Hilary Duff, Joel Madden Go Public With Lovestyle Of The Rich And Famous

Pop princess confirms rumors, hopes relationship doesn't overshadow work.

A huge gossip vacuum has suddenly been filled now that it's clear Hilary Duff and Good Charlotte singer Joel Madden are, in fact, an item.

They've been denying it for a while, of course — even as they've been collaborating on the pop princess's new album, Most Wanted, and been spotted swanning around in public together. Madden told MTV Asia several months ago that it was hard figuring out their relationship, which he characterized as friendship, amid all the media scrutiny (see "Good Charlotte Strive To Be Punk-Rock Outkast; Joel Says Marriage Comment A Joke"). But when Madden accompanied Duff during a visit to MTV last week and called her "baby" in front of a camera crew, well, the jig was up. So Duff, as her song says, had to come clean.

"I'm really happy right now," she said. "I think and hope he is as well. I feel really lucky to have him, but we try not to talk about it too much. We both think it's so weird that people put their relationship out there. It's not even about the work anymore. It's not about music or acting or whatever. It's about the relationship. It's not really what I got into this business for, and I know it's not what he got into it for, so why? We both have this same mentality that the more you let people know about it, the more they want to know about it."

But while the couple may want to take the Beyoncé/Jay-Z route, Duff can't help but sing Madden's praises. She said she has grown "so much" as a person and an artist thanks to her association with him and his twin brother, Benji (see "Cheaper By The Duo? Hilary Duff Teams Up With Madden Brothers For New LP"). Duff views them as "an inspiration" because they work hard, believe in themselves, and don't "let anyone control them." Duff's been dealing with this particular issue as she grows into adulthood. She was "feeling really controlled," she said, and was trying to figure out how to bust loose. Working with Madden without first informing her label was one such step. "Joel told me stories about scaring people into not messing with them. I can't do that," she laughed. "Look at me. I'm a little blond girl. But they can."

She also admires Joel's talent, claiming he has the ability to whip out a song, "even as a joke," in 10 minutes flat. "I learned so much more about music," she gushed. "Joel has totally changed my taste in music, friendships and loyalty. He's changed me and my friendships."

Duff hopes this particular friendship won't become tabloid fodder. "I'm pretty absent from a lot of what goes on," she said. "It's a choice. When you're a young person in the public eye, it's a real easy one. I go to clubs, but there's a front door and a back door, and it's how you want to be seen. A lot of people complain, but you don't have to [make your private life public] if you don't want to."

Still, the are-they-or-aren't-they nature of their relationship long gave people enough to gossip about even if she didn't want them to, especially since Duff is only 17 while Madden is 26. Many speculated this was the reason they were keeping it quiet: Duff is underage for another two months.

"Everything you do is talked about, picked apart, put on a little perch, or trashed," she said. "There's so much controversy over so much, even if it's not scandalous, even about what you're wearing. People make so many comments; it's hard to deal with. I'm just trying to figure out who I am."