Sinéad O’Connor’s letter warning Miley Cyrus that nudity would obscure her talent goes viral, again

Sinéad O'Connor' in a clerical collar and Miley Cyrus with curly blond hair and wearing a jacket with a graphic print.
Sinéad O’Connor, left, warned Miley Cyrus about the uncaring music industry in an open letter.
(Antonio Calanni / Associated Press; Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

Sinéad O’Connor’s incendiary open letter to a young Miley Cyrus is resurfacing after the acclaimed “Nothing Compares 2 U” singer died on Wednesday. She was 56.

The Irish singer was a known force to be reckoned with, and her illustrious and stormy career was filled with moments that stirred controversy and inspired media fodder. One such incident took place a decade ago when Cyrus released the music video for her hit single “Wrecking Ball,” crediting O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” music video for inspiring some of the artistic choices, like the close framing on Cyrus’ face as she, too, sang about heartbreak.

O’Connor caught wind of Cyrus’ comments and, after watching the “Wrecking Ball” video — which (unlike O’Connor’s video) features a nude Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball and licking a sledgehammer — the “Heroine” singer penned an impassioned open letter. It opened with a disclaimer that what she wrote was in the “spirit of motherliness and with love,” but she followed with a fervent takedown of the music industry, and impassioned pleas for Cyrus not to “prostitute” herself.


Cyrus responded to the letter by tweeting mental health jabs at the Irish singer, and a screenshot from O’Connor’s “Saturday Night Live” performance when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II. That action was probably O’Connor’s most infamous and misunderstood move throughout her decades-long career — in her 2021 memoir, “Rememberings,” she detailed that the photo she tore up in protest was the only framed photo her mother had hung in their home. She took it down the day her mother died and vowed she would destroy it when the right moment arose. To O’Connor, the photo symbolized the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child sexual abuse, and the physical and sexual abuse she’d endured for years at the hands of her mother.

Celebrities from all corners of the entertainment world are paying tribute to the Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor, who died at the age of 56.

July 26, 2023

Cyrus and O’Connor continued a back-and-forth public feud that likely exhausted even the tabloids, but ultimately the vitriol seemed to settle by April 2022, when Cyrus released the album “Attention: Miley Live,” which featured a “Wrecking Ball X Nothing Compares 2 U” mashup.

Read O’Connor’s open letter to Cyrus below:

Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

O’Connor was pilloried for her ‘SNL’ protest against the Catholic Church. But she never stopped speaking out against injustice and inspiring others to do the same.

July 27, 2023

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent. I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.


The music business doesn’t give a s— about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted … and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men ogling you give a s— about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f— about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f— about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f— about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped … and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.

Sinead O’Connor, who shot to fame in the 1990s and sparked controversy with an anti-pope message on live TV in the United States, has died at age 56.

July 26, 2023

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever … Don’t be under any illusions … ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty … which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f— about you. They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age … which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.


Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question … I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its really not at all cool. And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every ... dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

A singer of rare power and finesse, O’Connor found fame with a brooding Prince song, then spent decades spanning styles and genres in search of emotional truths.

July 26, 2023

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image … whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now … Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf— who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.