The Cyrus Family Uncovered


Do Us Part?

Billy Ray and Tish have found themselves in the same position as many other celebrity couples: on the brink of divorce. Not once, but at least twice have the country superstars considered splitting. It’s no wonder when their career demands are pulling them every which way but together, and they’re so involved in building not just their own careers, but careers for their 5 children. Despite their heavy considerations, the couple have rallied time and again to save their marriage.

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Celebrity couples often face many obstacles to their love, from busy schedules that keep them on opposite sides of the world to constant temptation and easy access to a variety of vices. But Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus have managed to let their love prevail.

A Quarter Of A Century Strong

Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus have been married for nearly 25 years, despite the destructive power of Hollywood. Find out how they’ve managed to beat the odds and heal their marriage when so many others couldn’t.

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Party At The Honky Tonk

Billy Ray met Tish Cyrus when he was performing with his band at a local club in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, Billy Ray was a newly signed musician who was still trying to gain a foothold in the local country scene. Tish Cyrus was a young mom with two kids, who was still connected to the hard partying ways of her groupie past, which led her to be out with her Nashville friends in 1991, listening to Billy Ray’s music.

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His First Words

In a recent interview with People, Tish Cyrus shared the first words Billy Ray ever said to her on that fateful night in 1991. She asked, “Do you know the first thing he said to me? ‘I’ve never seen you drink, ever, and I think that’s so cool,’” Tish went on to say that the friends she was with that night were particularly “rowdy”. But Tish was generally no party pooper, and that difference became a tension they’d have to overcome.

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Born Into Bluegrass

Billy Ray Cyrus was born in Flatwoods, Kentucky in 1961, and it seems music was always an integral part of his life. He started singing at his church when he was 4, and his father, Ron Cyrus, played a right handed guitar, which the young Billy Ray struggled to master. Being that he grew up in Kentucky, the ambient music was usually gospel, especially since his father sang in a gospel choir, or bluegrass, all of which had a profound influence on his career.

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The Shame Of Divorce

Perhaps Billy Ray’s steadfast commitment to Tish is a reaction to the shame he felt as a child of divorced parents in the 1960s. Not only was it still uncommon for partners to divorce at the time, it was doubly shameful in the conservative Christian environment in which Cyrus was raised. His grandfather after all was a Pentecostal preacher. In a 2011 interview with GQ, Cyrus recalled having to confess at school that his parents were no longer together.

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Ticket To Destiny

Before he dreamt of becoming a professional musician, the ambitious Cyrus dreamt of playing for the Major League Baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, as catcher. But that all began to shift when he won tickets to a Neil Diamond concert that were offered in a radio contest. His attendance proved pivotal to his move away from sports and into music, after which he went out to buy a guitar. At the age of 20, he finally learned to play. Good thing too, because Tish only liked rockers.

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Like The Hands Of God

Billy Ray shared the details of his defining epiphany in his GQ interview from 2011. He recalled that in the middle of the song “Holly Holy” Neil stopped and said, “I don’t care if you’re white or black, rich or poor, man or woman, if you believe in your dreams and you live for the light and God’s love, you can be anything you want to be in this world.” Cyrus says it was like a calling from God.

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Country Music USA

Tish Cyrus was likewise brought up surrounded by music, as she was born in 1967 Nashville, the country music capital of the world. Born Leticia Jean Finley, she married her high school sweetheart, Baxter Neal Helson, at 19 and became a mother by the time she was 20, when she gave birth to her first daughter, Brandi in 1987. Shortly before her split from Helson, Tish gave birth to a second child, Neil Timothy Helson, better known as Trace Cyrus in 1989.

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Other Women

Tish isn’t the only one who had previous unions that resulted in children. Just before Billy Ray met Tish in 1991, he was dating a waitress from a local bar named Kristin Luckey. Billy Ray was quite down in the dumps at the time, given that he had recently split from his first wife, Cindy Smith, to whom he was married between 1986 and 1991. His doomed first marriage didn’t produce any children, and it seems his bumpy road to music success affected the relationship.

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Finding His Niche

Billy Ray spent his 20s bouncing between Nashville and L.A. in an attempt to get a record deal with any label in either of the cities. The childhood he spent feeling like an outsider in eastern Kentucky reared its ugly head in full force, as Cyrus was unable to find his place in the world of professional music. As he was on the edge of despair, he finally sweet talked an executive into signing him, and booked a gig opening for Reba McEntire.

