September 28, 1987 • Houston, Texas
Young teens everywhere first came to know Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire, the title character of the Disney Channel show that aired from 2001 until 2003. As Lizzie, Duff played an awkward, slightly clumsy junior high schooler—a bit of a stretch for the confident, multitalented actress. Since establishing a successful television career with Lizzie McGuire, Duff has branched out to conquer multiple fronts: she has acted in a number of feature films, including starring roles in The Lizzie McGuire Movie and A Cinderella Story; she has released her own album, Metamorphosis ; and she presides over a line of clothing, makeup, and accessories, called Stuff by Hilary Duff. Duff accomplished all of this before her seventeenth birthday, but in spite of her rapid ascent to fame, she works hard to remain grounded, helped along by close relationships with her family and friends.
Duff was born in Houston, Texas, far from the glitter and glamour of Los Angeles. She knew from a young age, however, that she enjoyed performing. She studied gymnastics and ballet, and when her older sister, Haylie, began taking acting lessons, Hilary joined her. At age six Duff joined a touring production of The Nutcracker ballet, and she also acted in local commercials as a youngster. She earned her first television role in 1996, in the miniseries True Women, which aired the following year.
"I get zits and bad hair just like everyone else. But I think you have to work through it. I'm very into embracing your flaws and knowing that you're beautiful for a lot of different reasons besides just what you look like on the outside."
Once Haylie and Hilary began getting acting jobs, they persuaded their parents that they had to live in Los Angeles if they were to have any chance at a career in the entertainment industry. During the late 1990s, despite her declaration in Newsweek that she "never wanted to be a stage mom," Susan Duff drove her daughters, their possessions, and their pets from Texas to Los Angeles. The girls' father, Bob, stayed in Texas—he is a partner in a convenience-store chain—but he flies to California every few weeks to spend time with his family. Soon after the move, Duff hit the audition circuit, trying out for every part she could find. She was cast as Wendy in the direct-to-video film Casper Meets Wendy in 1998. She earned a role in the television movie The Soul Collector and a guest appearance on Chicago Hope. Then, in 2000, Duff auditioned for the Disney Channel's upcoming new show, Lizzie McGuire. After appearing before the show's producers four times, Duff was hired. Rich Ross, president of the Disney channel's entertainment division, commented in Newsweek on the number of tryouts: "She wasn't doing anything wrong. She just wore such great outfits, and we wanted to see what she'd come in with next."
Amanda Bynes (1986–), a standout among the crop of young stars getting their start on television shows aimed at the tween audience, spent several years sharpening her comedic skills on the Nickelodeon network before successfully heading to the big screen. Born in 1986 and raised in the Los Angeles area, Bynes entered show business at a young age. She was discovered while participating in a children's comedy workshop at the age of seven, and by her tenth birthday she had been hired as part of the cast of Nickelodeon's All That. During her four years on that sketch comedy show, Bynes displayed her sharp comic timing and physical comedy chops. The network felt her potential was so great that she earned her own show in 1999, The Amanda Show. Both shows highlighted Bynes's facility for goofy humor; Time 's Richard Corliss wrote of comparisons made between Bynes and two highly respected queens of comedy: "She has been called the new Lucille Ball and the next Gilda Radner, thanks to her deft, daft turns on [Nickelodeon]." Bynes attracted a large following, particularly among preteen viewers. She was voted favorite television actress three years in a row on Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice awards.
While Bynes enjoyed the years of silly wigs and outrageous pratfalls, she longed for the opportunity to be viewed as a legitimate actress. Knowing she eventually wanted to make the transition to more challenging roles, preferably on the big screen, Bynes waited until she was well into her teen years before pursuing that goal. She appeared opposite Frankie Muniz in the 2002 film Big Fat Liar, and later that year she earned a starring role in a new sitcom on the WB, What I Like about You. Costarring Jennie Garth, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210, the series features Bynes as a suburban teen who moves in with her city-dwelling older sister. In 2003 she scored a headlining role in What a Girl Wants, a modern-day retelling of the 1958 hit The Reluctant Debutante. Bynes plays a free-spirited American girl who jets off to London to find her father, an aristocratic Englishman who does not even know she exists. While the film received mixed reviews, many critics were struck by Bynes's fresh-faced appeal and easy on-camera confidence. What a Girl Wants served as an effective launching pad for Bynes, who began entertaining numerous other film offers soon after its release.
Like her fellow teen queen Hilary Duff, Bynes has retained a down-to-earth outlook amidst her international stardom. She has expressed a desire to have a long-term acting career, but she has little interest in the glitzy entertainment-industry scene. Bynes told Corliss: "I pride myself on not being Hollywood. I could go to the parties and stuff, but for me it's so fake."
Lizzie McGuire began airing in 2001, when both Duff and the character she played were thirteen years old. On the show, Lizzie—sweet, smart, but not terribly smooth—encounters problems typical for a girl navigating the treacherous waters of adolescence: crushes on boys, arguments with friends, and difficulties with parents. While Lizzie sometimes fumbles her way through crisis situations, the cartoon version of Lizzie, who appears periodically to comment on the circumstances, always knows just what to say and do. The show quickly became a huge success, earning a massive following among tween girls—that is, girls between the ages of about eight and fourteen—and even among older teens and people in their twenties. Parents approved of the show for its positive outlook, and kids loved Lizzie because it portrayed the problems of a normal, average girl. The show's executive producer, Stan Rogow, told Entertainment Weekly 's Tim Carvell that Lizzie was characterized "by what she wasn't: She wasn't the cheerleader, she wasn't the diva, she wasn't the jock, she just was Lizzie."
