Is she for real?


July 19, 2005


Unfailingly polite, Hilary Duff doesn't come right out and dis other pop princesses such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Lindsay Lohan. But the 17-year-old Houston native is clearly proud to give the bubblegum-pop crowd an alternative.

In concert at the Allstate Arena last year, Duff relied on the spirited playing of a gently pop-punk band, real singing with her glee-club enthusiastic voice, a self-assured message of respecting yourself as an independent young woman and a reluctance to play the tawdry coquette with a dozen sexy costume changes.

"I do sweat and I do sing during the show -- thanks for saying that -- and I don't change clothes," Duff says. "I don't feel comfortable being half naked in front of so many people. I don't have anything against people who are comfortable with that; that's their gig, and that's cool. It's just not me, so why do it?

"People talk about me and make snarky comments about me being 'a good girl' or 'the girl next door' or whatever," she adds. "But I'd rather be seen as that than be seen with coke in my nose."

This no doubt comes as welcome news to the parents of Duff's fans, as well as to her own mom and dad. Hilary is the second daughter of Bob and Susan Duff, who owned a chain of convenience stores in Texas. Their older daughter Haylie is also trying to launch music and acting careers, but unlike many teen stars, Hilary says her parents never pressured her to enter show business.


"My sister started taking acting classes because she was bored, and I followed her because I said, 'I wanna be like my sister.' My mom never pushed me. When I was in L.A. and would go on hundreds of auditions, if she saw one ounce of disappointment, she'd be like, 'We're going home; there's no sadness over not getting a callback.'

"My mom asks me all the time if I want it to be over and want a normal life. I'm sure she'd prefer that, but she also wants us to be happy. The thing I feel pressure about is that I'm responsible for 60 or 70 people's income [during a movie or tour]. If I feel like throwing in the towel, what are they going to do? But I don't feel locked down by that."

Like Spears and Aguilera, veterans of "The New Mickey Mouse Club," and Lohan, star of several Disney films including the recent "Herbie: Fully Loaded," Hilary was first introduced to her preteen audience by Disney, in her case, the Disney Channel TV series "Lizzie McGuire."

Since then she has starred in several successful movies, including "Agent Cody Banks" and "A Cinderella Story," and she just finished filming the sequel to 2003's "Cheaper by the Dozen."

Duff doesn't want to choose which career she prefers, acting or music. She brings the tour in support of her new album "Most Wanted" (due in stores Aug. 16) to the Allstate Arena tonight. "I don't know if I can separate them," she says. "I've been so busy that I don't even know where my head is at, but I know that I'm really focused on this tour right now. I really believe in it, and I hope people like it, because I want to keep doing music."

After making her musical debut with a Christmas album in 2002, Duff released her first pop disc in 2003 and the self-titled follow-up last year. "Metamorphosis" and "Hilary Duff" both became multiplatinum hits, despite the sometimes saccharin songwriting and glossy over-productions -- criticisms that Duff readily accepts.

"When you are under the control of a label, you don't always get to have the sound you like. If I could change it, I would, and it would sound [less pop]. My name is Hilary Duff, and I don't know why I don't get to make Hilary Duff music. I just have to get the freedom to do it, and during the show, I do get to do that: I get to throw away all of the CD stuff that has been mastered and sounds really pretty, and I get to sing live."

While it may seem ironic that an artist who has only recorded two original albums is already issuing a greatest hits disc, Duff notes that several of her earlier songs have been remixed for "Most Wanted."

"They've got sort of a Muse feel going on, and I'm into that right now," she says of the English rock trio -- and she also recorded three new tunes with the production team the Dead Executives.

"I love the three new songs because they're not very over-produced," Duff says, "and even though my voice is high and girly, it sounds kind of cool, with a rocked-out edge."

This is no surprise, since the Dead Executives are the Madden brothers from the pop-punk band Good Charlotte and John Feldmann from the respected ska-punk band Goldfinger. Hilary Duff Inc. is a lucrative and well-managed industry but Hilary Duff the young actress and singer seems to have the fortitude, vision and good taste to move from bubblegum celeb to bona fide young artist.

"I don't know what I'll be when I'm 27, but I want to be Blondie," Duff says, invoking the worthy role model of punk-rock godmother and risk-taking actress Debbie Harry. "I love my job, and as much as there is so much crap that comes along with it and so much superficiality, I love making movies and touring and making music.

"I'd love to have a small role in a movie with great actors and not be Hilary Duff, and I'd love to still have a music career and try all sorts of different things, whatever I want to do."