Hilary Duff is `Most Wanted'

Singer-actress popular with teen girls comes to city

August 26, 2005|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Millions of prepubescent girls want to be her. And why not? Hilary Duff seems to have a lot going on: She's pretty, her skin so clear, her cheekbones so perfect. She's on TV, in the movies, and she makes hit songs. All this and the girl isn't even old enough to vote. (Duff turns 18 next month.)

Unlike former teen pop tarts Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, the multimedia star is never sexed-up for the camera. No barely there tops, no partly exposed buttocks. Her insidiously catchy songs deal with issues of normal, everyday teenage girls: those who want to fit in without compromising too much.

Duff, who plays 1st Mariner Arena tomorrow night, is the antithesis of the stereotypical former child star. She seems stable and well adjusted. Her frame is slight, her stomach flat but as far as we know she hasn't suffered from any eating disorders. We haven't heard any tales of substance abuse or seen pictures of Duff completely wasted and stumbling out of nightclubs.

Flip through the tabloids and you see shots of a pregnant Spears, walking out of a Starbucks looking confused. You find stories about Mary-Kate Olsen refusing to eat a bite. And then there's Jessica Simpson defending her marriage to a guy from a C-list boy band whose solo career is virtually nonexistent.

But there's seemingly no drama to report on Duff. Moms everywhere can breathe easy when their young daughters point to pictures of the Texan and say, "She's so cool. Love her."

"I think she has staying power," says Susan Schulz, editor in chief of the popular teen magazine CosmoGIRL! Duff appeared on its March 2004 cover. "I think we're in a different day and age of teen stars. They aren't teen stars, they're young stars with a lot of power, demanding big salaries in Hollywood."

They've got more business savvy, too. Like other teen celebrities, namely the Olsen twins, Duff seems to have the good sense to milk fleeting teen stardom for all it's worth, to make herself into a one-woman cottage industry. The Disney Channel's Lizzie McGuire, a cute TV series about a good-hearted teenage girl partly told in animation, launched Duff's career. But since then, she has moved into movies: The Lizzie McGuire Movie and A Cinderella Story have been her most successful, raking in $42 million and $50 million, respectively.

Metamorphosis, her neon-bright 2003 debut, entered at No. 2 on Billboard's pop album charts and sold more than 3 million copies. Her self-titled follow-up, whose sound was less bubble gum sweetness and more Avril Lavigne-like tartness, appeared the next year and sold a million copies. Most Wanted, Duff's new release, is a greatest hits collection with four new tracks. (Yes, with just two albums to her credit, the pop teen queen already has a best-of set.) On Tuesday, the CD debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's pop album charts, selling more than 200,000 copies during its first week in stores. The facets of Duff's growing empire also include clothing, books, dolls and hair products. Last year, she was listed at No. 72 on Forbes' Celebrity 100 power list and No. 80 on its pay list. She took home $8.4 million in 2004.

"Hilary Duff is the kind of sleeper star that could potentially break out into a huge entertainer if she plays her cards right," says Mario Almonte, vice president of Herman Associates, a marketing communications firm in New York. "The challenge for Duff is that she has to navigate the treacherous waters of teen stardom to become a genuine adult star who is respected for her acting chops. ... I think she has the chance to do that."

What helps Duff is her approachable, friendly image. She's currently linked with Joel Madden of the Maryland punk-pop band Good Charlotte. But she doesn't make it a point to put her business in the streets.

"She's creating a mystery for her personal life, which is good. That helps her," says Schulz of CosmoGIRL! "Our readers come to her rescue. They really like her."

Readers of CosmoGIRL!, primarily females between ages 12 and 23, make up the bulk of Duff's audience.

"Hilary seems really sure of herself," Schulz says, "and her fans like that. It remains to be seen what she will become. But she should go far. She's a nice girl."

Hilary Duff

Where: 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

When: Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $33-$43

Information: Call Ticketmaster at 410-547-SEAT or visit www.ticketmaster.com

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