LOS ANGELES — If a celebrity doesn’t walk a red carpet, are they still a celebrity?
In the next phase of her career, that’s the bold question Miley Cyrus will face after her unprecedented vow to “never do a red carpet again.”
With Hollywood’s awards season kicking off at Sunday’s Primetime Emmys, will other celebs sidestep the frenzy and follow Cyrus off the carpet? In show business, such a daring declaration could have implications beyond what’s beneath those designer heels.
In recent years, media shenanigans on red carpets have prompted push-back from such A-listers as Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
Last awards season, they opted against sticking their well-manicured and bejeweled hands in front of E!’s “mani-cam,” while younger actresses like Jena Malone and Elizabeth Moss publicly mocked the paw parade.
“I couldn’t care less, to be honest,” said Emmys host Jimmy Kimmel after ceremoniously unrolling the red carpet Wednesday morning outside the Microsoft Theater. “I’ll be up in my dressing room staring at people on the red carpet while it’s happening.”
Cyrus’ last appearance on a red carpet was back in December at the premiere of the Netflix film “A Very Murray Christmas.” Cyrus ominously captioned an Instagram photo of herself posing on it: “(hashtag)mylastredcarpet4eva.” Apparently, she meant it.
“I had to do the premiere, and I will never do a red carpet again,” the singer-actress said in the October issue of Elle magazine , out Wednesday. “Why, when people are starving, am I on a carpet that’s red? Because I’m ‘important’? Because I’m ‘famous’? That’s not how I roll. It’s like a skit – it’s like ‘Zoolander.’ “
Stacy Jones, president of entertainment marketing agency Hollywood Branded, said stars who shun the red carpet lose fame and fortune. She expects Cyrus, who is appearing as a coach on the latest season of the NBC singing competition “The Voice” and starring in the upcoming Amazon series “Crisis in Six Scenes,” will likely miss out on future roles and deals because of her decision.
“It’s part of the job,” Jones said. “In today’s world, when you sign up to be a celebrity, you’re signing up to be in the limelight. You’re going to be in gossip columns and have paparazzi follow you. You will have fans idolize you. It’s damaging to your career and people you work with to say you won’t be part of the glitz and glamour that comes along with the job.”
Over the past nine decades, the red carpet has transformed from simply serving as an elegant entrance to Hollywood premieres and ceremonies into a publicity-generating business where celebrities are expected – and often paid – to pose in front of logos and be probed by the media.
Now, it’s not just about flashing smiles for photographers and answering the clichéd question, “Who are you wearing?” On today’s red carpets, awareness is raised and brands are built.
Jones said she once worked with a company that sponsored a premiere party at the Toronto International Film Festival where the film’s star refused to walk down or pose on the red carpet. The company decided that night to pass him over for a seven-figure deal to support his music project.
“Miley has worked so hard to get where she is in celebritydom,” Jones said. “It doesn’t make sense that she would give up any chance in the spotlight to at least support the projects and causes she cares about in her life.”
While many celebs control when they’ll appear, how they’ll look and who they’ll talk to on red carpets, it’s virtually unheard of for a star to publicly announce a complete boycott of the long-established practice, said Bonnie Fuller, editor-in-chief of celebrity site HollywoodLife.com .
“I don’t think this is going to set off a trend,” Fuller said. “It’s integral to the promotional aspect of being a celebrity to do red carpets. It’s usually part of a contract.”
Fuller noted the anti-carpet stance is in itself part of building Cyrus’ brand. The performer has spent the past five years shedding her wholesome “Hannah Montana” reputation in favor of a wild child image.
“At the end of the day, Miley is still 23,” Fuller said. “She’s got a long career ahead of her. She could have a change of heart. In the meantime, we’ll respect the choices she’s making right now.”