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TheStreet Open House

Miley Cyrus: A Child Star's Rite of Passage

Stocks in this article: DIS AAPL

Spears now appears in a guest spot on Cyrus' track SMS (Bangerz), older and wiser. She showed just about every kid in the business how to pour kerosene on their child-star image and handed them a match. When fellow Mickey Mouse Club member Christina Aguilera grew frustrated with a label and an audience that, even after her entendre-filled debut single Genie In A Bottle, treated her like a children's act at age 20, she took creative control of her 2002 release Stripped and let loose. She got down to lingerie and chaps in the video for her debut single Dirrty, posed for Maxim and took the stage with the Pussycat Dolls -- the Hollywood burlesque incarnation, not the Nicole Scherzinger-led pop act.

Even ex-Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake, who wasn't exactly a shy little wallflower during his *NSYNC days, unkinked his curls, added some beats and put some actual human emotion into his debut album Justified right around the time he turned 21. Within the next two years, he'd join Aguilera on her Stripped tour and introduce "wardrobe malfunction" into the national lexicon by tearing off Janet Jackson's costume during the Super Bowl. He started acting, began putting in surprisingly funny guest turns on SNL and, in short, grew up right along with his fanbase.

Miley Cyrus followed the Mickey Mouse Club's footsteps to what appears like an extreme degree because she had to. Unlike the trio mentioned above, Cyrus was front-and-center in her own branded and highly marketed Disney vehicle. She was 13 when Hannah Montana went on the air in 2006 and an 18-year-old adult by the time the series, movies and concerts wrapped in 2011.

Along the way, she attempted to drop subtle hints about the person she was growing into. She had underwear and swimsuit photos leaked in 2008, when she was 15 and posing only in a bedsheet for Vanity Fair. A year later, she namechecked both Britney and Jay-Z, but did so within the safety of her family friendly pop hit "Party In The U.S.A." She dropped references to smoking weed and her publicists would insist she was only joking.

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