Pop Culture Role Models: From Miley to Sara

Miley Cyrus at the 38th People's Choice Awards, Red Carpet 2012.

Courtesy of JJ Duncan.

We continue looking at pop culture and role models with this post from one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

Lately social media has been flooded with articles and images regarding the many indiscretions of female pop icons. While this is not a new phenomenon, more and more articles and videos offer harsh criticism of every aspect of these women’s characters. Miley Cyrus, for example, has been known to appear in a variety of venues only half dressed. Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan have become infamous for their rapidly changing hair colors and frequent arrests. Christina Aguilera, despite her immense success as a singer and position as a judge on The Voice, receives criticism for her fluctuating weight.

But, so what? These women are simply making their own paths through life, so why do we continue to call them out on it?

These women, the ones often seen as crazy or weird, are the ones who are living life under their own rules. Now, I do not condone a life of lawlessness, but if I want blue hair, who is going to stop me? (Right now, I am perfectly content with this mess of brown curls, but you never know.)

Miley Cyrus, for all her widely publicized shenanigans, makes all of the decisions for each of her shows by herself. She has chosen her costumes, makeup, and sets. Despite the fact that many of her audience members may question her sanity, she made the choice. Miley is a strong, independent female role model who we admire, if not for her clothing, for her independence and self-empowerment.

There are many more female pop stars in the music industry that obey general societal rules of dress and make headlines less frequently, but also provide powerful messages to their audiences. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles encourages her audience to take a stand, to be strong, and to say what is important to them. Sara’s singles from her first and second albums both tell the world how she will not listen to someone just because they claim to know everything, but is going to do what she wants.

At first glance some currently famous pop stars may seem like polar opposites. But, with a closer look, they are more similar than we realize. Spending their lives doing what they love, they are the only ones who will dictate their next moves.

Yet, as these women make their choices, they are criticized. Funny thing is, we make choices just like them every day. Unlike us, their choices are viewed on giant movie screens, to be judged and given grades and stars by all the critics in the world, also known as us.

These women, the ones on the big screen, your mother, sister, aunt, and friend, are all just women. Some just happen to live life in a larger spotlight than most, and because of that we look to them for direction. Each woman we see in the media is different; looks different, talks different, and has different strengths to offer the world. We look for role models in these stars, wishing that we could have the body of one and the bravery of another.

When we look for role models, we look to those who have the traits we wish for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is often a lack of understanding that we are all human, all women, all have strengths, and all have struggles. None of the women in pop culture are perfect. They have strengths and weaknesses just like us. Perhaps we find a role model in Miley Cyrus for being unbelievably confident, or Sara Bareilles for speaking her truth, or someone else, just because we like the song she sings or the TV show she was on. It doesn’t matter. Your role model is your role model, and all you have to know is why you admire her.

Topics: Feminism
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How to cite this page

Elbaum , Hannah. "Pop Culture Role Models: From Miley to Sara." 10 December 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 4, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/pop-culture-role-models-from-miley-to-sara>.

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