Hilary Duff might be most famous as the teen star of Lizzie McGuire, or for the multiple albums she’s released, or for the novels she’s written, or for her six-year marriage to an NHL star, or for her activism against paparazzi taking pictures of celebrity kids, or her clothing & fragrance lines, or for singing the theme song to Laguna Beach, or any number of other things, but Hilary Duff has actually done all of these things, and what amazes me about her is that she seems to have reached adulthood without going completely nuts (as far as I can tell) or (as far as I can tell) having her reality distorted to the point where she can’t possibly function without a bubble of handlers spoon-feeding her every minute of the day. Which makes her stronger than me; if I was a child star who became suddenly famous at 13 for starring in my own sitcom, and immediately branched out into music, movies, books and who-knows-what-else, I’d have lost my damn mind.
But Hilary has stayed out of the gossip rags, for the most part, and seems to have something meaningful to say, even if it’s not in the standard Disney fluff that made her famous. We can’t all be Tolstoy, fergodsake.
Born to a convenience store magnate in Texas, Hilary (and her big sister Haylie, who you’ve possibly also heard of) got into showbiz very early, and the family moved to California when Hilary was six. From there, the usual grind of auditions and bit parts didn’t wear the kid down. It’s possible that she didn’t know any better, but still, I think of that kind of life, and of the friends I know who are in it & still trying to make it at twice her age, and I shudder. Good on her.
Lizzie McGuire came in 2001, when she was 14, and it was more or less an instant hit. The animation-to-live action sequences, the breaking of the fourth wall, the tackling of actual issues, all connected with preteens immediately, and Duff became famous nearly overnight. She started dating Aaron Carter, and then Joel Madden, because what else does a teen idol do, except date other teen idols? You can’t exactly meet someone during chemistry class or lunch period like everyone else does. Besides, she was busy. She sang a few songs as a goof, which turned into a Christmas album, Santa Claus Lane, in 2002, and then three more albums in the next five years, all while starring in Lizzie McGuire, the Cheaper By The Dozen film series, Agent Cody Banks, and a slew of other smaller films.
Eventually, she turned to writing, which makes sense — she’d succeeded at basically everything up to that point in her life, and she had the work ethic. Her first book, Elixir, a paranormal romantic piece, got decent reviews from YA people, and the sequels, Devoted and True, seem to be plenty popular enough as well.
I don’t want to go too much into her personal life — she had a six-year marriage to former Edmonton Oiler Mike Comrie, and in showbiz terms, six years is plenty — but it’s worth mentioning that the current crop of pop stars — Miley, Ariana, Selena — all shout her out as an example of how to get through teen stardom properly.
Is she going to win a Nobel Prize or complete the EGOT? Not a chance. But she does what she does, she has a charm, she’s nobody’s fool, she works hard for the money, and you know, her music was often pretty catchy.