Miley Cyrus Defends “Sexy Bad Girl” Image

It seems like only yesterday Miley Cyrus was a Disney sweetheart, hamming it up as the titular pop star in hiding on the channel’s tween blockbuster Hannah Montana.

Then came the tattoos, and the images that circulated of the tween queen sucking on a bong allegedly full of semi-legal smokable Salvia Divinorum- pics that alienated her from showbiz dad (and dad on the show) Billy Ray Cyrus. As with many young actresses coming off the restrictive Disney reservation, Miley appeared to go from “virgin” to “vixen” rather quickly, albeit without the very public struggles former Disney queens Demi Lovato and Lindsay Lohan faced.

Cyrus spoke candidly and in a controlled way about the perception of her in the public eye in a recent interview, expressing confusion about how she had earned the title:

“People have very mixed opinions on me; I’m a great role model, or I’m completely inappropriate for anyone under 13 and I am controversial. I don’t know how I became this… It’s weird. Two complete extremes. I’m not some crazy lady who’s gone off the deep end, because I definitely haven’t.”

Miley said that while she didn’t go out of her way to court controversy, she also doesn’t go out of her way to avoid it:

“I just always try to be real. Every 18-year-old explores sexuality and experiments and tries things. For me there’s no reason to change that. You have to be true to yourself.”

The singer and actress- who has been dating Aussie actor Liam Hemsworth for two years- says that ultimately, much of the criticism lobbed at her is off-base:

“I was like, ‘What the hell, man?’ I stay in the house pretty much every day. I don’t go out. I’ve had same boyfriend for two years. So I think there are two very different reviews.”

Cyrus is set to become an aunt soon via brother Trace and fellow Disney star Brenda Song.