For as long as she's been known as anything, she's been known as something to someone — Billy Ray Cyrus' wife, Miley Cyrus' mom. Now, Tish Cyrus is adding some titles of her own: candle entrepreneur and star of Bravo’s new decorating competition show Cyrus vs Cyrus: Design and Conquer. But, she says, you can also just call her Tish.
“I eat like a child,” she jokes after deciding on a caesar salad at an open-air Italian restaurant in her Toluca Lake neighborhood. Cyrus is warm and smiley, making small talk about her upcoming travels — Coachella with daughter Noah, the latest Cyrus to achieve pop stardom with her new single "Stay Together"; and Nashville, to check on her house there — in a twang so rich and intense, it feels as though we’re somewhere down South instead of breezy Los Angeles.
That accent is Eastern-Kentucky-bred, from a small coal town where Cyrus says she had a “perfect” childhood as her parents’ adopted only child. “Everything was about me,” she remembers. “My dad would be like, ‘Miss Kentucky!’ and I'd walk in the room and model.” A dancer since the age of 3, she’d always dreamed of being in entertainment. But after she became pregnant with her first child, Brandi Glenn, at age 19, her focus shifted to family life with a local drummer whom she soon married.
The couple parted ways after the birth of their son Trace Dempsey, and two years later the music-loving single mom was dating Billy Ray Cyrus, an up-and-coming country star. Then came Destiny Hope Cyrus (now better known as Miley) and a secret wedding in 1993 before the couple hit the road and eventually added two more kids — son Braison and daughter Noah — to their traveling brood. And brood, in this case, is quite accurate.
“Anytime we were on the road for Billy or for Miley, I took all the kids with me,” Cyrus says. “As much as school is important, so is being with your children. I think that's why we are so close as a family. But it was not easy. Once, we were doing a movie for Miley for seven weeks in Georgia, and I not only took the kids, but the dogs, and the bird, and the nanny, and my mom. It was not a joke.”
Though she’s spent most of her life in the deep South and traveling across the middle of the U.S., Cyrus exudes California girl. There are her ears studded with shining silver hoops, the just-so messily braided blonde hair, toothpaste-ad-white teeth, and the kind of summery glow that makes you wonder if it’s a spray tan, or if the West Coast can truly just do that for some people. It’s most evident when she proclaims, in one breath, “Between both of my daughters’ music and my show and the candles and being a mom, and my dog needing eye surgery, I feel like maybe my brain might explode!” and somehow still seems at-ease.
As relaxed as she is, though, Tish Cyrus is a talker. Her publicist gently interjects to encourage Tish to have a few bites of her salad before steering her back to the reason she’s here: to introduce Original Home Scent, the candle collection she launched this year with her business partner (whom she calls her “bestie”), branding agent Nicole Winnaman.
As Cyrus describes her passion project, her crystal-blue eyes widen and sparkle; at times, the shape of her face, or a distinctive tone in her voice makes it easy to imagine that it’s actually an excited Miley sitting at the table.
“Nicole started a fragrance line a few years ago, and I went to her to create my own custom scent, and people always asked me ‘Mmm, what are you wearing?’” Cyrus says. “I’ve always been candle-obsessed, so I knew we had to do this together. With interior design, I think lighting and ambiance are really the things that actually make a room.”
Cyrus and Winnaman’s offerings include scents like Rose Court and Beach Cove (Cyrus's personal favorite), and then the cheekier ones: Cheeky, Booty Call, and Happy Hippie. You can also create your own custom scent and personalized packaging. The site showcases creations made specifically for Miley and pal Kendall Jenner, daughter of Cyrus’ friend and fellow momager, Kris Jenner.
But don’t get it twisted: When asked if she ever consults with her friend about doubling as a mother and manager, it’s the only time Cyrus gets the tiniest bit testy — quick to point out that she was momaging before Jenner was, so when it comes to seeking wisdom, it’s usually the other way around.
“The reason I know Kris is because she would always call to get tickets for Kendall and Kylie to come see Miley perform,” Cyrus says. “She’s a great friend. I adore her and all the girls.” She adds that she can’t get enough of Kylie’s Lip Kit.
"I want my kids to look back at me one day and say ‘My mom, she really held it all together. She was strong, and she fought for her marriage and for us.’
