Out of Lizzie box

Af­ter a re­treat from ‘Lizzie McGuire’ fame, Hi­lary Duff is back with a new show, ‘Younger,’ and al­bum, ‘Breathe In. Breathe Out.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - BY AMY KAUF­MAN >>>

The pa­parazzo lan­guished in the sun­light, wait­ing for Hi­lary Duff to leave a café. He and a dozen other pho­tog­ra­phers had amassed out­side Zinque on Mel­rose Av­enue, lean­ing on the hoods of cars and snap­ping pic­tures of noth­ing, to make sure their gear still worked.

“She’s at­trac­tive, and we’re bored,” com­plained Vladimir Labissiere, near the front of the pack. “We’re lit­er­ally wait­ing for Emma Wat­son or Emma Stone, and she hap­pens to show up. Sales have dwin­dled be­cause her ca­chet bot­tomed out.”

On Tues­day, though, Duff ’s first al­bum in seven years will be re­leased on RCA, and in March she started ap­pear­ing on the Dar­ren Star-cre­ated TV Land se­ries “Younger” with Sut­ton Foster and Debi Mazar. She may not have the pro­fes­sional suc­cess of her Dis­ney Chan­nel days, but the for­mer “Lizzie McGuire” star could start see­ing more pa­parazzi.

And so Labissiere waited — an hour, all told — for Duff to make the 30-sec­ond trek from Zinque to her Mercedes GWagon. Some of the photos ended up on the celebrity gos­sip site Just Jared a cou­ple days later: “Hi­lary Duff Breathes In, Breathes Out in Bev­erly Hills” — a ref­er­ence to her new al­bum.

Over the last few years, most pa­parazzi photos of the 27year-old show her not re­ally do­ing any­thing: We see her smil­ing, clutch­ing her iPhone, wear­ing a f loppy hat. She’s been dubbed the Walk­ing Queen by the celebrity blog Oh No They Didn’t!, which pub­lishes en­tire

posts de­voted to “Hi­lary Duff Walk­ing Places.” Leav­ing Pi­lates. Leav­ing her son’s baby class. Leav­ing a record­ing stu­dio.

Yet there’s some­thing trans­fix­ing about them. She’s celebrity-pretty and stylish, but in a non­threat­en­ing way. She looks like the girl you’d choose to put your mat next to in yoga, the young, hip mom you’d strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with on the play­ground.

That al­lure is what gave her a ca­reer in the first place. When “Lizzie McGuire” launched in 2001, Duff be­came a huge child star. There was a fra­grance, a fash­ion line for Tar­get, a doll. She started a singing ca­reer and sold out are­nas, cre­at­ing a tem­plate that would later be fol­lowed by other Dis­ney teens, such as Mi­ley Cyrus and Se­lena Gomez.

But af­ter a while, she tired of it. She started to put more em­pha­sis on her per­sonal life, mar­ry­ing for­mer NHL player Mike Com­rie when she was just 22. Two years later, in 2012, she gave birth to a son, Luca. And she de­cided to shut down all her busi­nesses.

“It was a lot of pres­sure, you know?” she said, eat­ing one of those health bowls with brown rice and av­o­cado be­fore the pa­parazzi snaps. “I didn’t know what kind of artist I wanted to be. I didn’t know what to write about. I wasn’t book­ing roles that I wanted. I was in a box of what peo­ple wanted me to be.”

What they wanted her to be, of course, was Lizzie McGuire: cheer­ful and whole­some and pre­co­cious. And for the most part, Duff ful­filled her du­ties. She never par­tied with Lind­say Lo­han at the Château Mar­mont or gy­rated on a wreck­ing ball à la Cyrus. But the con­stant ref­er­ences to her Dis­ney days chafed.

“It meant a lot to peo­ple grow­ing up, that show — and I feel grate­ful for that,” she said. “But I went through a time where I hated it and felt like if one more per­son called me Lizzie, I was go­ing to snap. I’d have par­ents come up to me and be like, ‘Don’t ever change, you’re per­fect the way you are.’ I was 17. Ev­ery­thing was chang­ing. Don’t ever change? It’d piss me off.”

For a while, her re­treat into do­mes­tic life seemed the per­fect so­lu­tion. But in 2014, she and Com­rie an­nounced they were sep­a­rat­ing. The of­fi­cial di­vorce fil­ing came a year later. Sud­denly, Duff found her­self awake at night, scrib­bling in her jour­nal, itch­ing to write new mu­sic.

