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CNN Special Report: The Life of Miley

Aired January 19, 2014 - 18:00   ET


NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started out innocently with teddy bears became anything but at the VMA Awards in September. A performance that had tongues wagging --

BILLY RAY CYRUS, MILEY'S FATHER: It became that moment of a singer- songwriter, entertainer finding that special moment --

CHER, SINGER: I thought it was sloppy, and I didn't think it was professional enough for her. I think she's got to go back to the drawing board.

TURNER: -- about a woman who most of America knew as wholesome Hannah.

A Disney character living a double life. If her recent appearances have made anything clear. It's that Miley isn't Montana anymore.

MILEY CYRUS, SINGER: I can give you an update on what she's been up to. She was murdered.

TURNER: Now "The Life of Miley."

It was 1994, the first time the world met little Miley Cyrus, just two years old on a country music interview show. She was already a show stopper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your eyes, Miley? Do your eyes. Very talented child.

TURNER: Perhaps a sign of things to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is very dangerous. You're teaching her to flirt at a very early age. You're going to be in big trouble when she's about what 12, 13.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could almost see that little twinkle in her eye. You know, that little like I'm going to do something with myself.

TURNER: Shirley Halperin is the music editor of the "Hollywood Reporter." She's followed Miley's career from the beginning.

(on camera): Even, you know, when she is being mischievous, there's this little look in her eye. I see and it's kind of like "OK, Miley, what are you doing next kind of thing?"

HALPERIN: Whenever the camera was on, she was on. You could see that from a very early age. I always got the sense she was calculated but like in a good way.

TURNER (voice-over): Calculated and destined for big things. Not entirely surprising for a little girl who he was originally named Destiny Hope Cyrus.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: I have given her that name before she was born because I felt it was her Destiny to bring hope to the world. I do think that this is her purpose, her path. You know, I think she's a natural born singer/songwriter/entertainer.

TURNER: And it didn't hurt that her father was a hit maker.

HALPERIN: The fact he had one big hit with "Achy Breaky Heart," puts him in a level where he had access to musicians and producers and record company people that she probably would not have met were it not for her father.

TURNER: What could be better than having a famous father? Having a music legend like Dolly Parton for a godmother. In fact, later in her life Miley recorded her own version of Parton's classic "Jolene."

HALPERIN: I think looking to Dolly, looking to the sort of eccentric showmanship of a Dolly Parton really helped find her own style.

TURNER: She was just a toddler back in 1993 when she was on the stage with many of music's biggest names.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: We're doing a tribute to Elvis Presley at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee and she broke away from the nanny, waddled out on the stage during the finale which was a blue's version of "Amazing Grace." She came out on stage with some of the biggest stars in the world. She just kind of became one with every singer and everybody was holding her. She had her hands up. She was singing. The last guy to hold her at the end of the song was Tony Bennett. Tony Bennett came as the song ended and he said "You got a special little girl here."

TURNER: Yes despite being surrounded by fame, Miley had a normal childhood. Raised a southern Baptist. Home was the small town of Thompson Station, Tennessee on a 500-acre farm.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: I love being outside. We build big fires up on top of the hill and sat out and look at the stars and roast marshmallows and weiners. I was good with those types of things with my kids. I wasn't good at setting them down and saying let's do your algebra now.

TURNER: But he was good at watching out for his little girl even as a toddler had her eyes on bigger things. Producer Steve Peterman.

STEVE PETERMAN, PRODUCER: They were doing a video thing of him down at the farm and Miley was out there and she was two and a half maybe. They were at a barn on the property. Miley was standing up on some landing and Billy said "Be careful, honey." And she put her hands on her hips and said "I'm not afraid of anything." And that's two and a half.

TURNER: Fearless and bold. Two traits that continue to define her as she grew up, went to school and became a cheerleader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went to a private evangelical school, a Christian school for a year.

TURNER: "Rolling Stones" editor Josh Eells had rare access to Miley.

EELLS: She was asked to leave after a year. She had a couple different versions of why. I'm not sure which one is really the one. In one version she told the class all about what French kissing and in another version her teacher was I guess an older woman who got around on a little motorized scooter and Miley stole it at one point and was cruising around the classroom on her teacher's scooter. Whatever the case was it was not the perfect fit.

