In an October 2020 chat for Interview magazine, designer Rick Owens and pop superstar Miley Cyrus are shooting the breeze about their celebrity lives. Then the songstress drops a revelation that sends the internet wild: she saw a UFO! But what’s the truth about the former Disney star turned wild child’s alleged alien close encounter?
Owens and Cyrus might seem to have little in common: he’s a 57-year-old émigré living in Paris, she’s the down-home country girl turned raunchy queen of rock. But the two are friends who share an understanding of a life that includes a lot of travel. In Owens’ case, he’d recently come back to his homeland to do some work for Moncler, the Italian fashion label.
In the chat, the two talked some about their favorites in the rock world, agreeing on a joint love of Iggy Pop. Then they moved on to talk about how to find space on tour. Cyrus revealed that she doesn’t use the hotel rooms that are booked for her. She said, “I always stay on my bus. I make it my zone and do a lot of drawing and painting.”
Cyrus explained that she was in the midst of a long spell away from touring. She told Owens, “This is the longest I’ve ever gone without being on the road. I’ve been touring for the last ten years, and this is the first year that I haven’t done it.” On that note, the rock star name-checked her legendary godmother, Dolly Parton, famed for her endless touring.
In turn, Owens then shared some details of his recent trip to Los Angeles, which had taken him through Nevada. There he had planned to visit an art installation, using a tour bus that itself was a haven of art. Curiously, he had paid a visit to Area 51, a spot famously linked to UFOs.
A massive base in the middle of the desert, Area 51 is shrouded in secrecy. And perhaps it’s being somewhere that can’t easily be accessed that has lent the base its hallowed status among conspiracy theorists. “Ufologists” – those who immerse themselves in the search for aliens – believe that Area 51 houses a lab where the government experiments on UFOs – and perhaps even their occupants.
No one can say for sure, because the government won’t let just anyone go and take a look. A Nellis Air Force Base spokesman told website Vox in 2019, “Any attempt to access a federal installation illegally is highly discouraged.” And they outlined some pretty harsh consequences for those who did try it.
Area 51 actually has a legitimate purpose involving “flying objects.” And they’re even things that the government wants to stay “unidentified.” Yes, it’s a center for work on spy planes. So during the Cold War, a vast array of hangars and other aeronautics infrastructure spread across the area, all highly secret.
Employees and contractors on the site were typically flown in, so that no one could see who was working there. And the spy planes were brought in broken into parts and then rebuilt at Area 51. So far, so sneaky. And when word started to spread about aliens, the CIA was only too delighted and fanned the flames of rumor. Its idea was that the myth would provide a useful cover story to explain the weird aircraft very much in the skies above the area.
Area 51 is not the only place that ufologists haunt in the hopes of spying an alien spacecraft. The Joshua Tree National Park in California is another hotspot. And it was there that singer Demi Lovato, herself a good buddy of Cyrus, claimed she had an encounter with UFOs in October 2020.
On site with Dr. Steven Greer, a self-proclaimed expert in aliens, Lovato experienced some interesting happenings. She shared news of the encounters on her Instagram page, writing, “I… have witnessed the most incredibly profound sightings both in the sky as well as feet away from me.” Sharing pictures, she urged her followers to meditate and aim to contact the aliens.
And indeed, Cyrus may well have been meditating, because she too allegedly had an alien encounter. It happened in San Bernardino, CA, not a million miles from the Joshua Tree park. Mention of Area 51 led her to share her story with Owens. Her reaction to the incident was in keeping with her larger-than-life character too.
It’s been an exciting ride for the superstar, who – although she grew up on a farm – didn’t have entirely humble beginnings. No, her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, is something of a name in showbiz too. His baby Destiny – she became known as “Miley” as a family nickname – seemed fated for success, beginning her acting career in dad’s TV show Doc.
The Tennessean scored her big break in Disney’s Hannah Montana when only 11. A couple of hit albums and a sold-out tour soon followed, and the Hannah phenomenon peaked with a successful movie in 2009. Cyrus left the Disney world in 2011 when the show ended, but by then she’d already built a solo career.
The starlet’s second album, Breakout, had been true to its name, topping the charts. Single “Party in the USA” shifted more than 5 million units, ranking among the all-time highest-sellers. And as Cyrus approached adulthood, she went from strength to strength, with Can’t Be Tamed also proving to be a massive hit album in 2010.
But the singer didn’t want to be weighed down by the clean-cut image that had gone along with being a Disney star. Cyrus snipped her hair and started to wear risqué outfits. Those who didn’t follow her public image too closely doubtless had a big shock when she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2013 and set new highs – or lows – for raciness and innuendo with her performance.
The wild child would quickly shatter those records! Not satisfied with appearing in costumes that left little to the imagination, now Cyrus went a step further, parading her birthday suit in the video for “Wrecking Ball.” It certainly got people talking ahead of her October 2013 album Bangerz, and the furor didn’t hurt the sales of the single either.
Around that time, Cyrus explained to music magazine Rolling Stone what she was aiming for with her change in image. She said, “I want to be the cool chick that everyone wants to be friends with. I want the people who watch my shows or watch my videos to be like, ‘She looks like the most fun person to hang out with ever.’”
The star’s revamped image has been bolstered by an amazing array of tattoos. These have included such iconography as a peace sign, an eye, a piece of watermelon and an alien – although whether this last illustration resembled the alien she allegedly encountered remains a mystery. Altogether the singer sported 74 examples of body ink in 2020.
