The photo was taken by famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Cyrus is the daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who appears on the show with his progeny. She has vaulted Hannah Montana, in which she plays a school girl by day and a music star with a secret identity, into one of the leading shows and a cultural cynosure among kids 6 to 11 and the 9-to-14 tween set.
In turn, Cyrus embarked on a sold-out "Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," playing off the duality of her TV persona and herself, which begat a concert film. There are also myriad consumer goods, including that could top sales of $1 billion. A book series and 2009 theatrical are also in the works.
It was unclear what impact the semi-nude photo would have on Cyrus and Disney. Before news of the photo shoot and story in Vanity Fair began appearing on Entertainment Tonight this past weekend, heads and eyes turned last week with an online photo, supposedly depicting Cyrus turning down her clothes to show a green bra. Some articles question whether it's Cyrus in the photo.
Jamie Lynn Spears, 16, sister of controversial singer Brittney Spears, caused consternation in the Nickelodeon camp late last year with her real-life pregnancy. However, Nick decided to continue airing the show, Zoey 101, in which Spears stars as a together teen at a boarding school, and scored record Nielsen ratings in the aftermath, despite concerns from parent groups.
Last fall, Disney Channel also faced some flak when a nude picture of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens appeared on the Internet.
As to the Cyrus photo shoot, Disney issued the following statement: “Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.".
Cyrus, in her own statement, said: "I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic,' and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed."
The magazine said Cyrus and her family and handlers were on the set during the shoot, saw the digital images and thought the photos were a “beautiful and natural portrait of Miley.”