So what’s the most you’ve spent on one thing if you’re treating yourself?
Handbags are expensive, you know. But I don’t think I would ever spend more than $1,500 on a handbag.

Have you ever downloaded anything illegally?
You know what? I’m so bad on computers, I can never figure out iTunes!

Okay, if a kid was being prosecuted for illegally downloading your album, would you leave them there to get their just punishment?
I don’t think I would want them to get sent to jail, but I might wanna give them a piece of my mind. It’s just not cool, because this market is for our music and for an artist to be able to tour and do what we do, you know, now it’s so scarce. We need to be able to make money to be able to have our record label support us and go into the studio, make records, shoot great videos, and it’s entertainment. But when people are getting it illegally and not supporting it, they’ve no… It sounds greedy, but it’s not like all that money goes to us, you know.

She attracts crazed fans
On November 3, 2006, police arrested Maksim Miakovsky, an 18-year-old Russian immigrant who had come to America purely to meet and become ‘romantically involved’ with Duff. With typical east European flair, he went about this by threatening to kill her and anyone else who got in his way, and then told a private investigator about his plans. Terrifying indeed – especially as she’d only recently stopped living with her mother.

So has that changed how you live?
Definitely. It was hard for a while because I had someone, a security person, living with me and going everywhere with me. It’s, like, you feel so trapped, there’s no freedom, and everything scares you. It was horrible, because I like my independence.

Is it different when you come to the UK?
Yeah. You know what, I notice that when people recognise you in England, they’ll come up and maybe ask for a picture or an autograph or something and then they leave you alone. In the States, people want something from you and then they wanna keep staring and watch every move you make… and then video you on their phone.

 

 

She attracts wild animals

What’s the worst accident you’ve ever been in?
I got bit on the face by a dog. I was about eight. It was a big dog that had those crooked teeth – it was bad, right under my eye. I was over at my friend’s house and I was playing with it… it just snapped. We went to the hospital and they put stitches in one direction and they were pulling my eye down, so then they took out the stitches and put them in the other way, and it was still not working. So they pulled it out and put the skin together. I had no anaesthetic, no anything. It was crazy.

She’s a grass

Have you ever stolen anything?
No, but my friend stole something and I made her return it. I had already moved to LA, but I’d go back for the summers to Texas. And a lot of my girlfriends got into stealing stuff. It wasn’t like they didn’t have the money. It’s a real teenage girl thing I think, like, to see if you can get away with it. I never understood that.

How did you make her take it back? Did you get physical with her?
No, I was just, like, “Why did you do that? That’s horrible, that’s gonna come back on you, you know. There’s no point, you have the money to be able to go and buy that and it’s not cool.” I didn’t make her take it back to the person, but I made her put it into the store.

She’s unsympathetic to young weakling celebrities
New album Dignity is being trumpeted as her most personal (possibly because – get this – she actually helped write the lyrics). Excitingly, they offer a few thinly veiled swipes at famous people. For instance, lyrics such as “Where’s your dignity?/I think you lost it in the Hollywood Hills/…You’d show up to the opening of an envelope” suggest someone less than impressed by the whole sub-Hilton circuit. But the track gaining the most attention is Gypsy, which observers claim is a dig at Nicole Richie.

Is it nerve-wracking knowing someone’s going to be picking your lyrics apart for hidden meaning?
When you’re writing a record, it’s kind of scary to put yourself out there because you’re just setting yourself up for scrutiny, or judgment. It’s scary to be so personal – and to have people listen to it and say things that aren’t true about it. So, that song is not about Nicole Richie. It’s about my parents, and my dad having an affair [her parents separated in 2006]. It’s a very personal song.

Still, you seem to be remarkably well adjusted, compared to some of your peers. Why do you think that is?
It’s just who I am as a person. Plus, how my mom handled me. I didn’t get special privileges growing up, and I didn’t get everything that I wanted and I wasn’t the one supporting the family, so I wasn’t like the boss. I think that has a lot to do with it. And then growing up around lots of young people that were so talented or were on the brink of being really talented, and seeing them getting involved in stuff and not really having anyone around to tell them how to handle it, or what to do.

 

 

Where were you living when you started in LA?
We were all staying at this apartment complex and there were kids from, like, 14 to 24 and they all hung out in the same circle. So it was pretty crazy too, once the older kids had started working and getting money, and getting into drugs or living a lifestyle that they couldn’t really afford yet. It taught us a big lesson at a young age. It was crazy at such a young age to watch them just lose it – and now they’re nowhere, so…

Do you ever look at more high-profile casualties, like Britney, and think “that could have been me”?
I don’t look at them and think “that could have been me” because I’m me and I’m not like that. But you never know why that is. I know that it can be really hard and there’s lots of pressure with everyone watching you. But I don’t think that excuses some behaviour.

Her school days were blighted with a Carrie-like deluge of bodily fluids
Professionalism? Restraint? Good manners? Alarmingly, it seems like Duff actually is as nice as she makes out. We have one last try and ask about her school life. After all, by the age of six she was a ballet dancer with Columbus Ballet Met. Surely here, will be tales of some stage-school histrionics, yes? No, it seems.

What’s your strangest school memory?
Some kid threw up on me when we were doing square dancing. I had to go home.

Was it from the square dancing, or were they just ‘over-excited’?
I think he was over-excited. It was third grade and we did square dancing instead of gym during February. My partner threw up on me; it was just after lunch. I had to go home because I didn’t have a change of clothes.

You know he’s still saying, “I threw up on Hilary Duff” to this day, right?
Oh my gosh! I hope not. It’s not the greatest claim ever. Is it?

Original interview by Justin Quirk in the December 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine