Miley Cyrus Sucking on a Bong: Does It Trash Her Image or Help Her Brand?

Fri, December 10, 2010 4:30pm EST by 4 Comments

Is Miley trying to distance herself from being Disney’s darling Hannah Montana?

Miley’s number 13 on the Forbes list of the 100 richest and most powerful Hollywood performers for 2010 (Angelina Jolie was #18, Ellen DeGeneres was #23) and she made $48 million this year — so clearly she’s doing something right!  Some would say that the new video of her smoking a bong would put her empire in jeopardy, but our expert says it will probably help her career in the long run.

Miley, of course, first rose to fame as the star of Nickelodeon’s Hannah Montana, but she’s grown into a huge celebrity in her own right, starring in the hit movie “The Last Song” and selling out tour dates across the country. On her last tour, Miley did 57 concerts, with each show grossing an average of $1.2 million! Plus she gets a cut of any Hannah Montana merchandise that Disney sells—t-shirts, DVDs, toys, etc.

But Miley chose not to renew her contract with Disney and it expires in 2011—the current season of Hannah Montana will be the last. Now 18, Miley must be thinking of her career’s next phase.

“She has a brilliant marketing team,” says Dr. Keith Ablow, psychologist, Fox News contributor and the author of the upcoming book, The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life. “She has to shed that ‘good girl’ image if she wants to build a billion-dollar brand. She doesn’t have a ton of talent, but she has the raw sexuality of a young girl growing into a beautiful young woman and she has a willingness to sell that.”

On the other hand, image consultant Robert K. Passikoff tells us “it doesn’t matter that [salvia] is legal in California because this goes counter to image….The whole issue is that this is not the kind of behavior that sponsors want…You’re talking about the heir to the magic kingdom. If it’s her you don’t do it…and you don’t video tape it.”

Another Hollywood image consultant, Michael Sands, agrees. “I believe a lot of kids that idolize Miley will want to try this plant and I think that once the parents catch onto what thier children are doing they will not let thier children purchase Miley’s products and her products will take a hit…She will rebound from this. In the short term it will be bad but she is talented…What a fool to have your friends video tape this!”

The bong-smoking video is just the lastest episode in Miley’s year-long campaign to become the anti-Hannah Montana. “Our culture rewards anything short of murder,” says Dr. Ablow. “She wants to do something edgy, but not illegal. I think she’s doing it so her customer base will explode.”