TURNER: What was a great fit for Miley?


TURNER: Music.

RENEE GRANT WILLIAMS, MILEY'S VOICE TEACHER: Miley was a good student. She worked hard and she didn't fight your advice.

TURNER: Renee Grant Williams was Miley's voice teacher when she was 12.

WILLIAMS: She had an ingenious way of getting what she wanted by being charming and lovely and enthusiastic and willing to take the burden of work on as well.

TURNER: And by 2001, what Miley wanted became crystal here in 2001 when the family left Tennessee for Toronto where Billy Ray was filming the TV show "Doc."

BILLY RAY CYRUS: Miley, she kept saying "Daddy, can I write something in for me." So they wrote her in one episode. And from the time she did that episode she said "Can they write me in next week? Can they write me in next week?" A few weeks after that she went to see "Mamma Mia" in Toronto. And I'll never forget it. It was that combination of acting and the performance on stage of the singers and she said "That's what I want to do."


BILLY RAY CYRUS: I'm going to be a great actress and a singer- songwriter. This is what I'm going to do.

TURNER: And Miley went for it.

MILEY CYRUS: I'm Miley Cyrus, and I'm auditioning for the role of Zoey in "Hannah Montana."

TURNER: In 2003, against her father's wishes, she auditioned for the role of a lifetime.

HALPERIN: I think you can see the sort of long-range plan when you look at her "Hannah Montana" audition. You could see that she knew what she was doing. She knew what the role required and she knew that the world would be a stepping stone to other things.

TURNER: But producers weren't so sure. When we come back Miley's battle to become Hannah Montana.


MILEY CYRUS: I'm Miley Cyrus. I'm with CED and I audition for the role of Zoey in Hannah Montana. And yes, it's your red sweater...

TURNER: In 2003, 11-year-old Miley hoped this audition would be her ticket to Hollywood.

PETERMAN: The truth of the matter is she was the least likely person to get this job.

TURNER: Producer Steve Peterman was part of the "Hannah Montana" casting team.

PETERMAN: She was an 11 that looked nine. Way too small. Way too young.

TURNER: Miley dead set on becoming a star wouldn't give up.

MILEY CYRUS: Hey, I'm Miley Cyrus and I'm 12 years old.

It's so good for you. It was like, you know, like I get vegetables.

PETERMAN: And she read for us and she read for us over and over again. She would do some lines fabulously, wonderfully and she would miss other lines by a mile.

MILEY CYRUS: Oh, my gosh. I know. I'm an idiot.

PETERMAN: But I couldn't take my eyes off her.

PETERMAN: Two years later producers still weren't convinced. They gave Miley one last shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) script and now that this is your final audition for this project?

MILEY CYRUS: Only my three best friends.

PETERMAN: And it ultimately came down to Miley and one other girl. With Miley there was something about her that was so alive and so fearless and all of us finally agreed to take the chance.

TURNER: At 13, Miley Cyrus became Hannah Montana.


TURNER: And was living her dream.

(MUSIC PLAYING) TURNER: Miley was the perfect fit for the plotline, a schoolgirl with a secret double life as a teen pop star.

Lily, you learn 18 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's your best friend. Sooner or later you're going to have to tell her you're Hannah Montana.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: I think that's one of the things that really connected about Hannah Montana was the realism that well, wait a minute, this is art imitating life, imitating art.

TURNER: Miley auditioned her own dad for the part of her TV dad.


Baby, get ready, get set. Don't go.

One of the episodes called "Ready, set, don't go." I wrote that song as Miley left for California.

All Daddy ever wants his little girl grow up.

The series was picked up. I knew her life and our lives as a family was going to change.

TURNER: The show and Miley were a smash. Hannah Montana became one of Disney's highest rated TV series and Miley shot up to teen idol status.

HALPERIN: I think you could see the sort of long range plan when you look at her Hannah Montana audition. You could see that she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew the world would be a stepping stone to other things.

Merchandise, TV, music. She was really the first star to embrace all of these things.

