Anyone that watched the Disney Channel in the early ‘00s will remember Hilary Duff. The former teen star played the lead in the sitcom “Lizzie McGuire.” The show helped Duff become a household name, leading to her branch out into music, clothing and other creative ventures. There was a time when the actress could do no wrong, but several missteps badly impacted her standing as the nation’s sweetheart. Determined not to lose her fame, Duff did whatever she could to remain relevant, and it changed her completely.
Building a career
It’s been a long time since “Lizzie McGuire” was on our screens. The sitcom brought Hilary Duff to our attention and helped the budding actress build a career. For a while, her popularity was on the up, leading to lucrative record deals and a flurry of film roles.
However, what goes up must come down. After things turned south, Duff found herself scrabbling to turn things around. She ended up shedding her former image in the hope of reviving her career, and it left the actress a changed woman forever.
Hilary’s dreams of stardom started off early. Both she and her sister yearned to be performers, and their mother was incredibly supportive of their ambitions. She enrolled them in classes for acting, dancing, and singing, and they soon left their mark on the people around them.
Hilary, in particular, showed that she was meant for great things, and it prompted her family to relocate to California. There, the sisters had a better chance of making money from their talents by auditioning for whatever roles became available.
Foot in the door
It wasn’t long before they started experiencing some success, albeit minor. Appearances in TV commercials got their foot in the door, helping the sisters to kickstart their careers.
Eventually, people started looking to them for modeling work, something that both girls snapped up without a second thought. Although their interests were in performing, the opportunity to model wasn’t something they were about to turn their nose up at. However, that wasn’t going to interfere with Hilary’s desire to make it big, especially when she started getting cast in acting roles.
Waiting for the big one
Although Duff’s most prominent role was waiting just around the corner, it was still several years before she’d land it. In the meantime, the actress was left playing small roles that gradually became more significant by the end of the ‘90s.
She first wowed audiences as Wendy in the family fantasy film “Casper Meets Wendy,” a part that preceded her credit in fantasy-drama “The Soul Collector.” Although neither of these films were immense successes, the latter did help Hilary pick up a Young Artist Award. The best was yet to come, though.
Landing the iconic role
At the turn of the century, Duff received news that would transform her life forever. After being dropped from a show she’d filmed a pilot for, the actress was given the thumbs up to play the lead in a new Disney Channel sitcom.
Focused around the life of a 13-year-old and her friends, it was a little-known show called “Lizzie McGuire.” Duff had no idea what to expect when she was cast on the program, but she soon got an idea when the series launched to several million viewers.
Rags to riches
For several years, Hilary charmed the world with her portrayal of Lizzie. Her popularity prompted Disney to cash in on her success, resulting in a diverse range of merchandise that earned the company around $100 million.
She was so beloved that people wanted to see her playing other roles, which is how she landed appearances in films like the dramedy “Human Nature.” Aware that Duff was worth a lot to them, Disney also made her the lead in one of their original films, “Cadet Kelly.” It debuted to 7.8 million viewers.
A double threat
Most Disney stars these days have to be able to sing if they want to appear on the channel. If they can act and sing, they’re a double threat that will bring in a lot of money for Disney.
Duff was one person who showed she was more than just a one trick pony when it came to performing. However, it took time for her to get her music career off the ground. Her debut album, the Christmas release “Santa Claus Lane,” only reached 154 on the Billboard 200.
Hitting the big screen
With “Lizzie McGuire” remaining popular after several years on TV, Disney figured the show deserved its own movie. With Duff’s contract coming to an end, the show was on its way out, so the company wanted to end things in spectacular fashion.
The movie saw Lizzie and her classmates travel to Rome where she discovered she looked identical to an Italian singer. The film received mixed reviews upon release, with some feeling it was nothing more than an opportunity to exploit the young star’s success.
Focusing on her music
“Lizzie McGuire” coming to an end might have given Duff a reason to be worried, but there was no need to be concerned. She still had her music career to fall back on, especially after the release of her sophomore effort, “Metamorphosis.”
Unlike its predecessor, it was a bona fide hit, peaking at number one on the Billboard 200. The release sold more than five million copies around the world, with around four million of these being in the US. She was well on the way to becoming a superstar.
Shifting her teen image
The success of “Metamorphosis” prompted Duff to think more about the kind of music she wanted to create. Although it was a commercial hit, critics weren’t so positive about the release.
For the follow-up, the actress decided to become more involved with the production side of things. She looked to make something that was more rock-oriented to show she wasn’t Lizzie McGuire anymore. However, it didn’t have the desired effect. The album might have sold several million copies, but it was criticized for not standing out from the crowd.
