Balancing ActFamily Rules
No Place Like Home
Fitting in School
Dealing with the Spotlight
In some ways, Miley Cyrus's life is similar to that of her Miley Stewart character. Like Miley Stewart, Miley Cyrus needs to balance both her life as a pop star and as a normal teenage girl. Unlike Miley Stewart, Miley Cyrus does not have a secret identity. As a result, her pop star life often affects her “regular” life.
Miley relies on family, friends, and faith to balance the growing pressures of teen stardom with being a normal teen. She still wants to enjoy being a kid even though she is often treated as an adult because she is a celebrity. “Being famous is like a dream come true,” she says. “But it's really difficult because you lose your freedom. I don't want to lose being a kid.”50
Miley's parents play a major role in keeping Miley from getting caught up in the pop star life. They treat her as a regular kid, give her rules, and expect her to follow them. They also provide her advice on how to stay grounded.
Each parent performs a role to keep Miley grounded. Her father acts more as her friend than a parent. He makes sure that Miley knows she can talk to him about anything. Because he works with Miley, Billy Ray Cyrus is on the set with her during filming and can keep tabs on her life. “We're really close,” says Miley. “I feel like I can tell my dad anything. When we come home, we forget that we even work together and just hang out.”51 Also, because of his own fame, Miley's father gives her lessons on how to handle being a celebrity.
Miley's mother, Tish Cyrus, is the disciplinarian. She makes the rules and enforces them. Tish says she makes a lot of rules to keep Miley in check. For example, she enforces Miley's midnight bedtime on concert nights. On tour, Tish also ensures that Miley is up in the morning to study for three hours with a tutor, which she must do to fulfill her school requirements. Tish says, “Most everybody in her life is ‘yes, yes, yes. You're great.’ I'm the one to say, ‘You can't do this.’ I do it because I love her.”52
Miley's parents also make sure they are with her and her brothers and sisters much of the time. A lot of celebrities Miley's age are seen out at parties and traveling on their own—not Miley. François Navarre, the proprietor of the X17 photo agency, the leader in candid celebrity shots, says:
Her mom is constantly with her. Which is different from [‘High School Musical’ stars] Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale. They're always without their moms, whereas Miley is always with hers. Miley's really monitored, really watched and controlled by her parents, whereas the other girls are driving their Porsches and going to stores by themselves.53
Although Miley's parents spend much time with her, they realize that as a teenager she needs her own space. Miley has her own area, including a bedroom and living area, in their Los Angeles house. Miley loves hanging out in her rooms and having friends over.
What she likes most about her area of the house is that she decorated it herself. Miley says:
The walls are this cool blue, and they've got big circles in metallic on it, and they have the words “vogue” and “chic” everywhere. And I've got candles because I'm really into yoga and stuff like that. So I have that, and all my lights. I have little plants and flowers everywhere. It's really relaxing. And then I've got these big zebra chairs. They're so cool! My bedroom is modeled after this swanky hotel.54
Miley also likes being at home because she has fun with her brothers and sisters. They do a lot of activities together, like choreographing dances and putting on their own concerts. Her brother Braison says that Miley will have them all do karaoke together. He and their sister Noah join in for the dances. “They get in her room in front of the I-chat… and videotape themselves dancing,”55 Tish says of Miley and her siblings. For fun, Miley and her brothers and sisters also throw pool parties and cookouts, although Miley admits they do not actually cook the food. They get take out and eat it by the pool.
Another part of home that Miley loves is her animals. In addition to keeping many animals at their Nashville home, Miley also has several in Los Angeles. Most are rescued. “My dog Fluke is a golden retriever mix. We found her in a box on the side of the street. She is a lucky dog. Her mom was a lab/beagle, and so she has these huge ears. She's just the cutest thing in the world. She's a good dog,” Miley says. “And my big German shepherd, he had been like kicked around and really treated badly, so we took him in.”56 The animals often are in her room. At times she will have five dogs and a couple of cats keeping her company.
Outside of her home, Miley also continues to do what other teenagers her age do—go to school. However, her school life is different from most kids'. She attends Options for Youth, a flexible school that allows kids like Miley, who have changing schedules, still to meet school requirements.
At Options for Youth she has a teacher who assigns Miley work that she can do at home. Her meetings with her teacher are scheduled to fit in between her filming times. However, Miley's teacher is not easy on her just because her school is more flexible than most. He tells Miley that everyone is watching him because of her so he makes sure she has plenty of homework.
Miley says the hard part about school is trying to accomplish all her schoolwork while still working as an actor and singer fulltime. She may work for forty-five minutes acting, then do an hour of school, then go back to acting for another forty-five minutes.
