Though Britney Spears, who has arguably done more to advance the jailbait look than any other American, is a presenter, the most rapidly ascending pop icon in attendance may be Hilary Duff, the chirpy, wholesome fifteen-year-old star of the Disney Channel's Lizzie McGuire. Since its debut in 2001, the show has become one of the highest-rated cable programs for viewers between the ages of six and fourteen. The Lizzie McGuire Movie, released in May, grossed $42 million, and the soundtrack, featuring songs performed by Duff, has gone platinum. She's just released her first proper solo album, Metamorphosis.
Much of Duff's success has to do with the fact that she comes off as the genuine article, a real-deal teenager. Her favorite expression is "Oh, my God!" She is blond and has dimples. When someone mentions that she's been nominated for Best Hottie Female, she blushes. Tonight she is wearing a pink sweater with serrated sleeves, pointy yellow shoes, jeans with a gold-chain pocket loop and a pink thong. The thong is visible only when Duff crouches to sign an autograph for a young fan in a wheelchair who is brought backstage by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
While there is no "right" moment to take note of a fifteen-year-old's underwear, noticing at this particular moment is clearly very, very wrong. Still, such is the state of the teen-pop world today, wherein there's no denying that coy, Barely Legal flirtations can help a female performer's career. Duff has yet to make a video involving an overtaxed indoor sprinkler system. Right now, she comes off as refreshingly innocent as her TV counterpart, so the innuendo is left to others — for instance, the show's host, David Spade. "You're almost sixteen?" he asks Duff in his opening monologue. "As my good buddy R. Kelly says, 'If only she was two years younger.' "
Franz Kafka's short story "the metamorphosis" begins with the line "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect."
Hilary Duff's new album, Metamorphosis, begins with a song called "So Yesterday":
You can change your life
(If you wanna!)
You can change your clothes
(If you wanna!)
If you change your mind
Well, that's the way it goes
But I'm gonna keep your jeans . . .
They look good on me
You're never gonna get them back!
Duff has not heard of the Kafka story, but she says it sounds cool. Then her sister Haylie asks, "How gross was the guy eating cockroaches last night?" During a Teen Choice segment about favorite reality-TV moments, a man dressed as an exterminator ate a handful of live bugs.
"So gross!" Hilary agrees.
We are having brunch at a bistro-style restaurant near Universal Studios. Haylie, 18, is also blond and pretty, and slightly bossy in a manner befitting an older sister. Hilary is excited because she was allowed to drive to brunch.
"We drive illegally around the neighborhood all the time," Haylie says.
"Oh, my God!" Hilary says.