Hilary Duff wants to explain her outfit. The reason she has come to out interview in leggings, a battered t-shirt and a pair of golden goose sneakers? She’s heading to dance rehearsal after lunch to prep for a video for her new album. it just happens to be the first album she has put out in seven yearsand the kickoff single, “All About You,” is already earning raves. But let’s be honest. One quick peek at her Instagram shows what Hilary is really all about: enjoying ordinary moments with her son Luca, 2. Over the past two years, the singer and actress, 27, has scaled back on work to raise Lucaand also to navigate one of the most difficult times in her life. She and her husband, Mike Comrie, separated last January after 3 1/2 years of marriage. Now Hilary is in the midst of more change: She moved to New York City to film her new show, Younger, which debuts in January on TV Land.
As she scans the menu, I can’t help noticing all her tiny tattoos, so she gives me the tattoo tour, which charts her life from her Texas childhood to her Lizzie McGuire days at Disney, through career highs (her first four albums, three novels, more than a dozen films) and family milestones. She has a wishbone on her arm because she and her older sister, Haylie, used to break them apart. A little anchor that reminds her to keep her feet on the ground. Her son’s name. And an arrow that matches ones her mom and sister have, symbolizing “always moving forward and having a goal,” she explains. “I believe in having good luck charms. I think if you focus on something good, then good things will come to you.”
Your TV show, Younger, from Sex and the City‘s Darren Star, sounds like a must-watch. Do you remember the moment you were like, ‘This is the one!’? Or was the timing just right?
No, the timing was terrible! And I think that’s when everything works out: When the timing is terrible and it’s going to totally screw your life up, sometimes you just go for it. I absolutely loved the script, but I was like, “I can’t move to New York, so I’m going to have to turn it down.” It was right after Christmas. Mike and I were just getting ready to separate, Luca was about 18 months old and I was halfway through making my record. But I get a call from Darren, and he’s like, “Can you just come shoot the pilot? I will make your work schedule so easy.”
I’m a huge Darren Star fanI fight for good roles on interesting shows like that, so for him to fight for me, it felt like it was going to be a good match.
You have an album coming out in the new year. Why was it important to return to your music career?
I really missed performing. And I missed writing and talking about what I’m going through, what I love. (She picks up a shrimp with her fingers.) By the way, I love to eat with my hands. I think my manners went downhill since I’ve had a child. He’s in the high chair, and I’ll be standing up eating with him. I’m like, “Hilary, get it together!”
So what’s the worst thing you’ve eaten with your hands that has made you think, If anyone saw me doing this right now…?
Noodles. Do you know how disgusting it is to eat noodles with your hands? I’ll get food on my face from eating some of Luca’s food. We’ll go upstairs to get in the bath together, and I’ll look in the mirror, and I’m like, “Sweet. Food on my face. How long has that been here?” Thank God we’re alone.
It seems like you and Mike have a very good relationship while you co-parent your son.
We really didn’t see it going any other way. We have a 2-year-old together. We love each other. Obviously it wasn’t a rash decision that we made. We really are just trying to figure out how we are the most happywhether together or apartand we’re doing it as lovingly as possible. We would hang out without Luca; we think it’s important to keep a strong relationship no matter if we’re married or not married. And we love our son. We both want to fight for happiness.
What has helped you stay centered during all these life changes?
I have found that since I had Luca and took a substantial time off, it really helped me. Before, I would make a record and be working on a movie and then do a tour, so I didn’t have time to sit and breathe and just be comfortable with me. I got a broken heart during that time, and I had to do a lot of soul-searching. It was rough. It was an emotional two years.
Before Hollywood, you grew up in Texas. Do you think there is a little Texas still in you?
A lot of Texas in me! We grew up outdoors, going to the rodeo, running around barefoot and climbing trees. It was just very simple. And I think I was always scared of repercussions, like, how you would affect your family by doing this or that. That doesn’t mean I haven’t messed up. But my parents were the first to knock me down to earth when I bought my first house in L.A. and we were all living there. They were tough on me. I think it helped me hold on to my dignity.
What is your biggest health regret?
Constantly worrying that my body is not good enough. I work my butt off in the gymand, yes, it’s because I want to be fit, but it also puts me in a positive mind-set. If I don’t have that for a week, I start to get more agitated and impatient; I get in a funk.
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