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Baby Mama Drama

The fact that Billy Ray managed to be a homeless musician living out of his car in early 90s Nashville, and still had relationships with several different women in quick succession may speak to his personal charm. However, before he met his soul mate, waitress girlfriend Kristin Luckey conceived a child. In the interim, Billy Ray and Kristin broke up, and he met Tish. Both Tish and Kristin gave birth to Billy Ray’s children in the same year, Destiny Hope Cyrus and Christopher Cody.

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First Son

Christopher Cody’s birth never seemed to have registered very strongly on Tish’s radar. While Billy Ray continued to give him some support throughout his life, he was largely raised by his mother Kristin in North Carolina. Not that Tish could really judge Billy Ray for a relationship that occurred before they even met, but given that Tish was also a single mother at the time, accepting each other’s prior children was an important hurdle to overcome.

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Shooting Ahead

When Billy Ray and Tish met, he was on the brink of stardom, having just been signed by Polygram/Mercury Records, after a solitary and unsuccessful stint in Los Angeles. Tish had already given birth to the couple’s first daughter together, named Destiny Hope, but known to the world as Miley Cyrus. The conservative label didn’t think a wedding would be a good idea, as it would call the attention of their largely Christian fan base to their unwed status at the time of Miley’s birth.

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Scared For The Baby

While Billy Ray and Tish were clearly committed to each other by then, they were already encountering some speed bumps. Though his career was on the rise, their new baby, who was named Destiny Hope with the idea that it would inspire success later in their daughter’s life, was born with supraventricular tachycardia, a heart condition that can cause an abnormal resting heart rate. Billy Ray now had to shift from his streetwise mentality to juggling fame and familial responsibilities.

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A Secret Wedding

The pair went ahead and married anyway, heedless of the record label’s warning, in a secret ceremony on December 28, 1993. Tish was already expecting the pair’s second child, son Braison Chance Cyrus, who was born in 1994. They seemed to be on top of the world, as Cyrus had become an overnight success with the release of his first album in 1992, Some Gave All, which featured his most successful single to date. Though “Achy Breaky Heart” was the only #1 hit, several other songs made the charts as well.

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Healing A Broken Heart

Ironically, a number of the songs on Billy Ray’s first album were actually co-written with ex-wife Cindy Smith, including both “Wher’m I Gonna Live?” and the title track, “Some Gave All”. Though the relationship ended with their divorce in 1991, Billy Ray had begun work on the album after being signed in 1990. It’s therefore less surprising that his first wife played a part in penning some of the songs, though it seems his biggest hit, “Achy Breaky Heart” wasn’t a Cyrus original either.

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Expanding The Family

Riding high on the incredible success of his first album, Cyrus alternated between expanding his family, and expanding his discography, as he released his second album only a year after his first. His second album, It Won’t Be The Last, included 4 singles, but its popularity was somewhat muted compared to his first, with only 3 of his 4 singles charting, and none getting close number 1. But Cyrus still had his family, which he solidified by adopting Brandi and Trace as his own.

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Staying Grounded

In the wake of Billy Ray’s success, he and Tish bought their family a 500 acre ranch in Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, which is not far outside of Nashville. Their children grew up attending the local school, Heritage Elementary School. As Billy Ray continued to thrive professionally, the couple strove to provide a grounded and supportive environment in which they could raise their children. Trying to keep their family together was important, even if it proved detrimental to Billy Ray’s career.

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A Tight Knit Family

Both Tish and her first son, Trace – whose name was legally changed from Neil Timothy Helson to Trace Dempsey Cyrus upon his adoption – recalled spending much of his childhood accompanying Billy Ray on tours.  Tish and Billy Ray felt that while education was extremely important, so was family time. They didn’t want their kids to feel abandoned while Billy Ray was touring, or to feel like they had an absent father, so Tish made sure they stuck together.

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Driving Miss Miley

Tish told Refinery 29, “Anytime we were on the road for Billy or for Miley, I took all the kids with me. 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.”