On top of the ink, the star’s boy-style haircut helped set her apart as an icon. But Cyrus described to German website Promiflash in July 2013 how having such a distinctive look had made her, perversely, less than unique. She explained, “Everyone else has cut their hair to look just like me, so now I[‘ve] got to do something different. I don’t like [it] when you walk in and you see a bunch of other ‘you’s.”
Even so, many have appreciated the Cyrus look, not least on-off boyfriend, later husband Liam Hemsworth. Mind you, perhaps she was not after all the marrying kind, given that the liaison ended in 2019, seven months after she’d tied the knot. Another relationship, with Aussie songster Cody Simpson, ran for ten months until it too foundered in October 2020.
Still, even if you could claim Cyrus is unlucky in love, she’s been fortunate in her career. At the time of writing, her most recent appearance was in TV smash-hit Black Mirror, where she played – what else – a superstar singer. It was a hard-hitting slice of sci-fi, but no aliens were spotted.
And that brings us back to ufology. We mentioned Demi Lovato, and one of her friends, Kesha, also apparently had a wild experience in the Joshua Tree park in 2017. Insisting that she was completely sober at the time, she told Zach Sang, “I look up in the sky, and there’s a bunch of spaceships.”
Another buddy of Lovato’s and alumnus of Disney, Nick Jonas, told Seth Meyers of his belief in the existence of UFOs when appearing on his late-night show in 2015. He said, “When I was 14 maybe, I was in my backyard playing basketball with some friends, and I looked up in the sky and there [were] three flying saucers.”
And it’s not just Californians, as New Yorker Post Malone attested on Joe Rogan’s podcast in August 2020. He described stargazing with a cousin as a teen when he saw something strange. He described, “It’s just a light that stays there and then just… goes off. Just ‘whoosh,’ you can’t explain it.”
UFOs have also visited Bora Bora, if Machine Gun Kelly is to be believed. He told James Corden in January 2021 that he’d spied a flying “orb” in the skies there. MGK is something of a UFO nut, having made a video with Travis Barker called Concert for Aliens, which included hi jinks in a flying saucer.
Another celeb to swear by a belief in aliens is Alicia Keys. The star told entertainment website Buzzfeed in October 2013 that she believed they were “here now.” And she asked, “Haven’t all of us seen something flying in the sky, and it’s at some random time of night that doesn’t make sense, and it’s not the shape of a plane?”
So let’s turn to Cyrus’ interview with Rick Owens. First of all, we’ll have a quick look at Owens. He’s been a designer since 1994, cutting his own route through the jungle of fashion. Owens cuts a striking figure: he’s a devotee of black leather. But by all accounts he’s a genial and kindly man.
As we mentioned, Owens had returned to California from his home in Paris because he was doing some work with Moncler. That had involved a bus trip to Nevada – but this was no ordinary coach. It had been customized with padding and duvets from the Italian label. The whole thing was like an art show in motion.
Owens explained in Interview, “I told Moncler, ‘The tour bus will be a piece of art, and I’m going to make these clothes that match the tour bus. Then we’re going to turn the tour bus around and get back on the airplane and leave. Moncler is going to understand that, because that’s the kind of company you are.’”
When Cyrus asked Owens where he’d stopped off on his voyage, he described a trip to Las Vegas and a Nevada ranch. Then he casually mentioned Area 51. This made the pop superstar prick up her ears, and she asked Owens, “Speaking of Area 51, do you believe in extraterrestrial beings?”
Owens showed some uncertainty, but he seemed open to the idea. He said, “I don’t really, but it seems a little arrogant to assume there’s nobody else but us.” Cyrus strongly agreed with that sentiment, and it seemed that there was a bit more to her point of view on the subject of aliens.
That became obvious when Owens asked her if she’d ever investigated the idea. It was then that Cyrus dropped her bombshell. The singer claimed that she had seen extraterrestrials for herself. She said, “I had an experience, actually. I was driving through San Bernardino with my friend, and I got chased down by some sort of UFO.”
But it hadn’t been your regular flying saucer. In fact, it wasn’t saucer-shaped at all. The object had resembled something that you mightn’t have expected. Cyrus explained, “The best way to describe it is a flying snowplow. It had this big plow in the front of it and was glowing yellow.”
Well, that’s not something you see every day, and Cyrus was quite aware that it sounded unbelievable. But, she continued, “I did see it flying, and my friend saw it, too. There were a couple of other cars on the road, and they also stopped to look, so I think what I saw was real.”
Owens was left close to speechless by this story. He told Cyrus, “Well, I don’t know what to say to that. I haven’t seen [anything].” And the incident seemed to have affected the rock star quite deeply. She explained to the designer, “I was shaken for, like, five days. It [messed] me up.”
After hearing this intriguing detail, the fashion guru asked Cyrus to expand, saying, “It disturbed you?” The singer confirmed how the experience had affected her, responding, “I couldn’t really look at the sky the same.” And there was a particular reason for her feeling: she explained, “I thought they might come back.”
Mind you, the superstar said that she hadn’t felt any threat from the object, but she did have more to say. She reckoned she had caught sight of an alien! Cyrus said, “It looked at me and we made eye contact, and I think that’s what really shook me, looking into the eyes of something that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.”
After telling the story of her apparent encounter with an extraterrestrial, you won’t be surprised to learn that Cyrus has been left feeling philosophical. She explained her state of mind to Owens. She said, “But you’re so right to say that it’s a form of narcissism to think that we’re the only things that could be in this vast universe.”
So did Cyrus really see an alien out on the road near San Bernardino? Who knows? Maybe she did. After all, plenty of other famous names think they’ve seen UFOs. One thing’s for sure: the story quickly set the internet alight, appearing in many newspapers and websites. So even if the truth wasn’t out there, the singer’s name certainly was!