Every year the Grammys spawns unlikely and unmissable duet performances that are often more enthralling than the awards announcements themselves (sorry, hardworking pop stars!) Just days after he publicly started the three year countdown to his retirement and cracked our sequinned hearts in two, 2018’s show saw Sir Elton John enlist Miley Cyrus to belt out a rendition of “Tiny Dancer” in her inimitable country twang. Glitz-ed up to the nines (John in bejewelled mirrored shades, of course, and Cyrus a vision in tulle) the pair stole every headline covering the night.
If you’re one of Cyrus’ 74m followers on Instagram, her recurring hashtag #BitchIsBack won’t have evaded you. On the same weekend as the Grammys, she performed “Landslide” at the Recording Academy gala in homage to her favourite band and Person of the Year winners, Fleetwood Mac. Mother of the ballad, Stevie Nicks watched over what felt like a pure “moment” in music.
Just a week before, Cyrus took on the LA Women’s March, backed up by her Happy Hippie Foundation to deliver a speech to a crowd of 750,000 unified in defending the rights of women and minorities everywhere. “We are living proof that we are stronger together,” she said, explaining that the cracks in the glass ceiling are already showing.
So, yes, Miley’s back. Perhaps that’s the understatement of the year so far. Still riding on the success of 2017’s Younger Now, she’s continued her guardian role as a judge on the American edition of The Voice, taken styling, directing and writing into her own hands and developed a more active stance than ever on socio-political issues close to her heart. Hillary Clinton even quoted “We Can’t Stop” back to the 25-year-old singer on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, when Cyrus was given the opportunity to thank her during her week long residency on air. Outspoken and unapologetic, Cyrus’ refusal to be another manufactured entertainer is her only trait that remains untouched. Reflecting on her mammoth — and of course sparkling — start to 2018, we get in conversation with Miley Ray Cyrus.
Bloomer, glove, top and satin sequin ruffle 1930s circus costume.
MILEY! Naturally, we’ve been following your every move online, you’ve been using the #BitchIsBack. What do you mean? Where are you returning from?
#BitchIsBack is really about my attitude and feeling really confident and positive where I’m at in my life. I say this regularly — who I am is always changing, but I feel more myself than ever. I’m really looking forward to all these different projects I have going on this year, and not just musically. Getting to design has always been a dream since my style is such an important part of what I represent. You can always tell where my head and heart is at — because I am likely wearing it.
You’ve been in the public eye since a very young age – most of your fans have grown up with you – and as a result, your style evolution has been well documented. It’s safe to say you’re a risk-taker and a certified trend-setter. Have you spotted any trends you might have started recently?
My favourite performance from my Younger Now album was the MTV VMA performance, when I chose to cast older entertainers. Then recently, I noticed there were a lot of senior models during New York Fashion Week! That made me really proud because wisdom is beautiful and being wise is sexy, and I think it’s important for young people to look forward to growing up, rather than being afraid.
Yes! Now, this very shoot, you styled yourself, can you talk us through your choices?
Oh this old thing… [laughs]. These were pieces I actually already had in my closet. Some people call it hoarding, I call it collecting. If I see a piece, especially something vintage, I am drawn to the history behind the look. One piece was actually from the 30s, from a circus, and the entertainer’s name was embroidered inside the clothes. So during the shoot I took on a different persona and all those clothes turned me into a different character. I’d like to think I took on the entertainer’s persona!
Agreed, it’s collecting not hoarding. You’ve styled yourself for more than this shoot recently though – you had an incredible week in New York for the Grammys – performing with Sir Elton John (who is the costume king), performing at the Fleetwood Mac tribute, The Roots jam, etc. What was the inspiration for those looks?
It’s always important for me to stand out instead of fitting in. So, I always want to do something really different. Not only from what everyone else is doing, but also from what I have been doing, every time I start a new direction.
By honouring an artist I have always looked up to, I also wanted to honour a designer I’ve always looked up to — which was Jean Paul Gaultier — I was really excited to wear a vintage piece from one of his past collections on the Grammy red carpet.
I don’t think anyone expected for me to wear the Zac Posen gown that I chose for my Grammy performance with Sir Elton John. It wasn’t like anything I’d done before, so it was really fun to collaborate with Zac and to pick colours that were able to complement Elton’s outfit as well.
I love working with designers and customising pieces with them from scratch. August Getty is one of my favourite designers to work with at the moment — everything that we’ve ever imagined then became a reality exactly the way I saw it in my head. I love seeing something go from a piece of paper to physical form, and ultimately having it be better than I ever expected.
We know you took a hands-on approach with the costuming for your most recent album Younger Now, and you wrote all the lyrics and co-produced the album. And co-directed the music videos! Is there anything we’re forgetting?! You wear so many creative hats at once, do you find it a challenge?
The most difficult part was taking care of my artistry and also being a coach on The Voice at the same time. As much as I was taking care of myself, I was also directing 12 other aspiring artists. I’ve experienced so much in my career, it was important for me to give back to those artists and give them my undivided attention for the time we were working together. So as much as I was involved in my career, my time was equally dedicated to giving back to these other artists and allowing them to live their dreams.