The reviews are in
Unfortunately, that’s not where the negativity ended. Starting in 2005, Duff began to get heavily criticized for her acting appearances, landing Golden Raspberry Award nominations for three consecutive years.
Reviews weren’t favorable for her features in movies like the rom-com “A Cinderella Story,” family comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” and teen comedy “Material Girls,” although some of the films were at least commercially successful. While Hilary was successful distancing herself musically from her former teen role, she’d yet to do so in all her acting endeavors.
Spiraling out of control
On top of her acting career starting to spiral downwards, Duff also had several difficulties in her personal life to contend with. In 2006, she became the target of a stalker after 19-year-old Maksim Myaskovskiy took a shine to her.
The Russian’s interest in Hilary grew so intense that he made threats to end his life if she didn’t pay attention to him. He also insinuated that he’d take out anyone who stood in his way, leaving Duff fearful for those closest to her. The experience left her traumatized.
Letting it all out
That wasn’t the only turmoil that affected Hilary. A year later, she discovered her parents were separating because her father had been unfaithful. The split left her heartbroken, but it inspired her to give it her all for her fourth album, “Dignity.”
The release ended up being Duff’s most personal to date, with the actress having a writing credit on nearly every track. Although there were suggestions her vocals weren’t up to the task, critics were highly complimentary of Hilary’s involvement with the album. They praised her lyrics and musical direction.
Down and dirty
“Dignity” showed a more mature side to Duff, but it wasn’t just in the music that she appeared more grown up. The music videos for the album showed the actress taking a riskier approach to her outfits.
It prompted quite a few people to start focusing on Hilary for her body as well as her talents, especially after she starred in the satirical film, “War, Inc.” It was clear that Duff was no longer the girl who brought Lizzie McGuire to life, though she’d yet to go off the rails.
On the straight and narrow
Many people in Hilary’s position would struggle to hold themselves together. Achieving fame at such a young age often leads child and teen stars to develop problems in adulthood.
However, Duff has largely managed to refrain from falling down a dark hole. She hasn’t developed substance abuse problems, nor has she gotten in trouble with the law. While the actress was definitely pushing away her clean-cut image, she was careful not to replace it with something that would destroy her career.
Still in demand
Duff’s rollercoaster ride with film roles continued well into the late ‘00s and early ‘10s. While some people praised the actress’ portrayals in movies like drama “According to Greta” and dramedy “What Goes Up,” others felt they were confused or not mature enough.
However, no matter what critics thought, that didn’t affect Hilary’s ability to land roles. After standing out on the third season of drama “Gossip Girl,” she was cast on comedies like “Community” and “Younger.” Duff continues to be a leading cast member on the latter.
Telling her story
One reason why Hilary has remained relevant despite moving away from her teen idol status is that she’s multi-talented. She proved that early on when she showed that she could sing as well as act.
In 2010, she demonstrated an ability for storytelling when she signed a deal with Simon & Schuster for a young adult series. Written in collaboration with author Elise Allen, the first book was a huge success. It received good reviews and became a New York Times Best Seller. Two sequels were released in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Growing the family
Although Hilary has been busy with her career over the last few years, she’s also had other duties taking up her time. Back in 2012, the actress gave birth to her first child with then-husband Mike Comrie.
After the couple split up in 2015, Duff filed for primary physical custody of her son as she juggled her professional and personal life. Hilary wasn’t sure if she’d have any more children until she met her new partner, Matthew Koma, and fell pregnant with his daughter. She gave birth in October 2018.
Bringing the music back
Despite releasing new albums on an almost yearly basis in the early ‘00s, Duff put her music career on hold after 2007.
She’d said everything she needed to on “Dignity” and didn’t want to rush into a new album before she was ready, especially as her contract with Hollywood had ended. However, in 2015, she was prepared to return to the spotlight with her music. Her future boyfriend helped write and produce some of the album, which hit number five on the Billboard 200 and was well-received by critics.
Woman of many talents
On top of everything else, Hilary has shown that she knows a thing or two about fashion. She’d worked with various brands in the past, including DKNY, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she ventured into producing eyewear.
The actress collaborated with GlassesUSA.com for a collection that proved to be insanely popular. Her fans loved it so much that Duff released a limited edition version of the product which helped raise funds for those devastated by flooding in Hawaii. She’s always been someone to be there for those in need.
Icon of the ’00s
Even though “Lizzie McGuire” ended 15 years ago, Hilary Duff has managed to sustain her fame to this very day. Her album sales might not be what they used to, but the actress no longer needs to shift millions of copies to be a success.
She’s already reached icon status; now she can just enjoy the fruits of her labor. Although there’s no sign of a new album in the works yet, Hilary still has her role on “Younger” and other upcoming TV shows and films to keep her busy.