“I’m like the dorky kid on the bus who’s like, ‘Hiiii.’”
Wait a minute. Is that you, Lizzie McGuire? Maybe? No.
It’s Hilary Duff, razzing on her cold-ridden, congested-sounding self as she does a nasally nerd impression. And though Duff is known to millennials (and their moms) for originating the dorky Disney icon in 2001 – which, she admits during our interview, has been “torturous” – the 27-year-old is ready to move on. Actually, she’s been ready. It’s the rest of the world that just can’t seem to let Lizzie go.
During an insightful and surprisingly candid conversation, Duff spoke about her career as a whole just hours following June 26’s landmark Supreme Court ruling, which granted full marriage rights to LGBT Americans. The child star-turned-music maker also talked about her latest album, Breathe In. Breathe Out, eight years in the making; the long break she took to find her true self; and not knowing how to be a “totally normal girl who doesn’t give a fuck.”
Watermark: You’re a longtime ally of the LGBT community, and you also have many gay friends, so you must have been thrilled about the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. What does that momentous moment mean to you?
Hillary Duff: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. What a big day. It’s a huge step toward equality. Everyone should be able to be who they are, love who they want and marry who they want. It’s 2015; for us to still have judgment about people being gay is ridiculous, so I can’t believe it’s taken this long. It’s definitely a big day in history, and I’m just so excited.
Lately you’ve been a Tinder enthusiast; have you experienced Grindr?
Well, I haven’t physically actually experienced it, like I don’t have it on my phone or anything, but it’s basically the same thing as Tinder, right? I know because my makeup artist, who’s one of my best friends, has used Grindr a lot and he’s told me all about it. I get to hear all the stories.
Will you be touring for this record? It’s been too long.
Yes, I will tour. It took me so long to make my record because it wasn’t where it needed to be. When I started making the record, I wasn’t like, “I have to get it out at this time”; I was like, “It’s gotta be right – after seven years, why be in a rush now?”
Halfway through the process of making my record I signed onto the show Younger (on TV Land) and that was really good for me because I think it helped get me out of – you know when you just need to shake it up? I was terrified. My son had just started school and obviously I was going through a separation and I was like, “I can’t just up and continue work,” and then I was like, “Actually, I can and I’m going to.” This is a great project, and I love New York and it was really good for me. I put a pause on the record and then came back to it after Christmas; it was a great thing for me. It helped turn the record into a proper direction, so now ‘Younger’ got picked up for a second season. I’ll shoot from September until December and then I’ll tour after Christmas.
What advice do you have for youth who want to pursue showbiz?
Honestly, I don’t know. It’s a really hard road, to be honest. To make a transition from that is… I feel like even more so now than it was, your youth is totally taken away. You see these girls dressing like they’re 20 when they’re 14. With Instagram and all this – it’s a youth-sucker. Being 14 in 2015 is intense. I don’t know what I would’ve been like if I had all those outlets to pay attention to and all that babble shit. It’s kind of scary. It scares me raising my kid.
The industry is very fickle, and you just do what you can and know that all this stuff doesn’t mean anything. I mean, obviously, appreciate the opportunities and work hard, but there’s so much more to life. This industry is a tough one to crack, but then I look at someone like Miley, and as crazy as people might think the whole thing is, I commend her. She’s so wholeheartedly being herself and is unapologetic about that and she’s doing a great job.
Your show, Younger, revolves around a single mom who realizes the effect age has on starting a new career. But how about maintaining a career, because you started young. You’ve been in this business for more than half your life. From your own experience, what is it like to maintain relevancy in an ever-changing business like show business?
Yeah, gosh. There is no secret code that works, as lovely as that would be. I think I have a few things working in my favor. As torturous as it has been at some points in my life to be Lizzie McGuire, I think that when that show came out, it was such a part of who I was, I didn’t feel like I was playing a part. The writers all knew me so well and were writing things that were happening in my life and things that I would say, and I was dressing exactly like I wanted. It was so me.
For whatever reason, that show grabbed people at a time in their life when they really needed her or related to her, so obviously I think I got a lot of fans from that who followed me into my music career. I’ve always been a very open and reachable person for them to relate to, but that’s one thing that has really tied us together and why I’ve kept fans for such a long time who have really followed my career and stuck by me and grown up with me.
Why bow out?
I really needed it personally. I grew up in the spotlight and on tour and with everyone just knowing me and knowing me a certain way. At some point I was like, “I don’t even know if I’m that person anymore, and I don’t even have the time to figure that out.” I was just making records and touring and making movies, and then doing it all over again. I basically did a cycle of that four times, and by the end of it, I was like, “I’m done. I don’t enjoy this anymore. I’m not who I wanna be.”
So, I just took a break. Everyone thought I was just absolutely nuts because I was really successful and making a lot of money. And it was scary, because there was no guarantee that my career was still gonna be there. I think, personally, it was very healthy, and I’m proud of where I am now. My new record being top 5 on Billboard after working on it for eight years – I’m proud of that. I don’t need to be No. 1. I need to just do things that fulfill me and make me happy and hopefully connect with people at a certain level.