December 10, 2007 12:00 PM

PLUS: Inside Miley’s birthday bash!

For Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus, it was bad enough waking up Sept. 24 knowing she had to get fitted for—ugh!—braces. Then her day got worse—much worse. A false rumor that the then 14-year-old star was pregnant hit the Internet. As Miley and her family did their best to laugh it off, paparazzi parked outside the front gate of their Toluca Lake, Calif., home. “I couldn’t ride my bike all day!” says Miley. “I ride every day with my brother [Braison, 13]. That’s our time. It was totally terrible. I literally started crying. I was like, ‘Am I not going to be normal?'” Luckily her father, country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, knew exactly how to comfort his little girl. Mixing her a cup of hot Ovaltine, Billy Ray told Miley, “You know what the funny thing is? In two hours, it’s forgotten—like that. Tomorrow there’s going to be something bigger and better than this stupid thing.”

Fast-forward two months and Dad is right: Miley’s first headlining concert tour, Best of Both Worlds, has blown up into a runaway success, filling stadiums across the country with squealing girls and parents paying a mint to snare sold-out seats. The high prices being charged by scalpers—up to thousands of dollars a ticket—have sparked controversy: “It’s going to be a good show, but I don’t think it’s worth what it’s going for,” an apologetic Miley told Ellen DeGeneres in October. The tour—which also features the Jonas Brothers—is estimated to rake in $29 million in ticket sales. Even celebrity moms such as Heather Locklear, Faith Hill and Reese Witherspoon have brought their kids to experience Miley-mania. “I’m excited about everything that’s happening,” says Miley, who celebrated her 15th birthday on Nov. 23 performing in front of 15,500 fans in Nashville. “It’s been a really fun time.”

Still, Miley says her soaring fame has been “bittersweet.” Like her character on the Disney Channel hit Hannah Montana, Miley is trying to balance the growing pressures of teen stardom with being a normal teen. “Being famous is like a dream come true,” she says. “But it’s really difficult because you lose your freedom. I don’t want to lose being a kid.”

Part of being a kid, of course, is that Mom makes the rules—and Tish Cyrus, 40, has plenty of them to keep her “hormonal 15-year-old” in check on the road. (Tish, Miley’s grandmother Loretta Finley and her sisters Brandi, 20, and Noah, 7, are also traveling with her; Billy Ray, 46, is on his own concert tour.) Tish enforces Miley’s bedtime at midnight on concert days and makes sure she’s up in the morning to study for three hours with a tutor. When Miley lost her credit card, Tish put her $300 monthly allowance on hiatus “until she proves a little more responsibility.” And when Miley refused to change out of a shirt that showed part of her stomach, Tish took away her cell phone. “I wasn’t very popular for about a week,” says Tish. Luckily, “she gets over it really quick. Most everybody in her life is ‘yes, yes, yes. You’re great.’ I’m the one to say, ‘You can’t do this.’ I do it because I love her.”

For fun, Miley hangs with tourmates and family friends the Jonas Brothers: Kevin, 20, Joe, 18, and Nick, 15. (Nick and Miley have kept fans guessing about a romance—see box below.) They battle on the video game Guitar Hero and try to outblast each other on their dressing rooms’ stereo systems. “It’s your best friends all hanging out together,” says Kevin. “It’s awesome.” Going out is harder: While last year Miley could hit the movies or the mall without causing pandemonium, now she needs an escort—a position usually filled by Billy Ray’s brother Mick, her tour manager. “That’s hard at 15, knowing your uncle will be by your side at all times,” Tish says.

It helps that Mom put together a rockin’ ’80s-themed surprise birthday party on Nov. 21, two days before Miley’s actual birthday. When Miley pulled up to The Factory in her hometown of Franklin, Tenn., she thought she was going to see one of her favorite bands, Paramore, perform. “I go in and every one of my friends from like second grade was there!” Miley says.

But the guest of honor was most excited to see her dad—even if he was wearing a blond mullet. When Miley spotted Billy Ray, she raced over to give him a bear hug. “I look forward to when I go back to [taping] Hannah Montana because what I really miss is being with him 24/7,” says Miley, who taught her dad how to use iChat and iVideo so they could keep in touch while they’re apart. “My dad sings to me over video chat, which is so cute.”

Even better was when Billy Ray surprised Miley by telling her before her birthday concert that he wanted to join her onstage to sing their duet “Ready, Set, Don’t Go” for the encore. The Jonas Brothers also presented her with 15 roses at the end of the performance. The night “was just amazing,” she says.

But don’t think Miley is taking her good fortune for granted. “It’s a long ride to the top, but it’s only a short ride down, so it makes me really nervous,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, am I doing enough? Are people still into my music?’ I get stressed out.”

Once again, Miley, just listen to your old man. “To this day, Billy Ray always tells her, ‘You need to soak it all in and enjoy every moment,'” Tish says. “She’s like, ‘Oh, Dad!'”

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