Marie Claire – September 2012 Issue
Miley Cyrus bounds into her spacious backyard in California’s palm-tree-studded San Fernando Valley wearing a figure-flaunting half-shirt, Daisy Duke cutoffs, and studded platform sneakers, a look so redneck-skimpy that by nightfall, the bloggers will have crucified her for it. Not that she cares. Cyrus has never been in better shape, both physically and emotionally, a 19-year-old firecracker with washboard abs, a smoky laugh, and a filthy mouth who these days bears about as much resemblance to her former Disney-star self as a Mojito resembles a lemonade. Nipping at Cyrus’ heels is a tumlbing pack of four rescue dogs, while a fifth, a bulldog named Ziggy, rests inside. Earlier, Ziggy ate two Jacquie Aiche bracelets right off her wrist. “She’s a stubborn little bitch, that one,” Cyrus says, her voice tangy and redolent of her native Nashville. “She doesn’t listen to me. She’s in love with Liam. She loves me when he’s gone, but she totally ate my diamonds on purpose. She was pooping them out all morning!”
The Liam she refers to is Cyrus’ newly minted fiancé, Australian import Liam Hemsworth, the strapping 22-year-old star of The Hunger Games and her boyfriend for the past three years. The pair live together in the 8,000 square foot Mediterranean-style villa Cyrus’ family once lived in. She moved back in last year when her parents relocated two doors down. Cyrus’ mother, Tish, did most of the decorating, which tends toward oversize Eastern-influenced pieces; sturdy tables made of reclaimed wood; a giant, modern sofa that Cyrus and Hemsworth “sleep on all the time”; and spiritual touches like a stone Buddha and painted-wooden crosses that Cyrus has collected in her travels. Here, surrounded by towering trees and safely ensconced inside her palatial residence, Cyrus enjoys utter privacy. “It’s kind of a black hole. And no one is going to fuck with me when P. Diddy lives right across the street,” she laughs.
Cyrus remains incredibly close with her parents – her father is country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus – and cuts across Bob Hope’s widow’s lawn to access their gate. “She gave me permission,” she says, sweetly. “If Liam is travelling and I’m feeling creeped out, I can go to my parents’. Or I’ll walk over there in the morning for coffee. It’s really weird [sleeping] in my parents’ room. Now it’s my room, and Liam is at my dad’s sink and I’m at my mom’s. It’s really strange, but also really cool. The first time I ever met or hung out with Liam was here. When he first moved to America, he didn’t have any family here, so our family became his. This is where all our memories are made.”
Though she won’t divulge exactly how her fiancé popped the question, she admits it happened at home and was a “complete surprise”. No one, including her parents, knew it was coming. “I had no input,” Cyrus says of her engagement ring, a 3.5-carat Neil Lane diamond set in a yellow-gold band with delicate filigree detailing. “We’d been kind of talking about [getting engaged], and I saw something like it online at one point and thought it was really pretty, but I usually wear rose gold. I just love that it’s old and has a story. And I’m happy because it doesn’t look like anything else I wear.”
Cyrus expertly dismisses critics who contend she’s too young to marry. “Life is too short to not be with the person you want to be with,” she says. “I don’t really care about the wedding or the piece of paper as much as I do the promise we’ve made each other. And we want to have a long engagement.”
Her parents’ long – and sometimes bumpy – marriage has proven a model for their relationship, Cyrus says. (Her parents briefly seperated in October 2010 over speculation about her mother’s rumoured affair with rocker Bret Michaels). “My parents always taught me that you don’t put each other down. If one of you has an idea, it is always a good idea,” she says. “The other day Liam said he might want to do a clothing line. If he wants to try that, fuck yeah – he should go for it! You put each other up, up, up. Also, if you’re fighting, you keep focus on how you feel. You say, ‘I’m hurt’, not ‘This is why you screwed up’”.
Though Cyrus speaks soulfully and maturely about her relationships, there are occasionally flashes of the 19-year-old, a jejune child of privilege who arrived for her interview split lip from roughhousing with her dogs only an hour earlier. During a tour of the grounds, Cyrus shows off a pretty yard that she and Liam plan to turn into a skate park, complete with a ramp. When our conversation veers towards kid, Cyrus shrugs. “Who knows?” she says. “Liam and I have a really good relationship. It took breaking up once or twice because I was young and immature and wanted to do things I hadn’t yet gotten to do. He was older, so it was like he’d already been through school. At some point you realize these people you’re hanging out with are your ‘party friends’; they’re not going to give a shit about you in 10 years. Then you remember who you really want around you.”
When they’re not working, the couple are startingly low-key. No Page Six-choreographed date nights, à la Kim and Kayne. “We’re pretty much always here,” Cyrus says. “I am super-antisocial and such a homebody. But everything I need is here: My parents are two doors down, I have a Pilates studio and a recording studio, and Liam can watch and edit his movies in the screening area. If I am going to have to deal with dick paparazzi when I leave, I’d rather just do everything here.”
And yet, even in this five star bunker, there’s still no escaping tawdry tabloid speculation about their relationship. “People will say, ‘Oh, Liam is so close to Jennifer Lawrence.’ Well, yeah – they shot a movie together! He’s supposed to ignore her because she’s a chick? I could be standing next to a guy who is wearing a rainbow-coloured shirt that says, ‘I’m gay,’ and people would still write, ‘Who is that guy with Miley?’ It’s all bullshit. Luckily, neither of us is super-jealous. We know each other and would never do anything to hurt each other.”
Cyrus is currently wrapping up work on an as-yet-untitled, genre-bending new album certain to smash her reputation as pop doll. She collaborated on a few tracks with hip-hop mega-producer Pharrell Williams, who reached out to her last year following her much-publisized Savlia incident, which found the former Hannah Montana star slammed by parents and the press for a video that showed her smoking what she insists was a Salvia plant – hallucinogenic but perfectly legal. “Pharrell said, ‘Don’t be offended because this is how I talk, but [I thought], that bitch is actually living. She’s not sitting there with her Momager’s chain on her door. I want to free that bitch. I want her out of her cage,’” Cyrus says intensely, her big blue eyes widening. During four weeklong stints at his Miami studio, she recorded several songs, all largely autobiographical.
“I’d never worked like that before,” Cyrus recalls. I was talking to him like he was an older brother, and everything I said was going onto the track. [I told my manager Bruce Flohr], I don’t need the money. I don’t care if I make a dime on this. Let me make a good record.’ I got in there with Pharrell, and it was magic. Oh, dude, I’m so happy.”
Though both she and Hemsworth are young and ambitious, they are also exceedingly mindful of the impact their careers have on each other. Cyrus says she reads Hemsworth’s scripts and he critiques her music. The goal: to never feel insecure that a role or project might somehow undermine their relationship. “You want to make sure you are making the best decisions for the people you love,” she says. “A movie comes out and people forget it. A record comes out and people forget it. It’s not worth making someone you love [unhappy] over a [creative choice].”
As Cyrus talks, her engagement ring catches the last rays of sun and flickers, a moonbeam strapped to her finger. It’s obvious she is in love and excited to see what comes next. “You always see the 70-year-old man driving the Bentley. He’s saved up his whole life and now he’s going to do something crazy. Liam and I are really lucky because young people usually can’t afford to do the things we do.” She reflects a moment, then breaks into a wide grin. “You should be driving a Bentley when you’re young and hot. That’s when you look dope!” Miley Cyrus has spoken, y’all.