Named for Greatness
Named for GreatnessBrings the Family Together
As Normal as Possible
Following Her Father's Footsteps
Improving Her Skills
Runs in the Family
Acting Career Takes Off
From when she was a toddler, Miley Cyrus knew she wanted to become a performer. Throughout her early childhood and elementary school, she developed the drive to achieve this dream. Her parents raised her to believe she could accomplish this dream as long as she focused on using her talents to give back to the world.
Miley was born in Franklin, Tennessee, on November 23, 1992, to Billy Ray and Leticia “Tish” Finley Cyrus. To them Miley symbolized the beginning of a new part of their lives. Miley was the first child they had together. Billy Ray had a son, Christopher Cody, with girlfriend Kristen Luckey, not long before Miley was born. Tish had daughter Brandi and son Trace with her first husband.
Billy Ray and Tish named their daughter Destiny Hope Cyrus—later she was nicknamed Miley. Miley's parents chose her name because they believed she would accomplish great things in life. “She was named [Destiny Hope] because her mother and I always felt… before she was born that [her] destiny was to bring hope to the world,”3 says Billy Ray.
Miley's parents thought there was a good chance she would grow up to be a talented girl. They believed she would inherit her father's musical talents. Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, is a successful country singer. He released his debut album, Some Gave All, in 1992, the same year Miley was born. The album sold over 9 million copies. Some Gave All debuted at the top of both the Top
Country Albums and Billboard 200. On both charts it stayed at the top for thirty-four and seventeen weeks, respectively. Cyrus's most famous hit from the album was the single “Achy Breaky Heart.” This song made him $40 million. The same year he was nominated for five Grammy Awards.
Billy Ray Cyrus was at the top of his fame and making lots of money the year before Miley was born. However, he was not happy in his personal life. He and Cindy Smith, whom he met before he became famous, married in 1986 and divorced in 1991. After the divorce, Cyrus partied and dated different women in the months immediately following the divorce.
He met and fell in love with Tish in 1991 but still did not settle down. He continued touring and partying on the road. In 1992 Tish discovered she was pregnant with Billy Ray's baby. Tish's pregnancy with Miley changed the course of Billy Ray's life.
Cyrus realized that he had a choice to make. “I was either going to be responsible, or I wasn't,” he said. “Am I gonna be a dad, or I'm not. Am I gonna be a husband, or I'm not. Are we going to be a family, or we're not. It's that ‘not’ thing that made me feel very sad and lonely.”4
Cyrus made a decision to change his focus from his career and life on the road to making a family with Tish. “You know what, this train may come off the tracks, but I'm going to be a dad,” he said. “I'm going to be a husband, and try to have something in my life that is right.”5 He married Tish and decided to devote himself to his family.
After he and Tish married, Billy Ray wanted to give his family as normal a life as possible. He decided to step out of the limelight. Although he continued writing songs, he decided to stop going on extended tours and instead stay home with his family. He and Tish bought Singing Hills, a 500-acre (202-ha) property outside Nashville, Tennessee, and settled there.
The Cyrus family filled the house. Billy Ray, Tish, Miley, Brandi, and Trace all moved into their new home. Billy Ray even adopted Brandi and Trace because he wanted to be their legal father. Although Christopher, Billy Ray's son with his former girlfriend, lived with his mother, he regularly visited his father at the Cyrus home. After Miley's birth, Billy Ray and Tish went on to have son Braison and daughter Noah.
As Miley was growing up, her parents stressed the importance of family togetherness. Her father enjoyed teaching them fun activities. “I taught [my kids] how to build a good snowman, how to ride a motorcycle, how to ride a horse, how to roast a wiener properly over a fire, and a good marshmallow,” says Billy Ray. “You know, those type of things, I was good at that.”6
Miley and her brothers and sisters also had fun by playing silly pranks on one another. Her brother Braison remembers hiding a wooden snake in Miley's bed. She screamed and chased after him, thinking it was real. In addition to pranks and fun, like most brothers and sisters, Miley and her siblings fought with one another. “I'm the middle child, so I've got an older brother and sister who will be like, ‘You're acting so immature’ and then I'll say, ‘Well, I am younger than you!’” Miley explains. “Then I've got a younger brother and sister and I'll say that to them, and they'll say the same thing back.”7
D estiny Hope Cyrus became Miley early in her life. Her nickname, Miley, is the result of being a happy baby. “As a baby, she always smiled,” her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, remembers. Because of this, her family always called her Smiley. Eventually, Smiley was shortened into Miley. “Smiley evolved into Miley in baby slang,” Billy Ray explains. Soon her family and friends called her Miley all the time. The nickname stuck and became the name that everyone used for Destiny Hope. Today only her grandmother continues to call her Destiny. Miley even decided to change her name legally. In 2008, with the support of her parents, she officially became Miley Ray Cyrus.