TURNER: In 2007, she released "Hannah Montana two, meet Miley Cyrus." The soundtrack to her TV series and debuted under her real name.

Her second album "Break Out" with hit "17" went platinum. In 2008, a hint that Miley was feeling the pressure of being one of the biggest teen stars on the planet.

MILEY CYRUS: It's like the media is kind of like a mother. You know, it's like, you know, trying to let their young go or whatever and let them grow up. I feel like they are kind of having a hard time with that.

TURNER: Miley's next conquest a film career. She landed a part in "High School Musical Two." And then the voice of Penny in the animated movie "Bolt."

"PENNY": Bolt is lost. He could be anywhere by now.

TURNER: In 2009, Miley brought her TV character to life on the big screen in "Hannah Montana, the Movie."

HANNAH MONTANA: Like Vida (ph) says, it's all about the publicity.

HALPERIN: (INAUDIBLE) 31 million in its opening weekend. It really just cemented her as more than a singer, more than an actress. She was an all-around performer.

TURNER: She was white hot, but Disney's billion dollar baby would soon get her first taste of controversy. It all started with a provocative "Vanity Fair" photo shoot. Fifteen-year-old Miley barely dressed. No longer the girl next door. Then Miley shocked fans when she spiced up her performance at the 2009 performance by poll dancing to her hit "Party in the USA."

The video went viral and parents postal.

(on camera): Her fans and their parents were like, "Whoa, this isn't Hannah Montana that we know."

PETERMAN: We couldn't do much about that. It's that fearlessness and that sense of spontaneity, that sense of what she's doing to do now? And it means that she's going to at times make mistakes.

TURNER (voice-over): But Miley was unfazed.

MILEY CYRUS: I think the media always tries to kind of overdo it. It's really no one else's business how my parents raise me or how I'm being raised.

TURNER: Yet even her parents were concerned when a video surfaced of Miley taking a bong hit.

MILEY CYRUS: OK. I'm about to lose it now.

BILLY RAY CYRUS: I was alarmed for my daughter's safety.

TURNER: Miley down played the video saying it wasn't pot she was smoking and apologized for the "Vanity Fair" spread but her image was changing. Her 2010 album and single said it all.


TURNER (on camera): Just look at the album title, "Can't be Tamed." I mean, she put it out there.

HALPERIN: I feel like we saw it play out in front of our very eyes. This person breaking loose of the Disney character.

TURNER (voice-over): In 2011, the split became official when Miley quit the show that made her a global phenomenon. "Hannah Montana" was no more.

Coming up -

(on camera): You were down there and I said you know what, back the up. It's almost a brand new Miley. (voice-over): A brand new Miley and a brand new controversy.


MILEY CYRUS: I'm going to jump out of a (INAUDIBLE) plane. (INAUDIBLE) "Rolling Stone."

TURNER: Two years after "Hannah Montana" ended - 20-year-old Miley Cyrus is on the edge. She's skydiving with Josh Eells of "Rolling Stone" magazine. Extreme, unafraid and ready for reinvention. This is the new Miley Cyrus.

MILEY CYRUS: What a landing.

EELLS: We were both kind of terrified, I think. It was a situation where neither of us really wanted to back down. I think she just likes doing, she's kind of like pushing the envelope right now.

HALPERIN: It's a very difficult thing to do and few can pull it off.

When you make that break, it has to be a break. You can't leave one foot in the pre-teen, tween world.

TURNER: Miley moved out of her parent's house and in with boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth. Quit acting to focus on a bold new pop album and started distancing herself from her wholesome "Hannah Montana" image.

EELLS: She got a new label and new management. She felt like she needed a change because not that they were going to hold her back, but just that they might be sort of scared at the way she was going to go.

TURNER: And Miley was going to go for big risks. With her first single, "We can't stop," she released a video full of sex, drugs and in her words -- shaking it like we're at a strip club.

DEREK GLASSBERG, EDITOR AT LARGE, "HARPER'S BAZAAR": That was the first glimpse into the post Hannah Montana Miley Cyrus. And we saw a shock of white, shaved hair, rolling around in a bed, playing with plush toys.