She ad­mit­ted that her last al­bum, 2008’s “Best of Hi­lary Duff,” was kind of a joke. She owed Hol­ly­wood Records one more al­bum, so the la­bel asked her to re­lease a great­est hits com­pi­la­tion. “It made me re­ally up­set,” she re­called. “Like, I was 19. Why was I hav­ing a great­est hits al­bum?”

When she started work­ing on “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” two years ago, she was with­out a la­bel. But she reached out to song­writ­ers she’d col­lab­o­rated with pre- vi­ously (Toby Gad, Kara DioGuardi) and booked “Younger,” the TV Land se­ries that films in New York. As she split her time be­tween coasts, she won­dered whether she was pre­pared to re­turn to the bal­anc­ing act of her teenage years.

“Try­ing to pen­e­trate the mu­sic world takes all your time — you have to hit ev­ery ra­dio sta­tion, or they won’t play your sin­gle, un­less you’re, like, Tay­lor Swift,” she said of get­ting back into the game. “That was when I re­al­ized that I re­ally care about be­ing an ac­tress, a singer and hav­ing a life out­side of both. So maybe that means I’m not go­ing to be able to be where I was. I’m not go­ing to be able to fight for be­ing the big­gest artist.”

Her new mu­sic is also much more ma­ture than, say, 2003’s hit sin­gle “So Yesterday” (Sam­ple lyrics: “You can change your life if you wanna / You can change your clothes if you wanna”). At least half the new al­bum’s tracks — three of which were

co-writ­ten by Tove Lo, one by Ed Sheeran — sound as if they’re about Com­rie. Es­pe­cially the ti­tle track, about a re­la­tion­ship gone sour: “I re­mem­ber we were sleep­less in New York / I re­mem­ber how my av­enues were yours / I re­mem­ber when they weren’t any­more.”

Duff, who main­tains a friend­ship with Com­rie, says that he’s heard demos of many of her new songs and that he’s aware the al­bum re­veals a lot about their failed mar­riage.

“I’m sure it was hard for him to lis­ten to some of the things I’m shar­ing about him,” she said. “But that’s my job. I’m an artist. He knew that when he mar­ried me.”

Early re­cep­tion to Duff ’s first sin­gle, “Sparks,” has been mixed; its mu­sic video, which fea­tured Duff go­ing on real Tin­der dates, met such strong In­ter­net vit­riol when re­leased that she soon put out a sep­a­rate cut with­out the dat­ing footage. She plans to sup­port the new al­bum with a tour in Jan­uary, af­ter Sea­son 2 of “Younger” wraps, play­ing what she calls more in­ti­mate venues like the Wil­tern.

But if the record doesn’t go over well, she’s open to other av­enues — in­te­rior de­sign, or cre­at­ing a cu­rated lifestyle site like Blake Lively’s or Jes­sica Alba’s. She thinks it’s still “hard to have that and then be taken se­ri­ously” in Hol­ly­wood — “but it works for some women, and they make a ton of money.”

In other words, be­ing the Walk­ing Queen has its own ca­chet.

“I’m re­ally proud of the per­son I am,” she said. “I could be so dif­fer­ent. It’s funny, be­cause my whole life, ev­ery­one’s like, ‘Wow, you’re so nor­mal, and you’ve got a re­ally good head on your shoul­ders.’ And when peo­ple say that, you’re just like, ‘Thank you? I don’t know what to say?’ But it’s true. I do. And it takes be­ing ma­ture to say, ‘Hey, guess what? I rock.’ ”

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

“I’M RE­ALLY PROUD

of the per­son I am,” a grown-up Hi­lary Duff says. “It takes be­ing ma­ture to say, ‘Hey, guess what? I rock.’ ”

Bryan Bed­der Getty Im­ages

HI­LARY DUFF filled are­nas in her younger years. She’s re­viv­ing her mu­si­cal ca­reer with a new al­bum.

Carolyn Cole Los An­ge­les Times

HI­LARY DUFF, who shot to fame on the Dis­ney se­ries “Lizzie McGuire,” works on a scene with Dan Am­boyer on the TV Land show “Younger.” Once Sea­son 2 of the show wraps, she plans to tour her new al­bum.

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