Quoted in Lorrie Lynch, “Who's News?” USA Weekend, February 24, 2008. www.usaweekend.com/08_issues/080224/080224whosnews-celebs-birthdays.html#cyrus.
In addition to being surrounded by kids, Miley has always had a lot of animals. Being on a farm, she was able to have more pets than most kids. “I have lots of pets,” she says. “I have eight horses, six dogs, a fish, two cats and chickens. I used to have a rat, but he died. I think that's it. When I'm older I want my house to be a total zoo because I love animals.”8
Throughout her childhood, Miley's parents instilled in Miley and her siblings the importance of faith in God. Religion was an essential part of Billy Ray and Tish's lives. They are both devout Christians.
Billy Ray and Tish stressed that whatever the children did, it should be for God, because any of their talents were gifts from God. Billy Ray felt this way about his own musical talents. As he explains, “I know all things that are good come from Almighty God above. I count my blessings every single day. Every day I pray God will show me the doors He wants me to walk through, the people He wants me to talk to, the songs He wants me to sing. I want to be the light He wants me to be in this world.”9
To ground their children in the Christian faith, Billy Ray and Tish attended a Christian church regularly. Sundays were always a time for the family to be together and worship God. Additionally they included prayer as a daily part of their lives.
Miley enjoyed a normal life that included church, school, friends, and hobbies. In addition to this, she spent much of her time watching her father at work. This made Miley realize she wanted to be an entertainer like him. Even though he no longer traveled on major tours, Billy Ray continued to work as a musician. He recorded and released It Won't Be the Last in 1993, Storm in the Heartland in 1994, Trail of Tears in 1996, Shot Full of Love in 1998, and Southern Rain in 2000. He experimented with different types of music, not just country, and recorded some rock and blues songs.
Miley often accompanied Billy Ray when he recorded these albums. She also attended the few concerts he still did and loved watching him perform. Miley realized she wanted to be on the stage like her father. She dreamed of singing for audiences.
Miley also discovered that she wanted to act. This was due to Billy Ray's interest in acting. In 1999 Miley's father decided that he wanted to become an actor in addition to a singer. He managed to get some small roles in different movies. He had a small role in famous director David Lynch's film Mulholland Drive.
After a few years, Billy Ray became dissatisfied with his choice of acting roles. As a Christian, he wanted to act in films with morals. He wanted to set an example for all people, particularly his children. Right around this time, the producers of the series Doc contacted Billy Ray. They told him that they wanted him for the title role. After reading the pilot episode, Billy Ray realized that his prayer to find an inspiring role had been answered.
Billy Ray landed the role of a country doctor on Doc, shown on PAX, a Christian cable TV network. Billy Ray was drawn to the show because it was family-friendly and based on values. Doc was a Christian-themed drama about a small-town doctor in New York City. It was an immediate hit for PAX with over 3.1 million viewers.
With its success, Billy Ray had a steady acting job in Toronto, Canada, where the show was filmed. During Doc's four seasons, the entire Cyrus family spent most of their time in Canada to be with Billy Ray. While in Canada, Miley and her brothers and sisters were able to visit Billy Ray's set and watch him work.
After watching Doc's filming, Miley knew that she also wanted to act. According to Miley, she discovered she liked acting “by going
to the set with my dad and getting to see the environment and how much fun, joy, and encouragement there is on the set. It's great seeing everyone working together as a team on the show. You are all together and you're all a family and it's a really great place to be.”10
Miley realized that if she wanted to be a musician and actress, she needed to practice. She used most of her free time to sing and act. According to Miley's mother, “from the time she was two and three years old, she would stand at Billy Ray's dad's house on the stairs and sing ‘Tomorrow’ at the top of her lungs.”11 Miley also always sang in the shower, sometimes staying in there forty-five minutes as she gave her own concert.