Hand-in-hand with Cyrus’ love of candles is her obsession with interior decorating. This takes center stage on Bravo’s upcoming Cyrus vs. Cyrus (May 25), where she and daughter Brandi compete — with each other — to earn renovation projects from Nashville-based clients, including Miley, who enlisted the duo to renovate her property’s backyard barn.
“When I got my first place when I was younger, I hired an interior designer,” Cyrus says. “I'll never forget being like, ‘I've been at Dillard's looking for drapery!’ and she was like ‘Oh. We have those custom made.’ I was like, 'You do?!' From there I fell in love with the whole process of making a home feel really personal.”
Aside from her own home, which she calls “California-cool and a little bohemian,” Cyrus has also helped decorate all of her children’s houses. Noah’s is “chill,” with hanging clouds Cyrus picked out and a rainbow ceiling light that Miley got her. Brandy’s is “industrial and masculine,” while Miley’s is “colorful, a piece of art; when you walk in, you 100% know you’re in Miley Cyrus’ home.” (Later, she mentions that her favorite part about Miley’s house is the bed she shares with fiancé Liam Hemsworth, which is so comfortable — “I never wanted to leave!”) Cyrus did remain tight-lipped about Miley and Hemsworth’s upcoming nuptials — though she confirms the decor will, of course, include some of her candles.
In general, Cyrus comes across more genuine-mom than media-trained manager. And there’s one topic in particular on which she doesn’t hold back: critics of Miley, who have been particularly rabid since the 2013 VMA performance of “We Can’t Stop” where she twerked onstage in a nude two-piece with oversized teddy bears.
“As much as people think she must’ve been crying in her dressing room after all that, she was not,” Cyrus says. “Miley is who she is, and honestly I don't know where she got that, because I'm a little more sensitive. But somehow I did raise a strong, amazing person that’s self-confident and really doesn't care what people think. She knows that onstage, that’s an artist, a personality she’s created for entertainment. But in her real life, she’s not always that person. She came to my house this morning and made me a smoothie and did yoga on my porch.”
That's Tish the mom talking, but the manager in her is honing in on the bigger picture.
“After I was freaking out at the reaction to the VMAs, this manager told me, ‘Can you please just look up David Bowie in the '70s and '80s?’ And he was right. Who are the people we think of as iconic artists? Look at Madonna. Look at David Bowie. Prince. They did not care what other people thought, and neither does Miley. That's why she's Miley Cyrus. She is herself, and that's what makes me proud of her, more than anything else that she's done.”
Cyrus is also surprisingly forthcoming about a topic that’s been gossip mag-fodder for years: The status of her marriage with Billy Ray. The couple has twice filed for divorce, first in 2013, and then last year. But between bites of romaine, Cyrus confirms that they are indeed still married.
“I’ve had a lot of people say to me, ‘You guys should get a divorce because it's easier on your kids,’” she says. “I don't believe that at all. I want my kids to know that I made a commitment; I love him. Life is hard, but I'm not taking the easy way out.”
While she admits that things were rocky back in 2016, both her marriage and her family are in a much better place. “It’s been a fight, but the fight is worth it. I am so glad that I didn't listen to everybody else. I'm a huge believer in forgiveness — my mama always said sometimes I forgive a little too easy — and maybe it would've been easier to walk away and just let our marriage fall apart. But I want my kids to look back at me one day and say, ‘My mom, she really held it all together. She was strong, and she fought for her marriage, and for us.’"
All roads in this conversation do eventually lead back to her children. “Somehow, my kids are flipping amazing, and I did something right,” she says. “A lot of people say you can't be your kids’ friend. I think I really found a way to be their mom when they were younger, and then when they were older, feel like a friend. I've always been honest with them — I've never told them just what they want to hear. I think...I hope, that that’s why they trust me so much.”
This year also marks another milestone for Cyrus: Her 50th birthday, which happens to land on the day after Mother’s Day, which she'll celebrate by having dinner with her kids. She’s also got more big plans for this so-called second act, including more interior design work and writing a book.
But before any of that, she’s hitting the road yet again, this time with her youngest child, Noah. Because for Tish Cyrus, there’s one role of many that matters more than the rest: Mom.
Watch the trailer for Cyrus vs. Cyrus below.