TURNER: Derek Glassberg interviewed Miley for "Harper's Bazaar."

GLASSBERG: She knew it was her make or break moment with the record label. And I think she told the record label, "Look, if you give me this one chance to do it my vision and it goes belly up and it's a bust, I'll do whatever you want."

TURNER: She risked it all and it worked. Breaking records, going viral on Vivo and reaching over 10 million views within 24 hours of its release.


TURNER: Now, Miley could do exactly what she wanted to and what she wanted was a memorable performance at the MTV video music awards, where millions of Americans would get their first look at the new Miley.

EELLS: She was a little nervous because this was a big roll out of, you know, this is who I'm going to be now.

TURNER: On stage with Robin Thicke, Miley stripped down to nothing but nude underwear, grinding with a giant foam finger and she twerked.

HALPERIN: It worked the way into history, it must be said. And I was sitting right next to Lady Gaga's mom, (INAUDIBLE), and then I remember turning around just to see what those around me were doing and everyone had the same expression on their face, which was like, "Are you seeing what I'm seeing"?

TURNER: It was hot, but was it a mess? Her critics thought so. Even Brook Shields, her mother on "Hannah Montana," told the "Today" show -

BROOKE SHIELDS, ACTRESS: I feel like it's a bit desperate. I mean I just sort of want to know who's advising her and why it's necessary.

TURNER:: Then, there were the more than 150 FCC complaints.

EELLS: Some were pretty humorous. Someone said it was like watching a brothel. Other people complain about child pornography, which she's 20 years old.

TURNER: Miley's reaction -

EELLS: She laughed the whole thing off. It didn't seem to faze her. She knew it was going to get a reaction. That's part of why she did it, but everyone is talking about her.

TURNER: And Miley was quick to point that out, tweeting "My VMA performance had 306,000 tweets per minute. That's more than the blackout or Super Bowl." And she said exactly what she thought in her MTV documentary, "The Movement."

MILEY CYRUS: It's a strategic, hot mess. Right now, I'm in a point in my career where I can be exactly who I want to be, just go for what you want to do.

TURNER: The controversy only fueled her confidence.

In her next video, Miley was sometimes naked while riding a wrecking ball and licking a sledgehammer. And this time, she wanted to show something different. Her vulnerability.

EELLS: Two-thirds of the way through the song when the bridge hits and you really, you see her shed a tear.

TURNER: A tear over a tortured romance. Rumored to be about her fiance, Liam Hemsworth.

EELLS: I think she wants to show the more sensitive side of her and not just the party girl side, too.

TURNER: Soon after its release, "Wrecking Ball" became the number one song in the country. Miley and Liam announced they were breaking up for good. And "SNL" invited her to host the show.

MILEY CYRUS: Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean? I'm old you.

TURNER: On everyone's mind, what would the wild child do next?

ANNOUNCER: Miley Cyrus!

TURNER: But surprisingly, Miley was pretty tame. There was no nudity. No twerking. And no apologies for the VMA.

MILEY CYRUS: If I owe anybody an apology, it's the people who make the bottom half of the shirts.

TURNER: The mild mannered performance kept the focus on the music.

HALPERIN: She's showing, you know, the different sides of Miley Cyrus, the performer and the one thing you can't deny, even going back to "Hannah Montana," she has a really good voice. She knows how to sing and "Wrecking Ball" just puts it out there.


TURNER (on camera): I'm going to list some words that some people have used to describe her. Disaster.

HALPERIN: Definitely not. Very calculated and very self-aware.

TURNER: Gifted.

HALPERIN: Yes. Definitely gifted. Has talent. Fearless. Very fearless.

TURNER: And finally, genius.

HALPERIN: I don't know about that. Let's not go crazy.

EELLS: The new Miley is in control. I think she's really smart and knows what she wants to do with her career next.

TURNER (voice-over): And what she does next, she told MTV, will be unforgettable.

MILEY CYRUS: Every time I do anything, I want the remember this is what separates me from everybody else.

I do get so overwhelmed when I'm going to perform because everything has to be perfect. Everything has to be so huge. Everything we do has to be a moment.