M iley knew that being famous meant that people would want to meet her and get to know her. However, she never expected her own sister to be one of these people. A few weeks after the first Hannah Montana episode aired, Miley's six-year-old sister, Noah, confessed something to Miley. Noah admitted that she had entered a contest on the Disney Channel Web site. When Miley asked what the contest was for, Noah replied that it was to win backstage passes to a concert featuring the network's newest star—Miley. “You live with me!” Miley responded. Then she jokingly warned Noah not to swipe anything from her bedroom to sell on eBay.
Quoted in Jacque Steinbery, “Hannah Montana: A Tale of Two Tweens,” New York Times, April 20, 2006. www.nytimes.com/2006/04/20/arts/TV/20cyru.html?ei=5088&en= ce83bf6f2ce0ed7d&ex=1303185600.
Like most kids, she has certain subjects she likes and dislikes. “Language is my favorite. Math, I really do not like. I'm pretty good at it but I just can't focus on it for my life,” says Miley. “I don't like numbers. I've decided that. This year I don't like numbers.”57
Although Miley is busy between school and work, she still finds time to relax and have fun. One of her favorite hobbies is writing. In addition to writing songs, Miley loves to write stories. She wrote a book titled The Diary of Priscilla's Coffeehouse about people she had met at a coffee shop. She does not intend to publish it and wants to keep it as a book for herself.
Miley also likes to exercise in her free time. In 2007 she hired Harley Pasternak to be her personal fitness trainer. Pasternak is known for working with stars such as Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. Miley has said that she has a lot of energy, which is why
she enjoys working out. She also likes to try different ways to stay in shape and recently got into yoga.
Miley also relaxes by hanging out with her friends. Some of their activities include playing video games, dancing, and singing. She and her friends go out on dates, but typically in group situations, according to her father. People magazine ran an article with a rumor that she dated Nick Jonas from the Jonas Brothers, a popular all-boy pop group. However, Miley and Nick have admitted that they were only good friends.
With everything going on in her life, Miley turns to faith to keep centered. She believes everything she does in life is part of God's plan for her. “Faith is a big part of my life,” Miley says. “I recently read a book titled Girl Talk with God about a teen girl's conversations with God, and I feel that I'm here in Hollywood because of faith and God's will.”58
The Cyrus family actively keeps faith a part of their lives. Just as they did in Tennessee, Miley and her family regularly attend church in California. Miley is seen and often photographed by reporters heading into or out of Montrose Church in a suburb of Los Angeles.
Miley believes that her faith makes her more responsible and less caught up in excessive partying like other young stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. “I think it's my faith that keeps me grounded, especially because I'm a Christ follower for sure,” Cyrus explains. “Live like Christ and he'll live in you, and that's what I want to do.”59
Miley's faith and family values help her deal with all the pressures of being a celebrity. One of the pressures is that she is a role model to millions of kids. To Miley this means that she must try always to act in way that positively affects these kids. She strives to achieve a hip, but still wholesome, image.
Being a role model affects Miley's daily decisions. These decisions include deciding what to wear. A stylist helps her choose
her clothes, but Miley gives the stylist input. “I say what I'm comfortable in and what I like and nothing that's too out there,” Miley explains. “I like to look kind of like what girls would want to look up to, and their moms and dads will say, ‘Hey, that's cool. That's different.’”60
Although Miley enjoys being a role model, she does not always enjoy the constant scrutiny she gets as a celebrity. Every place she goes, whether it is to a coffee shop or even church, she is almost always followed by several members of the paparazzi. They take nonstop pictures. “Just having a camera on you all the time gets kind of frustrating,” Miley says. “If you make mistakes, the whole world knows about it. It's not just your family or friends. If you say something really dumb or do something really stupid, the whole world knows about it. My friends will call me, ‘did you see that commercial? You are such a nerd’. I'm like ‘thanks, guys.’”61
Miley's father has issues with the paparazzi always approaching Miley. He feels they cross the line when they stalk her everywhere she goes. He has confronted them in the past, reminding them that she is just a girl. “The problem with the paparazzi is they literally and figuratively take away your ability to be off camera,” says Blair Berk, a defense lawyer for celebrities. “You're never offstage. When you're walking down a sidewalk and there are 50 cameras, it's an entirely artificial existence. It seems to me, particularly with teenagers, there's already so much self-consciousness.”62
A lthough Miley likes playing Hannah Montana, it is not always easy. Transforming into Hannah Montana takes work. “To be Hannah is crazy. It's a lot harder than to be me,” Miley says. “It takes a lot of work, which I couldn't do all the time. It obviously includes a wig, which is hard because you have to take all of this mop and put it underneath this wig. Then there's lots of glitter and lots of cool clothes. It definitely takes some extra hard work to get ready.” Once she is transformed, Miley does not always find it easy being Hannah Montana. The main problem is the wig. Miley says it is heavy, hot, and itchy.
Quoted in The Oprah Winfrey Show, “Q & A with Miley Cyrus,” December 20, 2007. www.oprah.com/tows/slide/200712/20071220/slide_20071220_350_105.jhtml.
