“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.” (RCA Records), 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.”
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?
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.
Considering you’re not feeling well, you probably won’t be celebrating just yet.
Actually, I do have a party happening at my house tonight for my assistant / best friend. We just worked through her birthday during album release week, and I feel so bad, so we’re finally celebrating at my house tonight. But we’ll be celebrating (marriage equality) as well, I’m sure. It definitely deserves a big toast. Do you have a partner?
I don’t have a partner, no. Is being on Tinder key to finding “the one”? Perhaps you can give me some dating advice. What are Hilary Duff’s tips for finding a husband?
(Laughs) Obviously, I haven’t been so lucky. No – I don’t know. I would not, uh – I would not go with me on Tinder. I don’t know! God. Geez. Maybe the right thing will be in the air tonight.
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.
And what are those stories?
(Laughs) I mean, I don’t wanna put him on blast. You know what’s crazy is, I feel like you guys hook up a lot more freely. I don’t know if that’s just me because I’m a little more cautious, I guess. I don’t know what it’s like to be a totally normal girl who doesn’t give a fuck about anything.
Because of your celebrity status?
I think so, yeah. And also, I’m a mom and I’ve always been a relationship girl. I’m always surprised when he’s like, “Yeah, I was just in France and I met a dude on Grindr and went over to his house,” and like, they got it done. I’m so fascinated by it.
Are you still on Tinder?
I’m not still using it. It was really fun for me for a minute; I wanted to experience something totally normal and also shock people. No one thought I was really on it – and I was really on it! So I integrated that into my video (for “Sparks”) and showed a side of me that’s really real, really normal. I strive for normalcy in my life every day.
Do your gay friends ever set you up?
Not so much. We go out a lot together, but honestly, when I go out I’m not on the prowl. I just wanna go out and have a good time, and a lot of times I feel like having someone I don’t know around would interfere with that. I only have a certain amount of time to enjoy myself.
What’s a good night for you?
Being with four or five really good friends that all know each other, so we all have a lot in common. Laughing a lot, having a few drinks and maybe dancing a little bit. Having a good meal. A lot of times we go to the Hollywood Bowl – that’s always a good time for me. There’s something about that place that’s magic.
Speaking of venues, 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.
A world tour?
I think it’ll be a world tour. I don’t know if I can set it up like how I used to for five months at a time. Obviously my child is my number one priority, but I think I can do a month at a time and then come back and then go back out for a month. And it’ll have to be a world tour because some of my biggest markets are in South America and Australia and Asia, so we’ll see. No promises, but that’s what I want to happen.
Your 3-year-old son, Luca, is so cute, by the way.
He’s naked right now and covered in tattoos.
If he were to come out to you one day, what would you tell him?
Oh my gosh. I would be so accepting. I just had a long conversation with one of my adult friends who has grown children who are about to go off to college, and he’s like, “I haven’t really had this conversation yet,” and I’m like, “You better do it now because if a kid doesn’t feel accepted by his family, and they’re getting ready to move into a new town, it will just create a divide. He’ll go find his life and you won’t be a part of that. He’ll go find where he is accepted.”
Ah, it could almost make me cry. I feel like… that must be such a lonely place if you don’t feel accepted by your family. I can’t imagine. So, 100 percent, I feel like I would notice all the signs and be the first one to bring it up if I had to, and I would want him to wholeheartedly be himself and know that that was accepted by me.
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.
By just being herself, she’s become an idol for the queer community. She loves who she loves unapologetically, and that’s a huge statement, don’t you think?
Yeah, I do. And she’s wickedly talented, so there’s that. As much as people wanna hate on her for wearing this or doing that or whatever it is people hate on her for, I think she gets the last laugh. At the end of the day, her talent backs it all up. I don’t always relate to everything that she’s doing, but I love that she’s unapologetically herself.
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.
In what regard was being Lizzie McGuire “torturous”?
I don’t think during the filming it was torturous. I loved it during the filming. I just didn’t know what a success the show was gonna be, and after that – four years, five years after that – and I was still Lizzie McGuire to people and that was super annoying. Now it’s not. I don’t care now. I’m grateful for it.
What would Lizzie be like now as an adult?
She’d be pretty rad. She would have stayed in school a little bit longer, and I feel like she’d be a sous chef or working at an architectural firm trying to make her way up but still fucking up at all times. (Laughs) I feel like she’d be cool – she wasn’t always a nerd! She was just, like, a nice girl. I feel like she’d still be that same way, but I think she would be getting drunk and doing normal things that everybody does.
Is getting drunk a normal thing you do?
Yeah, on occasion, of course. You gotta let your hair down every once in a while.
After “Lizzie McGuire,” was it hard to make the next move? Is it still hard to make the next move?
It is hard. Instead of me trying to calculate how to do it and how to be successful at it – a lot of people chose different ways than I did, like Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins and even Miley Cyrus – I just chose to bow out for a minute.
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.
Desperation is a dangerous road, isn’t it?
Yeah. And having a child, too, puts a lot into perspective. I’m definitely grateful to still have a spot, and I wanna be an actress too and do a show. I can’t be where I used to be. I just have to be who I am now and be grateful for that. It’s good. I’m happy.