Watching "just Lizzie" week after week was more than enough for viewers, who adored the character as well as the actress who played her. Duff became a celebrity almost overnight; she could hardly go anywhere without encountering young fans who wanted her autograph or a photo. Famous for playing a typical teen, Duff suddenly had a life that was far from typical. Rather than go to school, she worked with an on-set tutor several hours a day. In addition to filming episodes of Lizzie McGuire, Duff also branched out to film roles, playing young Lila Jute in Human Nature in 2001 and the title role in the 2002 television movie Cadet Kelly. At this time she also began expanding her career to include singing, recording "I Can't Wait," the opening track for the Lizzie McGuire show. She contributed a track to the CD Disneymania, and she (along with several featured guests) released a Christmas album in 2002, Santa Claus Lane.
Two thousand three was a banner year for Duff, when she made the transition from Disney-bred tween sensation to bona fide star of television, films, and pop music. Lizzie McGuire continued as the Disney Channel's number-one series, spawning the equally successful Lizzie McGuire Movie, which features Lizzie heading to Rome for a summertime class trip. While there, she meets a handsome Italian singer named Paolo and is persuaded to assume the identity of pop star Isabella, Paolo's partner, who happens to be a dead ringer for young Lizzie. In addition to starring in the film, Duff recorded several songs for the hit soundtrack. Also during 2003, Duff had a starring role opposite fellow television actor Frankie Muniz (1985–) in the movie Agent Cody Banks, in which she plays Natalie, Cody Banks's love interest. The year was capped off with a role as one of the twelve children in Cheaper by the Dozen, starring Steve Martin (1945–).
Duff's whirlwind success encountered an obstacle when she and Disney parted ways during the negotiations for a sequel to The Lizzie McGuire Movie. The television series was in its final season, with Disney limiting it to sixty-five episodes, and when the two parties were unable to reach a deal for a second movie, Duff faced a Lizzie-less future.
Although Lizzie fans were heartbroken, the effect on Duff's career proved minimal. She continued to score film roles, starring in both A Cinderella Story and Raise Your Voice in 2004. She also made a successful transition from actress to pop singer, releasing her first full-length solo album, Metamorphosis, in August of 2003. By October of that year, the album had gone platinum, meaning one million copies had sold. Three months later, that number had nearly tripled. The executives at her label, Buena Vista (which is owned by Disney), made it a priority to market Duff's music not just to her preteen Lizzie fans but also to an older audience. The songs were crafted by a team of veteran pop songwriters and producers; however, two tracks were written by a relative newcomer: Duff's big sister, Haylie.
Crucial to the acceptance of Duff as more than just a tween queen was her presence on MTV, as noted by Craig Rosen in Billboard : "The Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire may have launched Duff's career, but MTV has been influential in helping her make the transformation from TV personality to pop star." The video for the album's hit single "So Yesterday" reached number two on Total Request Live (TRL), MTV's must-see all-request show. The video of another single, "Why Not," also appeared regularly on TRL. Another important partner helping Duff find musical success was America Online, or AOL, which offered its Internet subscribers exclusive and abundant access to Duff videos, concerts, photos, and more. Metamorphosis found success in more conventional channels as well: "So Yesterday," for example, made a huge splash on Top 40 radio and reached number one on Billboard 's Hot 100 chart.
In November of 2003 Duff expanded her territory even farther, releasing a DVD called All Access Pass. Her first music DVD, All Access Pass includes videos for the singles "So Yesterday," "I Can't Wait," and "Why Not." It also features footage of live performances as well as behind-the-scenes glimpses of Duff and her creative team hard at work. The fall of 2003 also saw the release of three Hilary Duff fashion dolls, each of which represents a facet of Duff's career: rock star, movie star, and TV star. The following spring, Duff premiered her own line of clothing, shoes, cosmetics, and accessories; Stuff by Hilary Duff is sold at Target in the United States and by other retailers elsewhere, including Zellers in Canada and Kmart in Australia.
Going well beyond a simple acting and singing career, Duff presides over a multimedia empire. In spite of having grown up in front of a camera, Duff has managed, according to family and friends, to remain a sincere, down-to-earth person. In Entertainment Weekly, Lizzie McGuire executive producer Rogow gave much of the credit to Duff's parents, acknowledging the dangers of allowing a child into show business: "It takes an extraordinary effort, I think, to avoid [the pitfalls]. It's a full-time thing ... and somehow, the Duffs have been able to do it." In an attempt to use her fame to change the world, Duff is active in Kids with a Cause, a nonprofit organization that helps combat poverty, illness, and neglect among young people. An animal lover, she is also involved with a wild horse sanctuary called Return to Freedom. Duff has expressed a true appreciation for what she has achieved, showing no signs of taking her success for granted. In a 2004 interview with CosmoGirl! magazine, she looked back on her pre- Lizzie days and gave credit to the whole Duff clan: "I've worked really hard—and it hasn't been just me. It's been a team effort with my entire family, including my sister, Haylie. Over the last five years, I auditioned and auditioned and kept trying and trying, and now we're seeing the reward for all the work we did."
Berger, Lori. "Hilary Duff." CosmoGirl! (March 2004): p. 126.
Carvell, Tim. "The Girl in the Bubble." Entertainment Weekly (May 9, 2003): p. 34.
Corliss, Richard. "The Fresh-Face Factory." Time (April 14, 2003): p. 76.
Rosen, Craig. "Hilary Duff: A Performer's Metamorphosis." Billboard (January 31, 2004): p. 10.
Stroup, Kate. "Girl Power." Newsweek (March 17, 2003): p. 56.
Hilary Duff. http://www.hilaryduff.com/html_2003/main_site/frameset.htm (accessed on June 26, 2004).
Hilary Duff: Metamorphosis. http://buenavistarecords.go.com/hilaryduff/ (accessed on June 26, 2004).