I don’t get the sick feel­ing or that ris­ing up

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year, Cyrus shaved her head – and got it right. Oh, so right. “Never felt more me in my whole life,” she tweeted, along with the pic­ture she used to re­veal the new hairdo to the world. Of course, it helped that the per­ox­ide blonde crop showed us her face in a whole new light. What were for­merly the pretty fea­tures of a liv­ing, breath­ing Bratz doll were re­vealed as ar­rest­ingly beau­ti­ful. You can bet that meet­ing with Win­tour was to dis­cuss an up­com­ing Vogue cover. And as she says: “It caused so much drama. My hair has got me called ev­ery name in the book.” Such as? She rolls her china-blue eyes. “Well, ob­vi­ously I’m a les­bian now I have short hair. Not that I’m of­fended by be­ing called a les­bian – that’s one of the bet­ter things you could call me.”

She ob­vi­ously feels some vin­di­ca­tion in hav­ing scooped the top spot in Maxim mag­a­zine’s Hot 100 poll this year. “To be on the cover and not be the typ­i­cal Brazil­ian bikini babe, with hair down to your waist and fake boo­bies – you know, to have a real girl as num­ber one – I think that was im­por­tant.”

As Cyrus loves to tell you, she has strong views on pretty much ev­ery­thing (“My grandad was a Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tor, so I have that in my blood”), and hav­ing been al­lowed to grow up, it feels right, and health­ier, that she’s be­ing al­lowed to ex­press them. For ex­am­ple, no anx­ious publi­cist feels the need to jump in and stop her when she tells me she prefers smok­ing weed to drink­ing: “When I smoke, I don’t get the sick feel­ing I get when I drink, or that anger ris­ing up. There’s a rea­son Bob Mar­ley was like some kind of mu­si­cal Rasta Mother Teresa!”

Cyrus’s “on-off” (as the tabloids would have it) fi­ancé is the Hunger Games ac­tor Liam Hemsworth, whom she met when film­ing The Last Song, and who pro­posed in May last year with a 3.5-carat-di­a­mond art-deco bauble. The cause of the break-up spec­u­la­tion is the fact that the cou­ple spend so much time apart – and to­day their re­la­tion­ship is off sub­ject. “I used to be open about it, but peo­ple abused that, and now I’ve taken it back, peo­ple mis­in­ter­pret it to mean some­thing is wrong.” For the record, she is very much wear­ing the ring, flanked by two fat bands of di­a­monds.

And yes, she does want chil­dren, just not too young. “I love be­ing young and liv­ing my life,” she says. “I want time to get men­tally re­ally strong. I love my part­ner, but at the end of the day, if it ends up just me, I want to know who I am, so I can be a good par­ent on my own.”

This could be a veiled ref­er­ence to her par­ents’ break-up. Af­ter 19 years of mar­riage, her mother, Tish, filed for di­vorce from the coun­try singer Billy Ray Cyrus ear­lier this year. (This is the only other sub­ject she won’t touch to­day.) But it could also be a les­son she learnt from her good friend Brit­ney Spears, whom Cyrus some­what wor­ry­ingly de­scribes as “an idol and like a men­tor”.

Was Spears’s pub­lic melt­down a les­son on the flip side of fame? “I think it’s dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one. I’ve al­ways been out­go­ing, and Brit­ney is a much qui­eter per­son. Plus, my dad has been sober for 20 years now, and he has taught me. It’s not like I don’t have fun and mess up, but it’s con­trolled.”

Apart from one or two fe­male friends (Kelly Os­bourne is “the best one to have on your side”), Cyrus mainly hangs around with guys. “Girls are so catty,” she says. “I’m not good at be­ing fake, and girls are so good at act­ing, es­pe­cially girls in LA, be­cause they are ac­tresses.”

Her fam­ily – which sounds as close-knit as it is sprawl­ing, with all sorts of sib­lings from pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ships, and none other than Dolly Par­ton thrown into the mix as god­mother – is where she gets her real strength. Her younger sis­ter, Noah, and brother, Brai­son, a model, live with her in LA. “But my mom is nu­mero uno,” she says. “We fight, but I have to have her with me.” And sud­denly you re­mem­ber how young 20 is – even though Cyrus in­sists the tut-tut­ting about her sexy new im­age is ridicu­lous. “Peo­ple for­get what grow­ing up is,” she says. “When you’re 20, you do some crazy shit, be­cause you’re try­ing to fig­ure out who you are.

“Be­sides, kids know ev­ery­thing un­der the sun. If they have an iPhone, they’re watch­ing porn. Watch­ing me grind­ing a lit­tle in some white leg­gings in the video for We Can’t Stop [the teaser sin­gle for her new al­bum has racked up 144m YouTube views] is noth­ing com­pared to what your 12-year-old son is watch­ing un­der the sheets.”

She doesn’t un­der­stand why the in­ter­net isn’t cen­sored. “Ev­ery­thing else is, but you can Google how to com­mit sui­cide, and Siri will even tell you how to dis­pose of a dead body.”

Phar­rell Wil­liams pro­duced much of the new al­bum. Cyrus de­scribes him as like an older brother: “We fight till we’re black and blue, but we’re al­ways hon­est with each other.” He has said he thinks the young singer, who has be­come a sort of pro­tégée, is “an old soul”. It was he who en­cour­aged her to cut her hair. “‘Free your­self,’ I kept say­ing to her. ‘Your view of your­self, your view of the world, is so ac­cu­rate. Start to em­brace it now.’ ”

It’s rare to meet some­one so young who ap­pears so con­fi­dently her­self, but there is still a con­stant need for at­ten­tion (the end­less self­ies, the Twit­ter “call outs” to the haters) that sug­gests an un­der­ly­ing in­se­cu­rity, which, if ig­nored, could im­plode one day.

What hap­pens when it all stops? Of course, she’s also got an an­swer for that. “Re­mem­ber when Madonna did the Su­per Bowl, and she’d rein­vented her­self again? And peo­ple could not be­lieve she was older and look­ing so hot. I hope I’m that kind of per­son, where I just con­tinue to be rein­vented, do­ing what I do.”

And even though, as she says, “I have lived so much al­ready”, you know Mi­ley 2.0 is only the be­gin­ning.

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