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Time For The Silver Screen

Billy Ray continued to see success as a country music artist, though with each successive album, he achieved a little less than the preceding one. In 1999, he began toying with acting as a career move, earning himself a role in the indie flick, Radical Jack. In 2001, he took a small role in David Lynch’s film, Mulholland Drive, where he played a pool cleaner. In his 2011 GQ interview, he credits his and family’s subsequent success to David Lynch’s choice to cast him.

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Canada Goes Country

The acting exposure Billy Ray got from Mulholland Drive attracted the attention of other casting agents, landing him the leading role in Doc, which ran on PAX TV as it’s highest rated show between 2001 and 2004. So, Tish and Billy Ray packed up all 5 of their kids and moved up to Toronto, Canada while Billy Ray was filming the show. While in Toronto, he also introduced his daughter Miley to the world of musical theatre, inspiring dreams of her own entertainment career.

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Road To Los Angeles

Due to Billy Ray’s regular work on television, 9 year old Miley was able to pick up some guest spots on Doc. It’s a good thing Tish was so adamant about always keeping the family together. The couple allowed their eldest daughter to begin taking acting classes, and it wasn’t long before she picked up bit roles in other films and TV shows. It also gave Tish another job to add to her resume on top of “mom.”

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The Original “Momager”

As Miley’s acting career took off, eventually even surpassing that of her father’s, Tish took charge of her career. Though she was always the binding force keeping the family together, until that time, she wasn’t taking an active part in building anything. Her daughter’s career more than anything suddenly gave her life direction, as she began managing her acting, but it was also the biggest contributing factor that began to tear apart her marriage to Billy Ray.

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Hopped Off The Plane

The family decided to relocate to Los Angeles from Tennessee in order to better support Miley’s budding career. But fame came at a price. As the popularity of Hannah Montana grew, Billy Ray and Tish often found young fans of the show ringing their doorbell to say hi to their ‘tween daughter. Though the show proved to be Miley’s big break, it was also a vehicle for Billy Ray to stay relevant despite his waning music career.

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Times Get Tough

By 2007, Billy Ray needed a career overhaul. He continued producing music during his acting years, but his popularity was soon overshadowed by that of his daughter. Tish was busy trying to function as Miley’s manager and as a mom to 4 other children, and the demands took their toll on the marriage. Billy Ray told GQ that he’d only taken the role to support Miley, as it paid next to nothing, but now, as coworkers, it was tearing the entire family apart.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Billy Ray Cyrus poses with his family backstage at the hit musical "Chicago" on Broadway at The Ambassador Theater on November 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

A Parent Or A Friend

In his interview, he further clarifies that many of their struggles came from their inability to discipline their 5 children. He told the magazine, “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’?…other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent.”

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Mom The Disciplinarian

Billy Ray’s parenting method stood in stark opposition to Tish’s. She told People in 2007, “It is so scary as a mom to see all these kids who are so whacked now. I don’t want to be too much and have her rebel. Not that we think she’s going to do that, but Miley does have a very explosive personality, which scares me a little.” Tish was even on the record as advocating spanking her children with a wooden spoon. Things did not bode well.

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Standing On The Edge

As 2010 rolled in, Billy Ray and Tish were facing their fair share of troubles. While Billy Ray’s music career had been rebooted after his time as a fan favorite on Dancing With the Stars in 2007, Miley was spiraling out of control, the exact thing Tish had wanted to avoid. She also suddenly found herself managing not just Miley but all of her children’s careers. The pair found their marriage at a breaking point, and with extreme sadness, Billy Ray filed for divorce.

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In A Dark Place

Billy Ray began to sink into a depression. He was isolated from his family as he and Tish separated. It was the first time the couple had been apart for any extended period of time since their marriage in 1993. He moved out of their shared Los Angeles home and back to Tennessee. It seemed even his once close relationship with Miley was strained, as she found herself in the center of a number of public controversies in the tail end of her teenage years.

A Downward Spiral

In the midst of his separation with Tish, Miley’s bad press sharply increased as she was photographed participating in illegal activities on her 18th birthday. Billy Ray was visibly anguished, and told GQ he was so scared she was heading the way of stars like Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith, both of whom he had tried to reach out to in order to try to save them from the clutches of the vices that would be their downfalls.

