If you are familiar with the entertainment business, then you probably know that Hollywood has a reputation for being an ultra-competitive industry. There are countless stories of talented actors and singers struggling to get by working low-paying jobs while they wait to land their big break. Chances of making it in show business are so slim that most aspiring performers wind up shuffling back home with their hopes and dreams crushed like branches in a wood chipper. That’s what makes Hilary Duff’s meteoric career rise at such a young age all the more remarkable.
The Texas native has achieved more professional success by age 18 than most people accomplish in their entire careers. Since getting her start as a child actor in TV commercials, Duff has starred in her own series, recorded three hit albums, appeared in several films and started her own multi-million dollar line of young girl’s clothing and home accessories. She’s even expanded her Stuff by Hilary Duff brand to include beauty products and is preparing to launch a new line of fragrance products this fall.
YOUNG MONEY caught up with Duff in Canada during a stop on her "Most Wanted" concert tour. Her casual conversation style revealed someone who is used to being in the spotlight and to handling the media. In fact, the young celebrity said she feels much older than her actual age. She believes that her success is due to a combination of luck and hard work.
"There is no secret formula for [success,]"she said. "I know that I worked very hard. I feel lucky to have all the things that I do. I love my job so much."
But fame does have a price. Duff admitted that she’s had to make many personal sacrifices on her road to the top, such as missing out on time with friends and dealing with a lack of privacy.
"We could probably dedicate this whole interview on the sacrifices I’ve had to make. Just as an example, when I was younger my friends would go out to places at night, but I couldn’t go because I would have to be up early for work on set the next day."
Many of Duff’s young fans grew up watching her play the role of Lizzie McGuire on the Disney Channel. Those days are over, but Duff claims she is not consciously seeking out different projects that would appeal to an older audience. She is currently focusing on promoting her album and developing a second clothing line aimed at young adult females.
Her name recognition and personal image have given Duff a much envied level of financial clout among her peers. The pop princess was voted as one of Teen People’s most powerful young entertainers in 2005. Media reports have listed her earnings for last year at $15 million. However, Duff confessed that early on in her career she actually disliked the business aspect of performing. She didn’t really know how much she earned or understand the true cost of producing a television show or a concert tour.
"I didn’t care so much about the money," said Duff. "I just wanted to work hard and put on a good show. Then later I started to feel a sense of responsibility about how it all comes together."
Duff learned to keep an eye on her finances after watching other wealthy artists spend their money foolishly. She’s aware of how some famous entertainers have earned millions only to wind up bankrupt. For example, recording artists may mistakenly think that their record label is funding their expenses when the money being spent is actually their own.
"What you’ve got to realize is that the touring side [of the music industry] is mostly recoupable," she said. "When you shoot a video then the record company is going to give you the money to pay for that. But then they’re going to take those costs out of your record sales. You have some people who spend a lot of money to shoot a video or to decorate their dressing room. That’s all recoupable [for the record company.]"
Duff recalled feeling flattered about being asked to create her own designer clothes label. She soon discovered that she enjoyed participating in the creative and marketing aspects of running a clothing company.
"When I created the first line of clothes I didn’t really have as much of an understanding of the business," she said. "The first slew of clothes that hit the stores didn’t look exactly like I would have wanted. I just started learning the business side of how to get things made for the public."
Along with Duff’s entrepreneurial pursuits she has used her celebrity status to promote her favorite philanthropic endeavors. She remains an active contributor to Kids With a Cause, a charitable organization that helps needy children around the world. Last year she also donated $250,000 to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
When asked about her future career plans, Duff said she wants to remain open to new opportunities. She already has several movie projects on tap and there are plans to expand the Stuff line to include bedroom furniture in 2007.
The teen star said she’s grateful for her fans and for the support staff that helps run her business affairs. As do many other young professionals Duff realizes the importance of keeping a healthy balance between a busy career and her personal life.
"We’re all kind of selfish in that we want to have a great personal life and a great work life," she said. "But this is America, and you can have both. I guess [the key is] feeling confident that anything is possible."
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