Real talk: Who doesn’t love a walk down memory lane? We mean, our embarrassing as-hell high school yearbooks will forever be off limits, but we can’t deny the joy in digging through the major hair and makeup moments of celebrities who’ve been in the public eye since birth. And if anyone’s been in the spotlight for 10-plus years, it’s without a doubt Miley Cyrus. But unlike Zendaya or Emma Watson, Cyrus’s beauty evolution hasn’t exactly been an endless stream of on-point looks.
Sure, Cyrus made her debut as a really-freaking-cute Disney Channel star. But in her misguided attempt to graduate from her squeaky-clean, Hannah Montana-image, she went through a problematic, three-year phase of cultural appropriation: She practically twerked her way through much of 2013, used black women as props in her music videos and live performances, and even wore dreadlocks to the 2015 MTV Movie Awards—and she has a massive span of red-carpet photos to show it.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the 24-year-old has officially ditched the cornrows for a wholesome, all-American façade, just in time for another album drop that’s decidedly (and conveniently) less wannabe-Missy Elliot and more, well, “American Idol”-pop. She’d told E! News last year that she was ready to connect with her audience “in a deeper way,” which we’ll assume means in the absence of illegal psychedelics. And in a July interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Cyrus explained, “[Acting erratically] became something that was expected of me. I didn’t want to show up to photo shoots and be the girl who would get my tits out and stick out my tongue.” She added: “Like, people will say, ‘You’ve changed.’ And that’s supposed to be derogatory. But you are supposed to change all the time.”
We get it: People grow and change constantly, but what’s missing from Cyrus’s interview is an acknowledgement of stealing and using another culture for profit, only to label it as a phase. And while Cyrus’s white privilege will allow her to move on—another problem in itself—not all of America has such a short-term memory. Put simply by an outraged Twitter user, “Miley Cyrus moving away from hip-hop is a nice example [of] cultural appropriation… black culture is used when it’s convenient.”
Whatever side of the fence you’re on, Cyrus’s beauty evolution has been a tricky one—see it all, ahead.