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Cyrus's tenacity led her to 'Hannah Montana'

Miley Cyrus has just left the dentist's office. The verdict: The 13-year-old needs braces. A very Hollywood compromise is reached: attaching the buttresses to the inside of her teeth.

The thing is, Cyrus has a lot of face time as the title character in the Disney Channel's latest kid sensation, ``Hannah Montana." The March debut drew 5.4 million viewers, the most ever for an original series on the channel. It's now the third-highest-rated show on television among kids 2 to 11 and 6 to 11, trailing only the two showings of ``American Idol." On Monday , beginning at 4 p.m., the channel will air an eight - hour marathon of the series.

If anyone can handle the pressures that come with being a newly minted TV star it's Cyrus.

Some of her earliest baby pictures were taken by paparazzi with zoom lenses. She was born in Franklin, Tenn., the middle of five children, to country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and his wife, Tish, when the popularity of his smash hit ``Achy Breaky Heart" was at its peak. Y'all remember the line-dancing craze, don't you?

Her given name is Destiny Hope, a reflection of her parents' premonition that she would accomplish great things. But she has always been called Miley, a modification of ``Smiley," because she had such a happy disposition.

Miley's affinity for performing emerged early. ``I was singing on the stage with my dad when I was 2," she says.

She began to get serious about show business when she was 9 and her family moved for a time to Toronto, where her father was shooting his series, ``Doc."

She submitted her first audition tape to Disney at age 11, trying for the role of Hannah's sidekick Lilly.

Disney's talent spotters were impressed enough to ask Miley to audition for the lead, but she was rejected on physical grounds. ``Too small, too young," Miley says. And there it would have ended if not for the girl's tenacity. Twice she paid to travel for auditions .

The concept of ``Hannah Montana" works with young viewers: By day, Miley Stewart is an average eighth-grader, madly crushing on boys, being spurned by the cool kids in the lunchroom. By night, she has a secret life, known only to her family and close friends, as teen pop idol Hannah Montana.

When Miley puts on a wig and glams out to hit the concert stage as Hannah, she looks like a cross between Mary Kate Olsen and Brittany Murphy.

``The music style," she says, ``is very Kelly Clarkson."

The star-making assembly line at Disney starts with a teen sitcom and gradually adds on a pop-singing career. But the premise of ``Hannah Montana" has accelerated Miley's trajectory. The soundtrack for ``Hannah Montana" comes out this summer and Miley has signed a solo recording contract with Hollywood Records.

When Miley got the role, the entire Cyrus clan relocated to Los Angeles. Then producers cast Billy Ray as Miley's sitcom dad.

``Like any teenager, you don't necessarily want your dad around 24/7," Miley says. ``Sometimes we'll get in an argument [at home ] and I'll say, `I'm going to leave.' Then I realize, `Oh darn, you're coming with me.' "

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