Vintage pink quilted top with heart detail top, vintage satin pink pyjama shorts, shoes CONVERSE x MILEY CYRUS COLLECTION, white low top with silver glitter stack.
Let’s talk about The Voice. It feels like the world got to experience Miley Cyrus in a much broader capacity. It’s so easy for the audience to get emotionally invested in the show when your commitment to the contestants is so evident, and your energy is infectious. Is it true you dressed some of the contestants from your own wardrobe?
Yes, I did actually dress my artists in clothes from my closet. Which is also terribly sad because the day that I did, was the day my girl lost and got kicked off! (Laughs)
Eek! Completely unrelated, we’re sure. Do you also style yourself on The Voice? There have been so many mega looks.
The past two seasons of The Voice I have kept a balance of using vintage pieces throwing back to the 60s and 70s, which is my favourite era of fashion, but also mixing in up-and-coming designers. The Voice is an awesome platform to always have fun. It’s big. And loud! And hopefully I have inspired my artists to always be themselves. I try and be an example of that with what I wear.
As a performer you’ve graced the stage with a number of icons in the recent months – Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Elton John, the list goes on… Do you ever get nervous?
I get butterflies because of the excitement! And sometimes I can’t believe I get to share the stage with artists I have listened to my entire life, and in a way, almost worship. The more I was around these icons, I realised all of them are so grounded. And just like Dolly [Parton, Cyrus’ godmother] always taught me, they’re kind to everyone they come into contact with, from the bottom to the top. They say hello to everyone, and are on and entertaining from the second they walk through the door. There’s no on/off switch button.
Just like them, you’ve been in the spotlight for a long time as you’ve been working since a young age. Now, in the age of inescapable social media, do you feel pressured to communicate with your fans in a different manner?
I’ve always had a really great relationship with my fans which is why I think they’ve been so loyal throughout out my career. By being so young when I started, I’ve always had the luxury of social media which allowed me to be so close to my fans. But also, it hasn’t always been easy because the people who love you are closer to you, but so are the ones who don’t. They equally have the freedom of speech, though the latter is sometimes hard to hear.
We’ve seen the clips that have been circulating online from your week-long stint on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Was there a standout moment?
Getting to read my letter to Hillary Clinton. I was so emotional in that moment, I couldn’t even get through it. But giving her a big hug and thanking her for inspiring all of us women was a moment I’ll never forget.
It was so incredible when she quoted “We Can’t Stop” back to you! The Tonight Show was also an amazing reminder of your acting chops… Any plans to return to that art form?
My attention span doesn’t love the idea of focusing and being on one project for so many months, especially being a character and not getting to be myself for that amount of time. I get really deep into the characters I play, just like I do with music. So then in becomes hard for me to relate — even to my family and friends — I’m so deep into that character. So for right now, I am so content with where I am, being someone else doesn’t sound that fun to me.
If people didn’t know you before, they certainly knew you after that performance at the 2013 VMAs, it was everywhere. When you stepped off stage, did you realise you had affected pop culture?
Not only was culture changed, but my life and career were changed forever, and almost defined in that moment. It inspired me to use my platform for something much bigger. If the world is going to focus on me and what I am doing, then what I am doing should be impactful and it should be great. It encouraged me to be more involved, which then led me to start my own organisation, which is the Happy Hippie Foundation. It’s dedicated to fighting injustice for vulnerable populations.
What are the foundation’s focuses right now? We saw you guys at the Women’s March!
Right now, Happy Hippie is really focused on supporting transgender youth through a partnership with Gender Spectrum. Together we created digital support groups so anyone can get the help they need. For example, they have weekly discussion groups that anyone can join by video, and talk about experiences or ask hard questions.
In your speech at the Women’s March, you said you know you’re not alone in your dream to be the change in America. What would be the first thing you would change if you were given immediate power?
I would want to find a way to encourage people be more understanding, to have respect, love and compassion, and have that be the foundation of this country. Rather than hate, discrimination and lack of empathy.
You take such an active stance in the causes you care about, and you seem to always challenge yourself. How do you decide what to do next as an artist?
It’s always organic. It’s always the truth! And even though one thing I do may be very different from the last or the next, its always honest at that time.
Now your sister Noah has just started her own musical career too! Would you rather shield her or encourage her?
Encourage her. But I definitely try and protect her at the same time. She’s too talented to not share her voice with the world.
We can’t wait to see what she does! Other than Noah, who are you listening to right now?
I listen to everything ranging from old school country, to the newest hip hop. I love alternative bands. 60s, 70s rock-n-roll. Everyone knows about my eternal love of Elvis. I love Portugal The Man. And Cardi B. So, I literally listen to everything.
Lastly, we have to ask – how are your pet pigs?
My pigs are perfection! Pig Pig was nominated for her first award this year. Her fandom is growing daily.
Taken from the Spring 2018 Issue; out now and available to buy here.
(LEFT) Vintage pink quilted top with heart detail.
(RIGHT) Dress NEITH NYER.
Ellen Von Unwerth
James Kaliardos at Art and Commerce
Oribe Canales at Oribe. Nails Stephanie Stone at Forward Artists