Few could have predicted 11 long months ago, that a young pop star — a former Disney child actress — would make headlines for a series of deliberately provocative moments (and introduce, to once blissfully ignorant millions, the act of twerking)?
Sure, it’s likely that these were carefully orchestrated events meant to maximize exposure, but there’s no denying that Miley Cyrus is having her moment.
To mark her 21st birthday — which she’ll celebrate on Saturday, Nov. 23 — we’ve put together this timeline of Miley Miley-stones.
[ 01 ] “Achy Breaky Heart” This unlikely country-pop crossover hit fueled a line-dancing craze (remember that?) and made an international superstar out of a singer named William “Billy” Ray Cyrus.
[ 02 ] Destiny Hope Cyrus is born on November 23. Proud parents Billy Ray and Tish give their daughter the nickname “Smiley,” which will later morph into the 5-letter moniker we know today.
[ 03 ] An eight-year-old Miley shoots three episodes on Billy Ray’s television series, Doc. In 2003, she makes her big-screen debut playing a young Ruthie in Tim Burton’s Big Fish. These roles demonstrate some acting chops and gives the youngster a taste of the spotlight.
[ 04 ] And here’s where it all really gets going. Miley bests 1,000 other hopefuls to land the lead role on a Disney Channel series called Hannah Montana. Over the hit show’s 4 seasons, Miley plays the dual roles of famous pop-singer Hannah Montana and her average-teen-girl secret identity Miley Stewart. It’s will soon be clear which of these roles Miley Cyrus most identifies with.
[ 05 ] The Miley juggernaut begins. She records Hannah Montana a soundtrack album that features eight tracks of her singing as Hannah — “The Best of Both Worlds” becomes Cyrus’s first single to break into the Billboard Hot 100 — and one singing as Miley Cyrus. The chart-topping album sells more than 3 million copies.
[ 06 ] Miley adds dancing and live performance to the mix. Following the release of Hannah Montana 2 — on which she sings every track as Miley Cyrus — she launches a concert tour that proves so popular that she had to add 14 dates just to keep up with demand.
[ 07 ] Tween royalty: Miley begins dating Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.
[ 08 ] A 15-year-old Cyrus poses — showing a large expanse of her naked backside — for famous celeb-photographer Annie Leibovitz in a shoot for Vanity Fair magazine. Disney, wanting to protect the wholesome image of its young star charges that Cyrus was “manipulated” into posing for these topless shots. (Cyrus issues a statement saying she is “embarrassed” and apologizes to her fans. Leibovitz expresses regret but says that Miley and her family were originally happy with the images).
[ 09 ] A little controversy does album sales well, it turns out, her studio album, Breakout, hit No. 1 on pop album charts.
[ 10 ] Broadening her media reach, Cyrus’ autobiography Miles to Go reveals more about her childhood, including never-before-seen family photos.
[ 11 ] Miley finds her first non-Hannah Montana megahit with the chart-topping single “Party in the U.S.A.,” from the album The Time of Our Lives. It remains her most successful single.
[ 12 ] Hannah Montana: The Movie pulls in a respectable $80 million in the U.S. — and $155 million overseas.
[ 13 ] A hint of Miley’s emerging wild side: photos taken at a party for her 18th birthday show the teen star taking hits off a bong— reportedly packed with with the natural herb salvia.
[ 14 ] Her smoke-filled antics still fresh in everyone’s mind, Miley (now almost a year gone from Hannah Montana) is given a special commemorative gift for her 19th birthday. She is caught on video remarking, “You know you’re a stoner when your friends make you a Bob Marley cake.” (A person speaking on behalf of Cyrus would explain that it was all a joke.)
[ 15 ] How big was the news — which broke on Twitter — that Miley had traded her long tresses for a punk-pixie cut? Big enough that it made the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics the second biggest story of the day.
[ 16 ] Miley announces her engagement to actor Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth. The pair breaks up in September 2013.
[ 17 ] The star’s predilection for boundary-pushing outfits leads to a tabloid-ready wardrobe malfunction at a pre-Grammy awards event. 2013 would be a watershed year — Miley, it turns out, was just getting started.
[ 18 ] The VMAs. Her (let’s call it infamous) twerking-girl performance with “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke was history’s most tweeted-about event and possibly heralds a life-ending event predicted in some ancient Mayan text.
[ 19 ] The video for “Wrecking Ball” — which features the nude singer astride a metal sphere — propels the single to the top of the charts, making it Miley’s first No. 1 hit.
[ 20 ] The singer gets into a sad public spat with ’80s pop star Sinead O’Connor (whose influence on “Wrecking Ball” video is obvious). Miley sends out some ill-considered tweets that mock the Irish singer’s well-known battles with bipolar disorder.
[ 21 ] Cyrus, accepting an award at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards show in Amsterdam, pulls a joint from her purse and lights up. Perhaps this is her way of ending a headline-filled year on a, um, “high” note,