Another pressure of being a celebrity is dealing with rumors. Miley learned this early on. It was September 24, 2007. The day did
not start off well for Miley. She woke up and remembered she had to get fitted for braces. That turned out to be the least of her problems. Miley soon found out that a false rumor about her had started on the Internet.
The rumor was that Miley, only fourteen, was pregnant. The paparazzi stood outside the Cyrus's Toluca Lake, California, home all day waiting for a glimpse of her so they could ask her if it was true. She could not ride her bike, which she usually does each day with her brother Braison. Miley ended up crying. Her father comforted her. He sat and talked with her. Billy Ray told Miley, “You know what the funny thing is? In two hours, it's forgotten—like that. Tomorrow there's going to be something bigger and better than this stupid thing.”63
Another bad day occurred when less-than-wholesome photos of Miley appeared on the Internet. Unfortunately for Miley these pictures were real and not a rumor. In April 2008 people saw photos of Miley showing her midriff while lying across a boy's lap, whom some speculated was her boyfriend. Other photos showed her wearing a white tank top and deliberately revealing a green bra. Many parents of Hannah Montana fans were upset because they thought the photos were too revealing for a fifteen-year-old.
Just a teenager, Miley has had to learn to deal with rumors and criticism for certain actions. However, she realizes this is a part of being a celebrity. Miley says she focuses on her fans and their support as she deals with negative press.
In addition to finding ways to deal with fame, Miley also has had to learn how to deal with her wealth. She makes millions each year from her singing, acting, tours, and merchandise. Some sources estimate she will become a billionaire before she is eighteen years old.
Miley's parents play a major role in overseeing her money. They want to make sure she does not become overly spoiled. Although Miley's mother and father allow her to spend money on some expensive items, such as clothes, they limit how much she gets. “A lot of it goes into her [investment fund] which she can't get until she's 18. At the end of the day, she doesn't have much left,”64 explains her mother. They give her an allowance and she has a credit card, but her mother takes the card away if she finds Miley spending too much.
Miley's parents also encourage her to give her money to worthy causes. Miley chooses to donate a lot of money to help others. According to OK! magazine she donates one thousand dollars a week to her church. Additionally Miley has supported charities such as American Red Cross and the Libby Ross Foundation, which helps fight breast cancer.
Miley not only has to balance being rich and famous with being a typical teenager, she also has to balance her singing life. She sings as both Hannah Montana and herself.
In 2006 fans only heard Miley sing Hannah Montana songs. She sang as Hannah Montana on the show, recorded Hannah Montana songs, and toured as Hannah Montana. As much as Miley liked the Hannah Montana music, after the first year she wanted people to hear her own music.
Miley composes and writes lyrics on her own. Her own songs are different from Hannah Montana songs. “Hannah is more peppy pop,” says Miley. “Miley is more edgy, but still girlie.”65 Miley's musical taste has been influenced by a wide range of musicians. Her favorites include the Wreckers and the Killers. She also likes her father's music, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton, but is emphatic that she does not want to be a country singer.
Miley says she gets ideas for the songs from her experiences with her family. Often she stays up late and plays her guitar while creating new songs. “I like to play guitar, sing and write music,” Miley says when asked what she does for fun. “So practically the same thing that I do when I'm working.”66
Miley's own songs hit the airways in June 2007. Hollywood Records released a double album, Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus, on June 26, 2007, eight months after the release of the first soundtrack. The first disc on the double album served as the second Hannah Montana soundtrack. The second disc was Miley's debut album as herself. Of the ten songs on the second disc, Miley cowrote eight of them.
The double album was an immediate success. During its first week of sales, it debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and sold 326,000 copies. The album remained in the top five for over ten weeks. By 2008 the album had sold more than 3.8 million copies worldwide.
The albums received favorable reviews. Critics noted that on Miley's own tracks, including “Right Here” and “Clear,” “this queen of teen sounds like she doesn't need a TV show behind her to shine,”67 writes Seth Kaufman, music reviewer with Barnes and Noble.
All of the songs Miley Cyrus wrote for her album were inspired by her life and are special to her. However, the most meaningful songs that she wrote is “I Miss You.” Miley wrote that song about her grandfather, Ron Cyrus, after he died on February 28, 2006.
She first performed the song in the Hannah Montana episode “She's a Super Sneak” as her character Miley Stewart. Miley's character sang the chorus of the song as a remembrance for the character's deceased mother.
In December 2007 Miley performed the song on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her father was also on the show. He watched her perform “I Miss You.” “It was a very surreal moment sitting here,” he says. “And to think that we're sitting here watching little Miley sing that song for my dad is a special moment in my life.”68
“I Miss You” and the other songs on her double album allowed Miley to come out of her Hannah Montana character. Miley's fans responded with great enthusiasm. Their response encouraged her to try more projects on her own. Although she still enjoyed being Hannah Montana, Miley decided that it was time to let her fans see more of Miley.