As she got older, Miley actively sought ways to improve her abilities. Her father taught her to play guitar. She practiced with him often. For them, it was both a way to improve their skills and to bond together. “Since Miley was a little girl, we've been writing songs together,” her father said. “We sing together. We do a whole lot more of it offstage than onstage. That's how we really communicate the best with each other.”12
M iley Cyrus is not the only one of her siblings who developed the dream to perform. Her younger sister, Noah Cyrus, born in 2000, is also determined to be an actress. Not yet ten years old, she has already had smaller roles in many projects. As a toddler, she had a small recurring role in Doc. Recently she played a small role on Hannah Montana. Miley's older sister, Brandi, also acts and has appeared in Zoey 101. Miley's older brother Trace is a vocalist and plays guitar in the rock band Metro Station, which has a recording contract. He started the band with Mason Musso, brother of Mitchel Musso, who is on the show Hannah Montana.
Miley decided she needed to do even more to improve her skills. She got involved in acting and singing at her school, Heritage Elementary School. One of her teachers, Nancy Sevier, remembers how Miley performed as a child. “You knew she was going to do something in music,” Sevier said. “It never bothered her to be talking in front of the group. She was in total command of an audience.”13
Miley also decided to take acting and singing lessons. “I started with a coach… in Toronto,” Miley says. “I took singing and acting classes to make myself better because I really wanted to take it seriously and I didn't want people to think that I was just getting a break because of my dad.”14
Initially Miley's parents did not want her to enter the entertainment field at such a young age. Although they knew she was talented, they also knew the difficulties of a performer's life. Specifically Billy Ray did not want Miley to have to endure the rejections that come along with being an aspiring actor or singer.
Billy Ray tried to persuade her not to get into acting. He did not want her to have to deal with rejection. “I'd see those little tears come down her face and I'd hold her and say, ‘Enjoy being a kid. There is too much heartache to mess up your childhood,’” Billy Ray says of the times Miley would get rejected for a part. “She kept stepping up to the plate, and danggone, the right opportunity came at the right time.”15
Tish was also concerned about Miley starting a career so young. Her main concern was that Miley would not get to enjoy being a kid if she became an actress. “I told Miley… you better hold off to do this,” Tish stated. “Stay in school, go to prom… but that's not what she wanted.”16 Although she and Billy Ray had concerns, they could see that Miley was determined. Miley's parents decided to become her agents and actively pursue opportunities to build a career.
With her parents' help in finding opportunities, Miley started to get some jobs in the music business. For example, she got a job
in a video. Miley appeared in bluegrass musician Rhonda Vincent's music video for “If Heartaches Have Wings.”
When Miley was twelve her dad helped her become a spokesperson for Daisy Rock Guitars. Daisy Rock is the world's first and only company that supplies and markets guitars for females. Daisy guitars have a slim neck profile, which makes it easier for women and girls, who typically have smaller hands then men, to play guitar. Additionally the guitars are lightweight, so a person with a small build can play them easier than a typical guitar. “Miley Cyrus personifies the mission of Daisy Rock to empower girls and young people to play music and reach their goals!”17 said Daisy Rock President Tish Ciravolo. Miley received an Acoustic Electric Pink Sparkle guitar on June 13, 2004, at the Country Music Association Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. After receiving the guitar, she became one of Daisy Rock's youngest endorsees ever.
Miley also got to sing in a show because of her father. In 2004 Miley sang on the twenty-second annual Colgate Country Showdown with her dad, who was the host and a former contestant of the annual show. Colgate Country Showdown is a talent search for country singers and begins each spring with over 450 local talent contests sponsored by country music radio stations throughout the United States. After going through state and regional contests, winners get to the National Final, which is televised to a national audience. During the show, Miley came out with her father, and together they sang “Holding On to a Dream,” a song from Billy Ray's album.
Miley's father also helped her get acting parts. She played extras in her father's films. Then she landed a small role in Doc and worked alongside her father. Miley played the character Kiley for three episodes on the show.
In 2003 Miley landed a role in director Tim Burton's movie Big Fish. Several famous actresses and actors, including Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Steve Buscemi, and Jessica Lange, appeared in the movie. Miley got the part of Young Ruthie and was credited as Destiny Cyrus.
Following these successes Miley began to get some press. She was featured in magazine articles in Parade and Country Weekly. Becoming known in her own right gave Miley the confidence to try for even bigger roles. Soon her confidence and hard work would pay off in a big way.