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Steeped With Sadness

In a 2011 interview with GQ a downtrodden Billy Ray reflected on the forces of evil prevalent in Hollywood, blaming the secular nature of the industry for pulling them away from God. Hannah Montana in Billy Ray’s eyes was the doorway to the devil. He announced, “Oh, it’s [Hannah Montana] huge—it destroyed my family. I’ll tell you right now—the damn show destroyed my family.” He followed up by saying he would take it all back to put his family back together.

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A Sigh Of Relief

The 2010 separation lasted for 5 months, but Billy Ray was so miserable without his family, he decided to try in reconcile. A month after his GQ interview, he announced on The View that he and Tish had gotten back together. Billy Ray moved back in, and worked on mending his relationship with his kids, though it was still too late to be disciplinarian. As tabloids proclaimed him as an enabler, he distanced himself from Miley’s antics, trying to assume a more fatherly role.

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Upholding Billy

After their 2010 reconciliation, Tish resumed her role as Billy Ray’s cheerleader. While speaking to Barbara Walters on The View in 2011, he explained that he needed to heal his family. He told Walters, “Things are really the best they’ve ever been. A lot of people think that I am divorced — I’m not divorced. I dropped the divorce. I wanted to put my family back together.” He further clarified that he didn’t blame Disney for breaking up his family, but rather fame in general.

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Tish Speaks Out

After the couple publicly reconciled, Tish released her own statement regarding their reunion on her Facebook page, writing, “Big thanks to all of our family, friends, and fans who have kept us in their thoughts and prayers. Our family weathered a huge storm and I feel we are stronger than we have ever been.” Her thoughts and excitement were echoed by Billy Ray. It seems the stress of Hollywood had eaten away at him, and he just needed some time to rejuvenate in Tennessee.

Too Busy To Care

But the couple’s struggles weren’t over. One after another, the Cyrus children launched their own entertainment careers, even as Billy Ray’s career was winding down. The last album he released was in 2012, and he has also let his acting career take a back seat since Hannah Montana wrapped. Tish on the other hand established an interior design company, in addition to her production company. It seems the demands for her time once again pulled her away from her husband.

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Differing Pursuits

At the time of the 2013 divorce filing, both Tish and Billy Ray released separate statements that said, “This is a personal matter and we are working to find a resolution that is in the best interest of our family. We ask that you respect our privacy at this time.” Tish requested full custody of their youngest daughter Noah, who was 13 at the time, as well as alimony payments and payment of legal fees from Billy Ray. Tish blamed the split on their “differing pursuits.”

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What About The Children?

Billy Ray was not letting his marriage go down without a fight however, and the pair began attending couples therapy in their efforts to resolve the dissolution of their nearly 20 years of marriage. Close friend of the family, Kenny Baker shared with E! at the time, “They went into therapy with the goal of divorcing in a way that was healthy for the children.” But they couple also had another realization in the course of their treatment.

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The Blessing Of Therapy

It seemed therapy was Billy Ray’s saving grace. Several months after announcing their second split, the couple called off the divorce, sharing that going to therapy together helped them to learn how to communicate with one another more effectively. The couple also shared with friend, Kenny Baker, that they were aware of the ways Hollywood can pull relationships apart, and they desperately did not want to become yet another statistic. Their second separation lasted only about a month.

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Date Nights Galore

Billy Ray and Tish put their rekindled love on display as they were subsequently photographed together all over Los Angeles. Tish also posted a photo of the two of them captioned with “date night!”. Their friend Kenny Baker reported to E! that “Tish sounds happy and energized about having this fresh start.” The pair was so happy and giggly that you would have never known they were coming off the heels of a second divorce filing.

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Tish Takes The Stage

In 2016, Tish Cyrus finally bit the bullet and joined the ranks of the on-screen personalities in her family when she and eldest daughter Brandi agreed to star in a home renovation show called, Cyrus vs Cyrus: Design and Conquer. As with any familial pairing, tensions can run high, and the mother-daughter team shared in a joint interview that they once fought with each other so ferociously during a taping that they refused to let that segment air.

Sharing The Cyrus Secret

So what’s the secret to keeping their marriage together for nearly 25 years? Tish shared with Bravo that she thinks that, “any relationship — whether it’s marriage or family, it doesn’t matter — it’s you truly do have to take care of it and nurture and really work hard at relationships. And that’s not always easy, especially in the business that we’re in. So I think it’s a lot just dedication and communication.” With that in mind, here’s to 25 more years for Billy Ray and Tish!

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